Pulse of the Profession Thought Leadership

11 Public Relations Trends for 2011

With 2010 nearly in the rear-view mirror, and thoughts moving ahead to a (hopefully) bright and prosperous 2011, we thought it appropriate to start a new tradition for the PRSay blog of predicting trends within the profession for the year ahead. We turned to our smart and witty Section members and asked them to submit their top-11 predictions. (Thanks to all who submitted their ideas!)

We hope you enjoy their thoughts, and please chime in with your own predictions in the comments below.

Reputation Management Meets the “WikiLeaks Age”

Reputations are at greater risk today. Reputations are volatile because it is much easier for bad news or inaccurate information to spread like wildfire through new and traditional media channels. The number of influencers we need to communicate with regularly also has skyrocketed. These trends, which can dramatically impact a company’s reputation and stock value, clearly point to the need for on-going, strategic public relations and reputation management. (Linda Welter Cohen, APR)

We’re already seeing a greater realization and need to train leaders on communication skills, as well as to hold them accountable for communicating more effectively. The global research we do with our clients, along with the internal research I see regularly, demonstrates significant gaps in communication, especially when it comes to two-way communication. Training leaders can have a significant impact on improving those scores and driving further engagement.

Since engagement is fluid — it’s a gift that can readily be given and easily taken away — we’re going to see more companies with more regular polling of their staffs regarding engagement.  The result will be a more accurate temperature check and sense of engagement, which will allow leaders and communicators to adapt their communication strategies more regularly. (David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA)

A New Data Deluge: Opportunities Meet Analytical Challenges

Social media sites and applications offer analytics and statistics for the each of the check-ins including demographic and amount of visitation data. This will be beneficial for public relations professionals to further communicate ROI to their employers. Measurement of engagement, relationships and brand awareness are becoming easier than ever with the advent of these applications. (Jennifer Anne Starkey, APR)

Here an App, There an App …

With the recent release of photo and comment integration on Foursquare, one of the biggest trends for 2011 will be the evolution of location-based apps. Everyone is fighting to become the best out there. Facebook Places rolled out Deals recently, and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley was upset that Chipotle chose Facebook Places over using Foursquare. Gowalla snagged a deal with Disney, one of the largest theme parks in the world. Location-based apps cannot simply just have a check-in feature anymore. They will have to think of new, fun and engaging ways to win business and the most users. (Leah Moon)

One of the tools that will impact the travel and tourism profession (as well as other public-relations sectors) is location-based software programs like Foursquare, Facebook Places and applications with a gaming component, combined with the traditional ‘check-in’ feature like SCVNGR. (Jennifer Anne Starkey, APR)

(For the tourism industry) We will see location-based social media become increasingly more important, along with mobile marketing and smart phone apps that provide value to tourists. We’ll also see a continued use of Twitter, especially to provide last-minute deals for unsold seats to shows, events, etc. (Borshoff Tourism/Entertainment Team)

We’re Back in Business!

Watch for more opportunities and RFPs coming to public relations firms than ad agencies. We’re already seeing marketers turn that way as 2010 winds down. Savvy agencies will deliver multi-faceted approaches that go beyond both traditional and social media campaigns and demonstrate the value of direct stakeholder programs, including that old basic: internal communications. Organizations rebuilding after The Great Recession will want to start from scratch, rather than roll out the same old, same old. (Roger Pynn, APR)

For independent public relations contractors, I predict there will be more opportunities to partner with agencies and become an integral part of their team. Agencies will outsource senior-level talent, especially branding, marketing and interactive firms that don’t traditionally have public relations practitioners in-house. This will be driven by the need to stay nimble, yet strategic, during a time of continued economic recovery. Instead of hiring full-time employees, these agencies will create a network of talented public relations consultants who they can tap when needed. In addition, as the disciplines of marketing, advertising and public relations continue to converge, more clients will be looking for a one-stop shop to deliver their messages to the marketplace. (Meredith Bagnulo, APR)

Measurement Comes to the Forefront

The Barcelona Principles will be recognized as the “shot that was heard ’round the world’” in public relations. Expect to see significant leaps forward when it comes to measurement and accountability. (Mark McClennan, APR)

