PR trends to watch for in 2017

Social media and search engines dominate the flow of information today. Here’s what to look for in those arenas and in the rest of the industry as the year unfolds.

In 2007, it was fairly easy to sit back and look at what was coming and think, “This is how communications it going to be affected.”

Nearly 10 years later, none of us can live without Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

Now it’s time to look at the PR trends that will affect the next 10 years. The difference between now and 10 years ago is I can’t clearly see how communications will be affected. I just know our jobs will not look at all the same five years from now, and it will be due to robots.

Here are the PR trends to be aware of in 2017:

Accountability partners

Though this isn’t a new trend, business leaders tend to have accountability partners, we’ve seen a shift this year to all of us needing someone to say, “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to do X?” When someone does that, you get it done.

If you don’t join the 30-Day Communications Challenge, find yourself a mentor who is willing to hold you accountable to what you say you’re going to do. If you do either—or both—of those things, you will have a very successful 2017.

Artificial intelligence

A few years ago, I was introduced to Narrative Science, a company in my hometown of Chicago that “writes” stories for publications using robots.

At the time, I was appalled. After all, I’m a writer, author and blogger. The idea that I could so very easily be replaced is scary. Because it scared me so much, I wanted to better understand what they do.

They can write stories for things such as earnings reports and Little League baseball games—stories in which the stats are more important than storytelling.

Now I’m obsessed with how artificial intelligence might affect the role of communicators in the next five to 10 years. We already have marketing automation—that works when done well—and chatbots, but those are just the tip of the iceberg.

If Watson can diagnose a rare form of cancer and self-driving cars will change the way we get around, think about what AI will do to/for communications. It’s scary, but the possibilities are endless.

Right now, think about how your content curation can improve—perhaps by automatically customizing content in real time for a particular visitor. Think about a more evolved customer experience.

Curated and private spaces for conversation

More and more, people want to have safe places for conversation—to vent, to gossip, to brainstorm, to get help. They also want those safe places to have content that is carefully curated and serves up a personalized experience.

We’ve seen social media conversations wane and blog comments all but disappear.

In places like a Slack community—where people can have private conversations that no one can see—comments are alive and well.

Fake news

Though this isn’t a trend I want to see take hold, if the U.S. presidential election has taught us anything, it’s that fake news sells. What does that mean to communicators?

Those executives and business owners who are willing to do what it takes, no matter whether it’s ethical, will undoubtedly apply similar tactics to their communications plans.

The list of potential motives is endless: anti-corporate activism, unsavory union tactics, competitive harassment, dissatisfied shareholders, unethical stock traders, even ethics-challenged, bottom-feeding PR practitioners.

It’s up to marketers to do three things—and be vigilant about them:

1. Verify the validity of every piece of news before we share it anywhere.

2. Build an internal discussion around what to do if a competitor spreads fake news about our organizations or executives.

3. Refuse to work with anyone who wants us to do this.

This isn’t a trend just for the United States. Every part of the world will see this affect their communications plans.

Be diligent in making sure, at this time next year, we have beaten this “trend.”

Personalized experience

This will become huge for all communicators, beyond the large consumer organizations.

Consumers have been leery about sharing data with organizations, but that is changing. They’re becoming more willing to hand over personal information in exchange for personalized content, offers or discounts.

Consumers will share personal data in exchange for content or product recommendations that meet their needs and personalized shopping experiences.

What goes with that, of course, is the expectation that companies will anticipate the content and products their consumers need next. Still, collecting and using consumer data to deliver a truly personalized experience poses a challenge for many marketers.

We must figure out how to deliver content that will drive the personalized experience at all stages of the decision-making process.

PR metrics

In today’s digital era, measurement is increasingly important. Those who know how and what to measure will outshine their competitors.

In 2017, communicators must move beyond vanity metrics and measure what drives real business results. The data are out there; you just have to find and use them.

The best way to do that is through our own professional development, which is plentiful on the web. You can do everything from reading blogs and teaching yourself to taking online courses or reading books.

Social media giants become more gigantic

The social media giants want us to spend more time on their networks. The pushes toward Facebook, Google and Instagram and LinkedIn are no accident—there’s money in it for them.

As Michael Stelzner put it:

The information distribution highway will have toll stations that must be paid for by the those who create content. If you want your content seen, you’ll need to house it inside the companies that control the toll stations.

Now it’s your turn: Which PR trends do you think we’ll face in 2017? Please let us know in the comments section.

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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