[2012 trends] Out with the old, in with the new marks PR's revival
11 Jan 2012 15:09
2012 is the year that the South African PR industry may finally shed its image of a sub-standard party-planning service and muscle its way into the big leagues. And the main vehicle to get us there is social media. This also means that the traditional PR toolkit is due for a complete overhaul.
Who knows - perhaps 2012 is the year that we finally bury the press release as we know it (at least when it comes to consumer PR)?
Here is my list of these and other trends for the year ahead:
- Social media handled by PR
Social media channels will increasingly be managed by PR agencies on behalf of their clients, rather than being handled by copy writers/marketers.
PR agencies should have an in-depth understanding of their clients from a consumers' perspective, and are generally able to communicate in more subtle ways than advertising agencies do. The digital agencies that are still hanging on to conversation management will soon lose this stream of work to PR agencies with social media divisions.
2012 will undoubtedly be the year that sees those brands that employ social media to build their reputation as authentic and personable, rather than to advertise and sell, come out on top.
- Brand 'fails'
That said, there will be a flurry of new brand 'fails' on social media channels. It seems as though big brands - and a few big personalities - are still skimping on their social media management and those that decide to go it alone in 2012 (or use advertising agencies to manage their content), risk a repeat of last year's Durex South Africa tweets-debacle.
- Social media for brand-building
2012 will also come with a deeper understanding of how new social media platforms (Foursquare, Google+) can be used to build brands. PR agencies will have to incorporate a variety of social media platforms into digital strategies this year, ensuring that a holistic approach to how a brand lives online is adopted.
- Pitching at bloggers
Bloggers are fast catching up to journalists as a focus for PR practitioners. But what many haven't grasped yet is that the two are very different beasts, and therefore require very different approaches. Expect to see more informal, personalised and tongue-in-cheek pitches specifically aimed at bloggers in 2012.
- Death of the press release
This brings me to my next point: the much anticipated death of the press release as we know it (and, quite possibly, Outlook's mail merge function). Traditional press releases will be replaced by more tailored communication in 2012, supported by multi-media content.
That being said, certain PR disciplines, including financial and some corporate communications, will be relying on the press release for many years to come.
- Death of 'marketing speak'
From one death to another, 'marketing speak' in PR communications will cease to exist in 2012. Journalists and bloggers alike have not only stopped responding to press releases containing tag lines and the constant repetition of a brand's USP, they're openly deriding them.
This is the year for PR professionals to stand their ground and demonstrate to clients that communication is more effective when it is subtle, honest and newsworthy.
- Poaching of journalists
Intelligent writing will also become a necessity this year (due to the points mentioned above), and I predict that journalists can expect to be poached with increasing frequency.
- Moving away from AVE
Evaluation and measurement - the bane of the global PR industry - will continue to move away from AVE this year. Instead, clients and agencies will increasingly have to agree on other sets of deliverables, including message uptake and sentiment.
This also means that a bigger share of PR budgets will have to be allocated to reputation measurement and research than in the past.
- Bad year for start-ups
As the old economic powerhouses continue to deteriorate, clients the world over will continue to be increasingly protective over budgets, preferring to tie themselves to established communications agencies with strong track records, rather than new PR-shops. 2012 won't be a good year for start-ups.
- Phasing out of 'PR this'
Expect the phrase 'PR this' to be slowly phased out in 2012 as clients begin to understand that a creative, well-planned PR campaign, developed and executed by industry professionals, can set the agenda for ATL and BTL to follow.
- Closer integration of marcomms
The closer integration between marketing and communications functions on the client and agency side will continue in 2012.
Undoubtedly, turf wars will continue to rage, but it is those who recognise the power of combining the two disciplines, while not stepping on each other's toes, who will reap the creative industry awards this year.
- PRing PR
Collectively, the industry will have to work on doing PR for ourselves, for our industry as a whole and for our agencies. We have a lot to prove, and 2012 is the year to prove it.
About Maja Rode
Maja Rode is an account director at Corporate Image (www.corporateimage.co.za
). With qualifications in marketing, economics and business administration, she's a firm believer in the power of smart communication, of which she thinks there is a serious shortage in SA. Maja believes that PR, driven by the increasing integration with social media platforms, will play an increasingly important role in the boardroom - no more boobs-and-balloons. Email Maja@corporateimage.co.za
; follow @majarode
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