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Here are 16 areas that I'm thinking about in my day job in marketing, public relations and social media at Ketchum in 2016. As in previous years they're not so much predictions for the coming 12-months, as work in progress.
Public relations in 2016
1. The 100+ year old content format
Cision’s $841 million acquisition of PR Newswire
at the end of 2015 confirmed that the press
release, first used in 1906, remains public
relation’s primary form of content. The internet
loves audio, images and video. Investigate your
mobile device. It’s a multimedia production suite.
Paul Clarke (@paul_clarke), Dan Slee (@danslee)
and Scott Guthrie (@sabguthrie) were all a big
influence on me in 2015 and have pushed me to
explore different forms of content.
2. Data and the demise of
Traditional marketing models based on age, gender,
location and income no longer work. Marketing
segmentation was never that simple but in 2016 social
media subverts all norms and hierarchies. If you’re a
brand, listen, and I mean really listen and then let’s have a
conversation based on what I say, and more importantly,
what I do.
In 2016 watch for further back-end integration of
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The dataset will rival
Google’s planning and paid engagement capabilities.
3. Stop posting shit on the internet
Public relations is proving its value as a means of
lead generation thanks to inbound content-led
techniques such as those pioneered by Hubspot.
It’s a smarter form of marketing that starts with
listening and it’s called public relations.
Hubspot’s Iliyana Stareva (@iliyanastareva) and
SpinSuck’s Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) are my go
to people to learn about this developing
opportunity called in-bound public relations.
4. Gender is a public relations issue
The headlines are well rehearsed. Women are paid less
than men. Current analysis shows the figure is £12,591
less across the profession according to the CIPR. Women
aren’t adequately represented in senior positions, on
conference panels or in industry activities.
There’s no single solution. Everyone in the profession has a
responsibility for change. Hill+Knowlton Strategy’s Vikki
Chowney (@vikkichowney) and the PR Conversation’s Judy
Gombita (@jgombita) are both strong advocates.
5. Who influences you?
We’ve shifted from journalists being the
primary influencer to a variety of people –
and not only celebs - across different forms
of media from Instagram to YouTube. A
modern day Wild West is playing out across
the internet. Paid sits along earned and
every market has its own ecosystem. This is
a big area for me in my day job at Ketchum
6. Equality isn’t solely a gender issue
Gender gets the headlines but there’s work to do
in lots of other areas of public relations. Equal
employment opportunity for all irrespective of
disability, ethnicity, class and sexuality remains a
work in progress.
The CIPR reports active discrimination of ethnic
minorities and an obsession with youth despite an
ageing and diverse population and skilled older
7. Creativity is a PR discipline
Public relations has taken its place as a
discipline that can deliver creativity and
return on investment. We’re taking our
rightful place alongside advertising and
creative agencies at Cannes and Eurobest
and inside the large marketing services
groups such as Publicis, WPP and my own
firm within Omnicom.
8. Are you any good?
Time serviced is the traditional measure of competence in public
relations. It’s bullshit in a business that is changing so fast.
Professionals need to invest in their own professional development. By
all means take advantage of training offered by your employer but also
take responsibility for developing your own skills.
Alex Aiken (@AlexanderAiken) is defining competency frameworks as
he leads the modernisation of UK government communications.
Jason McKenzie (@jasonmackenzie) and Lindsey Collumbell
(@lindscollumbell) have led a project at the CIPR to overhaul
Chartered practitioner status.
Jean Valin (@jeanvalin1) heads a project at the Global Alliance that
has the bold ambition of defining a global competency framework for
9. Dark web
The dark web describes two areas of the
internet: communities and content using
encrypted services such as Tor; and
messaging services, both private network or
walled gardens that are beyond the reach of
search and listening tools. These areas are
challenging and relatively new for those in
10. Tools and workflow
Much of the public relations business runs
on Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets.
There are tools to optimise every area of
workflow from listing and planning, to
content and relationship management.
Investigate #PRstack, the community I
founded with Fred Vincx (@fritsbits), for a
description of more than 250 tools and 50
11. Paying for it
Search and social media algorithms are throttled so that
organisations have to pay to maximise the reach of
content. Paid is no longer a dirty word; it allows us to
work smarter, amplify the outcome of campaigns and
assure results. Smart practitioners have cracked SEO.
Stella Bayles (@stellabayles) wrote a book that nailed SEO
for public relations and helped unlock bigger budgets.
David Sawyer (@zudepr) reads and shares more about
SEO than anyone I know. My own paid team at Ketchum
fill in any gaps.
12. Show me the money
The revised Barcelona Principles reasserted
the need to route measurement in objectives
that are aligned to an organisation’s objectives.
The response was understandably mixed.
People hoped for more. Watch out for practical
templates that you can apply to campaigns in
Barry Leggetter (@amecorg) and Richard
Bagnall (@richardbagnall) are leading AMEC’s
work in this area.
13. Purpose, vision and values
Consumers and citizens respond to emotional stimuli
aligned to their own goals in life. Smart organisations are
confident and root their communication in their
organisational purpose. They understand their publics
because they listen and create content that resonates, is
appropriate and easy to appreciate.
My boss David Gallager (@tbonegallagher) Prof. Anne
Gregory (@gregsanne) and Dr. Jon White (@drjonwhite)
keep me straight on the purpose of public relations and its
value to organisations as a management discipline.
14. Pigs, lipstick and authenticity
In 2016 any gap between what an organisation does and
what it says will be called out. This is an issue that has
been played out since social media went mainstream.
You can see the result day in day out played out across
social forms of media. Traditional media frequently
harvests lousy examples from Facebook or Twitter. You can
put lipstick on a pig but it will still be a pig.
Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals, the two books that I
wrote with Steve Earl (@mynameisearl) remain handbooks
for my day-to-day professional practice.
15. Inside out
The best advocates for an organisation are almost
certainly the people on the payroll. Yet most
organisations gag their employees with policies and
rules. Equal effort should be applied to external and
My tip would be to always start with your internal
stakeholders and work outwards from there.
Rachel Miller (@AllThingsIC) is someone that I
always start with to explore new forms of media as it
relates to internal and external communications.
16. Community as media
My big lesson from the last 12 months is that private
communities are the most influential form of media.
People come together to form publics to discuss and tackle
issues around a common purpose. Organisations can
provide a home for conversations and facilitate
communities but otherwise need to stay out of the way.
Sarah Hall (@hallmeister) created #FuturePRoof in 2016
as a community to explore the future of public relations.
I’d urge you to check out the book and join the Facebook
group if you’d like to join the discussion about where our
profession is headed.
Public relations in 2016