Editor’s note: This is the 6th in a series of guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2014. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2014, the series began Jan. 8, 2014, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.
The strategic communication process will continue to evolve in 2014, as formative research is increasingly powered by newly available data and tools that allow relationships to be identified and nurtured in an increasingly targeted and personal manner. Those PR practitioners who are able to use data to take a hyper-personal approach to targeting their publics will be able to succeed not only in communicating single messages, but in building brand advocate networks.
In 2013, companies took significant leaps in their efforts to take advantage of “big data” to provide individual experiences. Driven by the CIO, storage and security issues were the primary focus. In 2014, we will begin to see significant progress in the transition from simply storing data to connecting it with the business and ultimately driving engagement with publics.
Formative research will grow deeper, faster and more cost effective as PR practitioners use newly available databases to understand their “publics” beyond basic geography. Detailed demographics, preferences, history with the brand and in the marketplace, motivating factors and behaviors when developing messages, will be increasingly important in engaging a public that is overloaded by information. It will become both easier and more essential to know what a target audience thinks, feels and desires in order to drive outcome. Storytelling is no longer about sharing the story of a brand. It is about understanding how a brand can best be woven into the individual stories of the intended audience.
2014 will unveil new tools that will provide PR practitioners with new ways to identify and engage with influencers and will enable efficient, segmented communications. Consider new apps like Social Radar, scheduled to launch in 2014. Social Radar may not be a PR tool, but imagine event driven publicists being able to have live data and profiles on everyone in a particular room.
There are a wealth of mobile start- ups focused on integrating real time location information with social profile information. Current vendors like Vocus and Cvent, will take their (relatively new) integrations with CRM systems to the next level. CRM systems will continue to expand their marketing capabilities. In house tools built using proprietary customer and prospecting data will also become an essential part of the PR Toolkit.
Successful practitioners will take an increasingly analytical approach, using all available data to help communicate. While the best campaigns of 2014 will offer a simple and cohesive message, they will be comprised of a complex and fragmented strategy appealing to different audiences in different ways.
Valerie Merahn Simon is a senior Sales and Marketing Executive who currently serves as Director of Marketing Communications for Plymouth Rock Assurance. She can be found on Twitter @ValerieSimon
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