17 illuminating PR and marketing lessons from 2018

A look at the strategies that shaped the communications landscape this year can help you plot a course to a successful 2019.

2019 PR and marketing trends

Regardless of your niche or expertise, it’s always wise to revisit the trends and tactics that dominated your industry in the past year.

Let’s revisit and reflect on a handful of 2018 marketing and PR statistics that help to quantify—and clarify—the current state of play. Of course, no one knows what communication challenges, opportunities or shifts 2019 has in store, but analyzing data from the past year should give you a head start.

Here are 17 illuminating takeaways from the past 12 months:

1. CMOs are viewed as “agents of trust.

According to Forbes, execs increasingly view their top marketers as a publicly-facing “agent of trust.” Respondents used words like “critical,” “paramount” and “loyalty” to describe the CMO and the function of marketing.

Read more: Habits, capabilities and peer reviews of the modern CMO

2. Marketing budgets are growing.

The latest CMO Survey found that as a percentage of revenue, B2B product organizations invest 6.3 percent of their revenue in marketing, compared with 7.9 percent overall. Technology companies are investing 9.7 percent of revenue in marketing.

The survey also found:

Marketers from B2B product companies say their budgets grew 6.2 percent over the last 12 months. Over the course of the next year, they anticipate this budget growing by 9.3 percent.

Read more: 5 datapoints from the CMO survey for B2B marketers

3. CMO priorities are shifting.

A survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value asked CMOs for their top priorities over the course of the next year.

The CMO Priorities

Top priorities include:

  • Increasing sales revenue
  • Improving the omnichannel customer experience
  • Reinventing customer experience through channel innovation
  • Demonstrating the ROI of marketing initiatives
  • Championing a customer-centric corporate culture

4. The composition of marketing spending is changing.

According to data collected by Dentsu Aegis, the composition of marketing spending is changing due to fierce competition (56 percent), an increasing intolerance of advertising (46 percent) and also “information overload” (44 percent).

Dentsu Aegis also found: “The definition of media is changing and has moved beyond distribution channels alone. CMOs also choose to define it more broadly across technology (48 percent), content (44 percent), distribution channels (41 percent) and data (38 percent). Each of these provides a potential source of consumer insight and a more holistic way of using media to reset strategy.”

Read more: Dentsu Aegis’ 2018 CMO Survey

5. The CMO role in the “4 Ps” may be changing.

A survey of CMOs suggests the role of marketers is changing:

  • Seventy-two percent of CMOs say they have a leading role in promotion.
  • Thirty-four percent say they have a leading role in new products.
  • Thirty-one percent say they have a leading role in pricing.
  • Twenty-five percent say they have a leading role in market selection.

Those statistics track closely to the 4Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

Read more: A CMO survey shows us how classic 4Ps of marketing are changing

6. On average, buyers examine five sources when making buying decisions.

According to TrustRadius: “Buyers use multiple resources when researching products because none are perfectly adequate or trustworthy.”

The study found that buyers use an average of five information sources before making a purchase.

Read more: TrustRadius’ 2018 B2B report

7. Buyers’ habits and communication preferences are changing.

A survey of buyers found: “Seventy-one percent said they want to hear from vendors when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger results to improve their business… a majority (62 percent) said they want to hear from vendors when they’re actively looking for a solution to fix what’s broken or solve a problem. Buyers were more intent on hearing from vendors in both of those cases than when they’re identifying and evaluating possible providers (54 percent).”

Is the Buyer’s Journey Becoming Passé-2

Read more: Is the buyer’s journey becoming passé?

8. What’s the purpose of measuring marketing metrics?

A survey by Spiceworks gauged what marketers are using metrics for:

  • Seventy-nine percent said to optimize future campaigns.
  • Seventy-seven percent said to evaluate the most effective channels.
  • Sixty-two percent said to measure the success of messaging.
  • Fifty-eight percent said to prove marketing success to the business.
  • Fifty-seven percent said to course-correct existing campaigns.

Metrics to measure in creative and agile marketing

Read more: How creative, agile and metrics can sing in marketing harmony

9. It’s getting harder to succeed at media relations.

A survey of communications professionals found that 51 percent said media relations is getting harder. Just 3 percent of respondents said it’s getting easier.

Read more: Is media relations getting harder?

10. “The media” is the least trusted institution.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, seven in 10 people worry about fake news. Sixty-three percent say the average person can’t discern journalism from rumors or falsehoods, and 59 percent say it’s harder to tell if news was produced by a respected news organization.

According to Edelman’s findings, people define “media” as both content and platforms (including search and social media) on which stories are distributed. Trust in platforms declined 11 points from last year.

Read more: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

11. Reporters say getting the story right matters more than getting it first.

More than half (59 percent) of U.S.-based reporters said, “Fake news is making readers more skeptical than ever about what they read and see.” Also, “A majority (78 percent) of U.S.-based reporters said that ‘Ensuring content is 100 percent accurate is the most important goal in their organization.’ “

Read more: Cision’s 2018 Global State of the Media Report

12. Storytelling was the hottest trend in PR in 2018.

An early 2018 survey of communications professionals asked what the most important trends in PR would be in the coming year. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said storytelling, 71 percent said content marketing, and 67 percent said thought leadership.

Read more: New survey identifies the hottest trends in corp comm and PR

13. Most people want brands to stay away from politics.

Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said brands should not weigh in on political issues. However, one-third said they believe brands should speak out on potentially controversial subjects, and another 22 percent were unsure. Sentiment analysis around this question suggests that context matters.

Data show that if the quality, convenience or price of a product or service is better than the competition, consumers would still buy from a brand—even if it took a political position with which they disagree.

Read more: 66 percent of consumers prefer a stand

14. PR salary growth remains flat.

The median salary in the last 12 months came in at $95,000.  This is close to the $91,000 median reported in 2017 and the $92,125 reported in 2016.

Median salaries across corporate, agency and nonprofit positions are:

  • Corporate: $132,000
  • Agency $88,000
  • Nonprofit: $78,300

15. Creativity is an employable skill.

Creativity will be among the top skills employers desire by 2020, according to the World Economic Forum.

Can you teach creativity?

16. Combining analytics with creativity drives growth.

A study by McKinsey found businesses need both art and science to drive growth. It found that “analytical creatives” do three things:

  • They treat creativity and data as equal partners.
  • They make integration a way of life through an agile marketing operating model.
  • They seek “whole-brain talent”—that is, people with both left- and right-brained skills.

Read more: McKinsey’s study on creativity and analytics

17. Successful content marketers put the audience first.

According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs: “Nearly all of the most successful B2B content marketers (90 percent) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with 56 percent of the least successful.”

Frank Strong is founder of Sword and the Script Media. A version of this post first appeared on Sword and the Script.

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