Public relations professionals can be cautious by nature. If we could predict the future we would, since we’re often left cleaning up the messes. The same rings true at the start of every new year. Developing trends coupled with learnings throughout 2018 present a powerful perspective of what’s to come — and how to best navigate these challenges and opportunities as 2019 begins. Here are three emerging realities or trends that should influence your public relations strategies in the new year (and prevent the mishaps).
Active listening is the starting point
It’s well-established that social media monitoring is a fundamental tool for modern public relations. Monitoring conversations across social platforms tracks brand mentions and interactions, enabling brands to engage customers in real-time through a reply or like or fresh content. In contrast, social listening can deliver even richer insights and identify more advantageous opportunities than monitoring alone. Listening to social conversations measures brand health and guides the most effective public relations activities.
Social listening tools start by searching for keywords, but that’s only the beginning of fully understanding consumer interests and conversations. Adopting the mindset and skills of a trained journalist when leading social listening results in deeper discovery and discernment. It’s taking those conversations and weaving a story, such as finding out that 45 percent of new fishing participants are women, but only 19 percent of those women have identified fishing as a sport for them. It’s what we did for Take Me Fishing when we put those numbers into context and crafted a campaign around this largely ignored audience. Connecting dots, asking informed questions and gathering perspectives from multiple sources will lead to comprehensive, insightful and actionable connections with consumers.
The ingenuity of earned media
Marketers face a confounding reality: the more a brand is visible and relevant, the more likely it will remain relevant to cultural conversations. Consider this as it applies to media relations and a journalist’s story-developing journey. When journalists discover a tip or hear of a story, they often initiate a quick digital and social media scan to determine the newsworthiness of a potential story. What is uncovered during that initial search often lays the foundation and credibility for the story — and whether or not it is pursued.
The omnichannel and interconnected nature of a brand’s presence across digital and social platforms greatly affects modern media relations practices. What appears in a quick Google search can impact the relevance and significance of a news angle. Earned media attention can even start a domino effect, jump-starting visibility and conversations.
Kindness can differentiate
America has become an increasingly contentious nation. Red versus blue. Rural versus urban. The coasts versus middle America. And on and on. Not surprisingly, Americans have reacted to this discord, at least in part, by feeling more anxious, dissatisfied and negative, according to a study by Gallup. Public relations practitioners are not immune to the negativity, but this bias creates barriers to their effectiveness as brand connectors and stewards.
Negativity bias is a natural human trait, one that originates from the fight-or-flight instinct that helped humans avoid potential dangers. But negativity can beget negativity — and challenge fundamental skills such as critical thinking and empathy. Since marketers emphasize the power of empathy in developing creative public relations campaigns, this pessimism is hindering the production of creative ideas. Genuine empathy empowers creativity. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has stated, “It is harder to be kind than clever.” Practicing kindness in your work can combat the negativity around us, inspire the best ideas and help marketers meet their objectives.
The start of a new year is a great time to be reflective and adapt better practices, behaviors and thinking, especially if they contribute to the betterment of our world. If the above trends aren’t in your marketing or PR plans, it’s the perfect opportunity to weave them in. Let us know how we can help. We’ve got a lot more where this came from.