7 essential concepts to grasp for your future in PR

From identifying and measuring consumers’ online behaviors to the rampant damage caused by ‘fake news,’ practitioners must continually recalibrate—or lag the field.

PR pros, are you keeping up?

With the ever-increasing importance of digital media for PR pros and marketers, a new set of knowledge and skills has arisen for those seeking to “future-proof” their careers.

A few years ago, traditional media outlets were chugging along and the old rules applied. In 2017 it’s clear that most daily newspapers will go under within four years. In addition, people don’t spend much time with online outlets, and online behavior has changed.

Here are seven areas where you should invest time, effort and training:

Online behavior

In the good old days, consumer journeys were more or less linear. Marketing exposure, and therefore media touch points, could be planned along the Awareness > Research > Consideration > Purchase route.

Today, the consumer journey is no longer linear.

People jump around from Facebook to news media outlets to Google to mobile to websites to blogs to YouTube to product reviews to Instagram and back again before making a purchase. We can no longer control where and when people are exposed to marketing messages.

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This makes understanding the digital universe crucial. It makes planning campaigns that touch consumers in different forms of media at different times imperative. To do that, you must wrap your head around online behaviors.

The true nature of influence

Influence has nothing to do with how many fans or followers a person has. It is not about how many views they can garner on a YouTube video, nor how many “likes” their Instagram posts get. Those are measures of popularity. Celebrities are popular, but that doesn’t necessarily make them influential.

Influence is about an individual’s capacity to effect changes in opinion or attitude or behavior. At their best (from a brand perspective), influencers encourage sales through recommendation. Understanding this is vital; acting upon that knowledge is even more crucial.

Link building

PR is perfectly placed to affect search results; you do it every time you get something placed online. So does it not make sense to ensure you understand the true impact of your work and to use and measure that?

Make no mistake about it, SEO companies are hiring PR people to help them with offsite optimization and link building.

The potential of AI and AR

Chatbots, in-home smart devices, robot-written news articles, automated customer service, voice-controlled internet devices, Pokémon Go –after many years in the shadows, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) have come to the fore.

In the next few years, AI and AR will revolutionize the communications industry. They’re already making waves in sectors such as banking and health care, and it won’t be long before they touch your industry. Machines making some choices for us, and futurist

Ray Kurzweil predicts that the technological singularity (when computers will surpass human-level intelligence) will occur around 2029, some 15 years earlier than previous estimates.

So, start coming to grips with their potential for communications, or get left behind.

Integration of the PESO components

At the heart of digital communications strategy are the four media types explained in the PESO model. PR has always played in the earned media space, and generally speaking, understands the importance of shared media too.

When it comes to owned media (or content marketing) and especially paid media, PR typically lags behind. Sometimes elements of these will be retrofitted into a campaign, but rarely are they integrated from the start.

It is vital that the communications industry plan digital campaigns strategically, and this can be done only by understanding how all forms of media intersect.

The structure of measurement frameworks

Evaluation has been on the PR agenda for years, but despite the constant drive of industry leaders and organizations like AMEC, all we have witnessed is the slow decline of AVE as a valid measure. Mention return on investment in a meeting with PR consultants, and you’ll see a lot of mumbling and nervous shifting in seats.

Along with technological and digital evolution come data—which can be measured. You must start building frameworks that cover not only marketing measures but also business measures.

How online crises spread

Reputation management is essential, and most PR people understand how to deal with issues in traditional media, but in the digital environment, things are quite different.

From the timescales involved to the way in which news jumps from one social network to another to the spread of rumors, the internet is nothing like traditional media. Crises spread quickly across social and digital media, and it takes a cool, knowledgeable head to understand when and how to intervene and, just as important, when and how not to.

The rise of fake news and “alternative facts” means PR pros must fully understand online crisis management for the near future and beyond.

A version of this article originally appeared on Paul Sutton’s blog.

Topics: PR

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