SoLoMo and other PR trends we can expect in 2014
Significant developments in technology and media shifted the PR landscape in 2013. There was a marked increase in top-tier publications adding branded and sponsored content to their revenue models, there were signs that teenagers are leaving Facebook for Snapchat, and smartphones finally outpaced their less “intelligent” ancestors on the market. Although this ever-changing world will always keep us on our toes, here is a list of PR trends, tactics and best practices that we can expect to come down the pipeline this year:
1) PR pros are also becoming brand journalists
As the volume of available information grows, audiences are searching out easy to consume, quality articles. This trend, combined with numerous job cuts in the publishing world, has opened up a new door for PR teams. Creating custom content that is paid not pitched to media will play an important role for PRs in 2014. Paid campaigns may take the form of content placement, media purchases or native advertising. PR teams will need to manage traditional (unpaid) media, social media and paid media campaigns.
Google Hummingbird, the latest search algorithm from Google, has emphasized content quality and social engagement as key evaluators for search engine rank, so traditional PR and SEO methods will remain key to brand visibility. As it stands now, it’s not about dispensing information, but credibility.
2) Niche amplification and engagement is key
As PR Newswire’s Sarah Skerik pointed out, eight of the top ten factors Google uses to index information are derived from social interaction. An organic way to increase digital exposure is to drive message visibility through your brand or message’s existing fan base. This means creating focused content to engage your intended demographic through all communication channels. Rather than targeting the top 100 technology bloggers for, say, wearable technology, focus on the niche communities by identifying influencers in well-connected and active groups on smart watches or Google Glass. If your message is good enough, the community will be able to amplify your message for you.
3) Monitoring is passé, predicting is in
Although acquiring information through monitoring and data mining is crucial for analyzing and creating successful campaigns, predictive tools are now available that put all the puzzle pieces together. Statistics, modeling, machine learning and data mining historical and current market information will greatly solidify the effectiveness of the campaign. These tools provide intelligence on when you should post (down to the hour) and what type of post you should use (simple text, multimedia, survey, etc.). All this information is tailored to the demographic, communication channel, industry and region to which your message will be sent. Although this information can be determined after an extensive analysis of monitored data, the new predictive tools will greatly cut down on the time for such analysis, making it a great asset for the PR tool belt.
For example, I was recently introduced to Watchtower, a social media intelligence software that can provide analysis for social campaigns. The tool scans over 26,000 Facebook pages everyday with data going back to 2011. It provides almost real-time insights for optimization, creates a custom content posting plan including creative changes and refines its recommendations over time. It also gives insights to benchmarks in the industry and analyzes macro trends. Large brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, TJ Maxx and the U.S. National Guard are already using this software to optimize their digital campaigns.
4) Think multi-format, multi-channel and multi-gadget
For the past few years, employing multiple message formats and content distribution channels has been essential to PR, and this will continue into 2014, especially with the increase in social media platforms and web-connected devices. In 2013, we saw the tech world give rise to Vine, Instagram Video, Bitstrips for mobile and other microvideo/micro-sharing formats. The standard article, link, image and YouTube video content will still remain, but these newer, succinct and interactive formats can help clients acquire new audiences and encourage deeper engagement, especially as technology transitions further into the portable territory.
According to the Adobe 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey, accessing social media is the number one activity on smartphones. But it’s important to understand the preferred content source for the target audience in order to best concentrate the campaign’s efforts. For example, according to the latest Pew Research Center study, Pinterest’s primary demographic consists of female adults under 50 whereas Twitter is most popular amongst adults ages 18 to 29. So if your client is working in the fashion retail sector for female consumers who are 30 and above, Pinterest might be a better option; if the client were a men’s suit outlet, try a Twitter campaign.
In addition to multiple formats and platforms, portable technology has diversified from tablets and mobile phones to wearable technology, such as Pebble and Google Glass. More mobile devices means more touch points, diversified audiences and new influencers as we move into the world of “SoLoMo” – social-local-mobile. The PR world needs to start thinking like marketers to take advantage of the new trends in mobile. Campaigns will need to consider adaptive and responsive designs during content creation so that it’s available in real-time for any screen and any device size.
The PR job has become more diverse than ever before. As my colleague Clare Hamilton-Eddy emphasized at SFU Student Marketing Association’s Marketing in Focus in November last year, PR consultants need to transition into becoming business consultants – clients are now wanting the whole package – from vision to strategy to tactics in the business model, they want it all. The above trends, tactics and best practices are key indications that the public relations world is definitely moving in that direction.