Thought Leadership

Measurement, Management and the Media Consultant: PR Predictions for 2013

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Editor’s note: This is the 12th in a series of 12 guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2013. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2013, the series began Jan. 7, 2013, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.

You know how the end of the year typically brings about a slew of “what’s next” and “10 things to look forward to…” type of posts? I’ve never written one of those, since I’ve always felt I’m incredibly bad at making predictions.

You see, I was one of those people who couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would care what I had for lunch (aka Twitter). Those are words I have since, happily, eaten (sic).

But as PR professionals, part of our job is to be able to anticipate how an organization’s publics will react to different types of communications. What message(s) will they understand most clearly? What message(s) will they understand most clearly and feel compelled to act upon? How do we get them from hearing, to listening, to understanding, to acting… and taking those actions that will positively impact the organization’s bottom line? That is, at its core, why businesses (nonprofits included) hire people like you and me to do what we do.

Which is why Geoff Livingston’s recent post on why social will move from PR to advertising made an impression on me (disclosures: Geoff is a friend, and I’m both speaking and partnering with him on xPotomac 2013). Some excerpts:

“The rise of algorithms weighs on everything. A Google Plus One means something, but 20 pluses mean more. Add in a traditional news hit, and organic content backlinks, and suddenly a web page becomes sourced more — not just in traditional search, but in social network streams that factor in social validation to feature ‘top content.’

“This equates to decreasing value for PR professionals who hustle for brand-driven earned mentions in both traditional media and blogs, as well as social networks. Social and traditional PR is increasingly cornered into a game of the aggregate. …

“Does that mean investment in social will decrease? No, it’s expected to increase, but the focus will turn to the aggregate, and engaging customers to drive leads and word of mouth. Further, social becomes part of the entire enterprise, not the domain of a public relations professional/department.”

The entire post is quite long, so you should make sure you have some time set aside to read and absorb it (as well as the comments). The point Geoff drives home, though, is that anticipated results are what will make a CMO allocate (or reallocate) her marketing mix. And if social advertising is a more cost-effective way of getting there, so be it.

In light of this, the three things I think we’ll see more of in 2013 are:

1. Smart measurement.

I’ve been saying for years that traditional forms of measurement aren’t enough. And putting a smart measurement program in place, that is outcome-focused, isn’t necessarily hard… it just takes some thinking. With several industry groups (including PRSA) coming together in 2012 to reinforce this line of thinking, I have hope that slowly but surely, we will see more practitioners, including large agencies, adopt sound measurement precepts.

And perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll sound the death knell of that menace, AVE.

2. PR as community management.

Back in 2011, I spoke at What’s Next DC (the focus of the conference is self-evident), where I made the point that more and more, “PR” is most effective when it is driven by the community. I’m not at all saying that “the media” is irrelevant; it’s not, but it is still figuring out its end game.

Today, if you build the right kind of community from your customers, they can be your media… and that takes good community management.

3. The rise of the PR consultant.

One of the things about prediction posts is that, very often, said predictions are outward manifestations of inner desires.  So if you’re rolling your eyes at this last one, I understand.

However, consider this: the U.S. is nowhere near being out of the recession that started some years ago… and given how inter-connected the global economy is, what happens in Vegas doesn’t just stay in Vegas. Businesses are already skittish about how much money they’ll spend on “ancillary” services (and whether we like it or not, “PR” is still not considered an essential business function by many). And looking ahead to 2014, when “Obamacare” will kick in, many are putting measures in place to ensure they don’t incur penalties… and for many, that allocating a larger share of labor costs to 1099s as opposed to full-time employees.

I’m not saying that every single contract that’s up for grabs will be awarded to consultants; not at all. But if independent PR practitioners are smart, they can start to grab a bigger share of the pie… and hold onto it longer as well.

That’s what I think we’ll see more of in the PR industry in 2013. What about you?

Shonali Burke was named to PRWeek’s inaugural top “40 Under 40 list of US-based PR professionals and is considered one of 25 women that rock social media. As Principal, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc., she helps you take your business communication strategy from corporate codswallop to community cool™. Shonali is also Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University, and publisher of the popular PR and digital media blog, Waxing UnLyrical. Talk to her on Twitter.

About the author

Shonali Burke


  • It’s an unfortunate reality I feel.  I think we’re going to see some negative outcomes. But I do see PR’s role evolving into community  as you say, and I think that’s a good thing.  And I do think PR consultants who can deliver splashes of aggregated hits will win, too.

  • Shonali, concur and cosign your three predictions, so that makes two of us who will either be right or wrong! As a independent PR consultant, the economic downturn was great for my business. Companies who had to cutback on in-house PR staff found out they could afford me and benefit from someone experienced for a fraction of the cost. Regarding the measurement issue, my frustration is with clients who will refuse to invest time or money to secure this information. How in the world can they run a business without any idea what’s working to drive business, and what’s not?

  • Your three ideas of what 2013 will bring are
    enlightening and quite different from anything that I have seen.  The concept of smart measurement should be
    talked about more often.  So many people
    agree that measurement is important, but they are not willing to take the
    necessary steps to ensure their time and resources are being allocated
    efficiently.  By researching different
    tools, including full-service and self-service options, as well as analyzing
    the data, rather than just monitoring it, smart measurement can benefit each of

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