With digital communication, measurement is possible like never before. A public relations professional will need to understand the appropriate metrics based on the media selected and the tools needed to monitor program performance. (Howard Sholkin)

Wanted: Engaging Storytellers & Well-Written Content

Writing beyond traditional media relations is required for a range of digital content, such as websites, newsletters and content-marketing related to white papers, case studies, research and journalistic-quality articles. The social Web — growing at tremendous speed — requires an understanding of different platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) and how they can be effectively applied to public relations and marketing programs. (Howard Sholkin)

Good content and storytelling is paramount to breaking through the clutter. Since consumers have so many competing sources from which they can receive their news, communicators must create new and interesting content using a variety of channels to capture their audience’s attention. Ultimately, the more conversations that communicators can ignite through storytelling, the more likely your brand message will be heard. (Linda Welter Cohen, APR)

Value of Public Relations Continues to Rise

Because of the job market, students will be expected to have more applicable, real-world experience. This will lead to students participating in more than just one internship for experience. More and more, universities will see public relations as critical to the business community. This will lead to a greater emphasis on undergraduate and graduate degrees being developed around concerns and issues affecting the business world. (Elizabeth Kerns)

We integrate our introductory (sophomore) class to include equal measures of public relations and advertising. Later (junior/senior) classes have a component of advertising in campaigns/programs produced by PR majors and a component of public relations in campaigns produced by Ad majors. At all levels students work in teams, combining Ad majors and PR majors. Students must learn to co-exist with egos and passions secondary to the ultimate goal of quality communications that serve client needs. All campaigns and programs are for real-world clients with many requiring direct contact. And many projects serve nonprofits who could never afford PR counsel and services, thus fulfilling our mission of serving both the professions and the community. (Robert O’Gara, APR, Fellow PRSA)

Transformative Online Practices Mature & Grow in Value

2011 will be the year of transformation in the online arena for public relations professionals. As the technology is growing out of childhood and into adolescence, harnessing the multiple tools available, and relationships created, to develop a group of brand advocates for a destination, brand, product or service will be significant in influencing the buying decisions of consumers.

One of those key areas will be customer relationship management, which really has always been a part of public relations. It relies on “turning the interactions with consumers into ongoing relationships.” (Caulkins, 2007 p. 153) Where this has differed in more recent years is with the influx of online engagement and social media participation. Companies now have the ability to reach current and potential customers in ways that didn’t exist before 2006, with the introduction of Facebook as a community for all college students in 2005, and the increase in business participation from 2007. (Jennifer Anne Starkey, APR)

Old Practices Come Back Into Focus

The trend we need to see emerge for the industry is the understanding within the broader profession and the business community that public relations is not communication – PR is about identifying, developing and maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships between an organization and its stakeholders. A public relationship is the end goal; communication is merely the means to the end. (Stephanie McFarland, APR)

Print media should still be taken seriously. While newspaper circulation across the United States has been declining, niche, community and trade publications serving unique audiences and regions are holding their own or growing. We still rely on traditional news media to provide balanced, timely news, which is routinely picked up by new and old media. (Linda Welter Cohen, APR)

Sharing of Resources in a Tight Economy

Public relations is a profession built upon practitioners sharing and providing colleagues with relevant resources, tips about successful trends and the latest strategies and tactics for social media success. The coming year will see an increase in the sharing of the latest industry-leading trends on the measurement of all types of strategies and campaigns (media relations, social media, executive visibility, etc.) (Rand LaVonn, APR)

Finally . . . Something that Won’t Change

The overuse of e-mail and technology to hide from reality. Leaders will continue to hide behind technology when dealing with tough issues. Our ego and desire to stay away from conflict will mean we continue, at times, to choose a method of communication that feels better, but won’t be as successful, and in the end, will waste valuable time. It might feel good to send off an angry e-mail, but passive-aggressive conflict on e-mail escalates faster and lasts longer. (David Grossman, APC, APR, Fellow PRSA)

Keith Trivitt is associate director of public relations at the Public Relations Society of America. This post was compiled via submissions by PRSA Section members.

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