2017 was a whirlwind—never a dull moment.
Here, at the beginning of the new year, it’s time to stop to reflect on what PR pros have learned—and what they have yet to figure out.
Here are seven lessons to take away from 2017:
1. Fake news is now just a part of our reality.
Post-truth was the word of the year in 2016. Like it or not, the public no longer trusts the news media—and this directly affects what public relations professionals do.
So, what does that mean for communicators? It means that it’s more important than ever for brands to build a community of loyal fans and followers, and it means industry insiders need to double down on fact-checking and working with reputable journalists and publications.
2. A strong crisis response game is paramount.
2017 came with its share of major brands in crisis: United Airlines, Pepsi and Uber headline a long list.
A crisis can strike anytime and affect any brand. That means we need to be ready. Ready with a crisis communications plan that includes a sincere apology, followed by steps to help stem the damage and rebuild trust.
3. Reputation management should be priority No. 1 for brands.
In light of the above, brands must protect their reputations at any cost.
If your brand is hit by a crisis or somehow sucked into a fake news vortex, it’ll already be ahead if its reputation is unblemished. It will be even more prepared if it has stayed in the public eye with positive news stories.
4. Branded content continues to grow in popularity.
Looking at how branded (or sponsored) content plays an increasingly important role in promoting an organization, PR pros may need to be more flexible in considering paid opportunities for clients.
Some in industry people are married to the idea that PR equals purely earned media. No payment should change hands.
However, as earned media merges with paid, it could open up more opportunities not only for clients, but for PR practitioners with a journalism background. With extensive writing and interviewing skills, many in PR are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend.
5. Don’t take your eye off video.
A report from Cisco predicts that 78 percent of the world’s mobile traffic will be video by 2021. How should you factor video into PR efforts?
Trends picking up steam include user-generated video, which can be a cost-effective way to tell a brand’s story through the eyes of its fans. Livestreaming via Facebook Live and Instagram Live—both of which have millions of viewers—should be on your radar.
6. PR pros must be data scientists.
Many a PR pro has lamented, “I’m not a mathematician.” Unfortunately, that won’t cut it in our current environment.
PR pros would do well to ensure that their data measurement skills are where they need to be. Learning more about Google Analytics is a good start, and using tools like Muck Rack can help pros gather and interpret data.
7. Don’t underestimate the role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in PR.
PR pros knew it was going to be big; few predicted it would be this big.
“Data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence should make public relations easier for mostcompanies, from predicting when customer interest will be highest to identifying potential crises and mitigating them before they explode,” says Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology at Shift Communications.
What lessons did you take away from 2017, PR Daily readers?
Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.