Ten years ago you might have read most of the publications relevant to your business. If you were committed to public relations, you’d spend time cultivating relationships with various relevant reporters.
When you had a story you wanted to tell, you’d work on it with your agency until it achieved as much newsworthiness as you could wring out of it. Then you or your agency would embark on a media outreach campaign — in person, if you could.
If you worked hard enough at it, your story might actually get printed … on paper. Maybe not in the publication of your choice, but often by an outlet somewhere on your target media list.
Technology blew up the media landscape, public trust in media, and that analog playbook. Today’s communications professional has to fight fire with fire by embracing technology and data.
You need to understand your audience, which consists of machines, not people. Ok, machines, then people. For your story even to find its way to the people you are attempting to address, it typically needs to find its way through a jungle of algorithms, content optimizers, recommendation engines and filters of all sorts.
In order to navigate that maze, you need systems that tell you what topics are trending, who is reacting to those topics, and how they are reacting. It is not a matter of using your words so much as using the language that your audience and the technology that controls what they see are seeking. Your story needs to be delivered to the places the technology values highly in a pattern that is recognizable to media tech.
To borrow a phrase from Andy Cunningham, you need to create the right digital footprint. To do that well, you need to be effective across traditional earned media, social media and owned media. The only way to be effective is to have the right technology deployed against each channel.
When you have those systems in place and truly trust and act upon the data they provide, you’ll be swimming with the current. To move forward, you need to prepare for and embrace what’s coming down the path. Here’s a look at what might lie ahead.
During this era of disruption and uncertainty, corporate values and brand activism have become more important than ever. PR will be expected to shift the focus toward value-based communications, and corporate reputation will start taking center stage as a key success metric. Do you have a reliable way to measure the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) perception of your organization?
Eighty-three percent of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practices, according to PwC. Do you understand the direct link between ESG and your customer’s behavior? It is there. You just need the right tools to find it and influence it.
You probably appreciate a good story or you would not be in this business, but do you understand the neuroscience behind what makes a story stick? Do you understand how different people in your target audience process information and the different ways that you may need to tell the same story to elicit your desired response from them?
Maybe it is time to bone up on what David Eagleman, neuroscientist and host of the PBS series “The Brain,” has to say about how brains are wired for stories.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
Your audience is barraged with more media and information than they can consume. Sometimes people will provide TL;DR summaries of lengthy articles, but soon machines will be auto-summarizing material for your audience. The technology already exists. You need to make sure that the key elements of your story survive extractive summarization, not to mention abstractive summarization.
Are you still worried about how news feeds manipulate thinking or create echo chambers by controlling the content delivered to people? Soon enough news feeds will give way to customized content that is created on the fly for individual content consumers. You will have to make sure that you have systems in place to understand what content is being consumed and that your message is included in that content.
Fake news has been around forever, but it has become news itself over the last several years. Back in the old days of communications (only several years ago), it was often called F.U.D. or Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt — a PR tactic used masterfully by many entrenched competitors across industries.
Next up, deep fakes.
In one study, 58% of people who viewed a deep fake news video believed the video was real, versus 48% who heard the same story in audio format and 33% who read the fake news article. This will take being misquoted to an entirely new level.
Everything mentioned above is already beginning to impact the environment for the modern communicator. It was not long ago that social media was not understood and was entirely disruptive. Now there are systems that help manage it.
While much of the change above may seem daunting, all of those technologies create opportunities for forward-looking communications professionals. Dare I say, they may usher in a new heyday for those communicators who get in front of the curve by embracing the change and guiding their companies through the ever-evolving landscape.
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This article is in partnership with Onclusive.
Dan Beltramo, CEO of Onclusive, has over 20 years of experience in leading data and analytics organizations predominantly in marketing and media. Prior to joining Onclusive, Beltramo served as EVP of product leadership for all Nielsen marketing effectiveness products including marketing mix modeling; consumer segmentation; integrated big data measurement products including multi-touch attribution; neuroscience; and various other research and data platforms. He holds an undergraduate degree in decision analysis and an MBA, both from Stanford University.