Contributed by PRSA Oregon partner Allen Hall PR,
University of Oregon
We all know that fast pace and change defines the communications industry. Success means keeping up on the trends and new practices, self-teaching, observing peers in the field, and some failed attempts along the way. When falling behind can mean clients choose to use others’ services, staying on top of the best messaging strategies is important to us all. Here are some of the top trends PR professionals and professors say have shaped our industry the most in recent years:
Tech continuously changes the way we disseminate information. The medium with the most recent spike in popularity is podcasts. (Check out PRSA Oregon’s affiliated podcast, PR Talk HERE) People who understand how to make successful audio media will stand out to their employers and clients. Video has also been on the forefront of brand storytelling for a while and does not appear to be going anywhere. Video can be a powerful tool, but the path to an impactful video is strategic and requires time. “PRSay” has a great blog post on the video storytelling process.
Most of us have heard by now that there are between five and 10 communications professionals for every journalist in this country. Kelli Matthews, the director of the public relations sequence in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, says this “makes media relations and earning coverage increasingly difficult.” According to Matthews, if you are not doing your research into journalists and the beats they cover, then you are not going to get coverage. Doing this properly can take a significant amount of time to understand the reporter, the topics they cover, and how your client can fit into it. The long process and hard work will be worth it when you can show your clients the earned media you received.
Spread of Disinformation
Conspiracy theories and false information pose a threat to everyone in the public sphere. This spread of disinformation is causing rifts in all types of relationships. Google’s VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs Corey duBrowa says this is the biggest change and issue in our industry. We all have our own beliefs and opinions, but we have started to only consume information that supports these beliefs and opinions. “It has moved all of us so much further inside our self-created ‘bubbles’,” says duBrowa. “I worry that we only consume what we already think and believe, and we aren’t listening to one another anymore.” If disinformation is not addressed, it will impact much more than our political process. Companies can be the target of disinformation campaigns, and we as communications professionals need to be ready to combat crises that may impact our clients.
Similarly, there is a rising trend of consumers choosing products based on brand values. More often we are seeing people boycotting brands when the brand has different values than they do or does not act by the values that they claim to have. A recent example is the backlash Chick-fil-A received when they announced they would stop donating to anti-LGBTQ charities. Conservatives felt that Chick-fil-A had abandoned their shared values, while liberals believed the change was made only to raise profits. In 2018, Marketing Dive reported on an Accenture study which found that 63 percent of global consumers preferred to purchase from purpose-driven brands. According to Matthews, “values-based and purpose-driven brands are the winners when it comes to building relationships with publics.” The brands that can communicate with the public about their mission in a genuine way will be able to curate lasting relationships with their consumers.