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#PRin2012: 12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations

With 2011 nearly complete, and thoughts (and client budgets) turning to the New Year, we continue our tradition of annual PR industry prognostications. This year, we feature contributions from 12 creative thinkers in public relations. We asked for insight into trends they believe will fundamentally change the PR industry in 2012.

Below is a compilation of their thoughts. Starting Jan. 3, 2012, and running for 12 consecutive business days, we will publish each trend as a full blog post.

We hope you find value in reading these predictions. Please add your own in the comments below or by using the hashtag #PRin2012. We’ll capture the best contributions and publish those in a special baker’s dozen post in late-January.

Related: Read the top-11 PR trends for 2011 in this Dec. 22, 2010, PRSay blog post.

The Predictions

1. Business Increases its Voice in the Digital Space

If 2011 was the year of brands getting their owned-media properties in order, 2012 will be the year of PR professionals empowering business leaders and experts to get involved. As we look to the year ahead, it’s important for communicators to understand the methodology and value in this and be prepared to work with business leaders, decision makers and subject experts to get them up to speed and involved on digital platforms if they aren’t already. (Aedhmar Hynes, CEO, Text 100)

2. Convergence Continues

The recent news about Johnson & Johnson appointing Michael Sneed as vice president of global corporate affairs, overseeing global marketing and public relations, stands as yet another indication that brand and reputation continue to converge and create the need for joining forces. Always a hot-button issue in PR, the reality is that organizations will continue to merge their brand management functions (marketing) with their reputation management functions (PR).

If PR professionals are going to continue to work closely with their marketing brethren and generate significant results for clients, they need to get more comfortable with analytics. (MaryLee Sachs, former U.S. chairman, Hill & Knowlton; author, “The Changing MO of the CMO”)

3. Organizations Will be Defined by Communication

Time magazine named “the protester” as its person of the year for 2011 — an insight that foreshadows a challenge for every organization in 2012: never will it be easier for any David to throw any Goliath off stride, and never will organizations be more defined by communication. As we move ever closer to a world in which global publishing power lies in every person’s pocket, the punishment for failing to listen, engage, anticipate and respond effectively will be severe; and the rewards for an organization that defines itself through communication will be rich indeed. (Daniel Tisch, APR, Fellow CPRS, chair, Global Alliance; CEO, Argyle Communications.)

4. Wanted: Great Industry Leadership

The issues currently being debated by the profession are almost exactly the same as those that occupied the industry a decade ago. The topics are familiar to both student and veteran: ethics, formal definitions, diversity, measurement and skills.

With better leadership, the PR industry has the opportunity to become the management consultants of the 21st century. We need to claim our ground. The industry needs leadership. (Stephen Waddington, managing director, Speed)

5. The Rise of the ‘Influence Professional’

The irreversible change wrought by social media and related technologies, and advances in business performance management, such as the Balanced Scorecard and strategy maps, require transformation of the organization’s structure, culture, skills, policies and processes to secure competitive advantage, or simply to maintain viability. The task of tracking the six influence flows demands a new skill set and a new job role that I refer to as the “Influence Professional.”

If information paucity characterized the 20th century marketing and PR, so-called “big data” is both the challenge and opportunity of the 21st. (Philip Sheldrake, author and founding partner, Meanwhile).

6. Social Validation Becomes the ‘Holy Grail’

In 2012, a campaign’s ability to produce buzz in social or shared media will become a valid, if not Holy Grail barometer, of one’s success plying the “earned, owned and paid” media spheres. The booming social TV / second-screen revolution moves beyond a novelty to an actual barometer of a campaign’s success, as brands increasingly look to integrate their stories across multiple simultaneous channels and platforms. (Peter Himler, founding principal, Flatiron Communications.)

7. Shifting Metrics and Integration Drive Digital PR

Both a challenge and opportunity for public relations professionals in 2012 is to have more data-driven decision-making processes. For those of us focusing primarily on digital, identifying the right data that can inform decisions and integrating across all channels will position us for success. (Joe Ciarallo, vice president of communications, Buddy Media)

8. The Consumerization of IT Changes PR from the Inside, Out

The consumerization of IT and technology is an important internal business issue for PR firms in 2012. Consumerization of IT has the potential to increase PR firms’ productivity, engender employee satisfaction and provide a more agile, responsive client service experience. Look for consumer-focused technologies, such as social messaging platforms, to increasingly make their way into the arsenal of PR firms’ in-house communications and IT, fundamentally changing how PR professionals communicate with one another and work directly with clients across multiple platforms and channels. (Janet Tyler, president, Airfoil Public Relations)

9. Economic Realities Reset the PR / Media Relationship

The impact of a depressed economic environment will demand incisive PR support to cut through the confusion and blurring of media channels that is sure to intensify in 2012. Social media will continue to exert its sometimes unseen, stealthy influence on more established publishers and broadcasters. A richer, more confusing and, perhaps, less reliable media market will ensue. (Stefan Stern, director of strategy, Edelman; former management columnist, The Financial Times)

10. The Rise of ‘Brand Journalism’

Layoffs and rapid turnover mean many PR pros are finding it difficult to establish solid relationships or earn the attention their promotional efforts may deserve. Enter Brand Journalism. As media fragmentation continues relatively unabated, look for more companies in 2012 to explore the realm of Brand Journalism by hiring their own “reporters” to produce brand content and news. While enticing, companies will need to carefully weigh the ethical perils present in Brand Journalism. (Derek DeVries, communications technology manager, Grand Rapids Community College)

11. Solo PR Pros Make Their Mark

A confluence of events will make 2012 the year the industry discovers that independent public relations consultants are its secret weapon. As the economy edges toward recovery, the key to weathering the oscillating business cycles that have become the norm is the effective use of independent PR contractors. There is a growing understanding within the business community that solo PR pros are experienced and savvy professionals, who play a key role in our profession. (Kellye Crane, principal, Solo PR Pro)

12. Talent Acquisition Goes Social

Will hiring for public relations positions increase in 2012? Many economic indicators offer encouragement. Beyond an increase in specific job openings, reports indicate a fundamental shift taking place in the way the job market functions. Continuing use of social media as a means to enhance one’s career prospects will pave the way for new talent-acquisition opportunities and challenges.

The coming year will find employees encroaching on HR territory, serving as brand ambassadors to prospective employees. A coordinated effort between HR and public relations to offer continued social media training and guidelines is essential. (Valerie Simon, co-founder, #PRStudChat)

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