Editor’s note: Annually, we begin the year by featuring posts by industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations profession. Follow the series and join the discussion by using the hashtag #PRin2016.
The Future Trends Impacting Indies in PR and Social Media Communications
Mega Social Media News Apps
The biggest news trend affects Indies and all PR pros. The announcement in 2015 of mega social media news apps such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, (May 2015) and its agreement with nine iconic traditional media to distribute their original content, has blurred the line between traditional and social media.
On the plus side, social media news apps will provide top media news faster on mobile devices everywhere. One of the downsides is, this clearly is going to make it a lot harder for content to appear in a Facebook newsfeed that is populated by The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild, etc., unless of course your content made the NYT. Let’s just say this is no longer just social.
Subsequently, Apple announced its Apple News app this fall, and Google has one pending, or perhaps it has rolled out by the time I submit this article.
How this will affect the PR industry is certainly beyond this Indie’s crystal ball, except to say that PR Indies still can be a reliable source of relevant, native content to news media. We’re great at it. Where do we start?
For one, we need to identify how this shift affects our content distribution strategy. Will we need to distribute content to the social media newsrooms, just as we have to traditional media online? Most of us share content on social media now, but my Indie PR strategy is or has been to use “click-throughs” to drive visitors to our clients’ landing page, where they have control and we can analyze the ROI of our content, visitor experience, etc. Ultimately, we may have to relinquish some or all of our content and control to social media giants in order to earn placement in newsfeeds and news apps.
Certainly, this news trend will increase demand for digital communications strategies and native multimedia content (copy, visual and audio). It’s simply too much for most brand’s internal staff to administer, listen, respond, and also to curate original content for distribution across all media and digital channels, and to provide media events, relations, etc. PR Indies are in great position to capture this outsourced business.
A sunny side of the information and social media overload is my sense that few new social media channels (such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc) will launch effectively in 2016. However, new apps that make each channel more robust will continue to roll out. PR Indies focused on providing communications strategies for, or even specializing in the existing media channels will continue to thrive.
Trending on the tactical side, are communications with visuals and audio for traditional and social media. This trend will also be accelerated by the social media news apps. Indies can adapt quickly to this trend. There are fantastic apps and tools available that Indies can get at low or no cost to produce authentic visuals and audio for media use.
Culturally, expectations are trending higher. In response, Indies will more clearly define their roles and specialize, and likely partner with other PR Indies to round out their capabilities as needed. To that, PRSA/IPA is a great resource for Indies to forge alliances nationwide.
History has shown that in consolidating industries, Indies that have a niche will thrive. In PR, visuals and audio will increasingly be required to augment our copy, and we will need to be strategic about distributing original content to social and traditional media newsrooms, as well as to our clients’ website and digital communications.
Best wishes for a prosperous New Year trend ahead!
Louise Eliason, MBA is chief strategist at Eliason Associates, a multimedia communications and public relations consultancy established in 2007 in the Greater Philadelphia area. She also serves as PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance, social media chair @IPAPRSA.