Tue, Apr 05 2016
Tim Hughes Writes…
What will public relations look like in the next five years?
I delivered a speech on this topic recently to the South Australian Marketing Summit, with my personal view being that a dominant place in the future marketing mix for the PR sector is ours to lose.
The re-shaped PR industry has the potential to ‘own’ strategic communication and reputation, and that means having significant influence over the work of advertising agencies, marketing agencies and digital agencies – possibly including taking some of their work from them.
I’ve formed this view because:
As we say at Hughes, “we have the power to influence action and opinion”. Others say it in other ways but as an industry we have the ability to do it, and I believe, better than any other component of the marketing mix.
Not that we’re the be-all and end-all of marketing – yet! It’s just that we’re going to play an ever increasing role.
For the PR industry to realise its potential, I see five key areas we need to focus on:
1. Global industry positioning – we must earn the right to own responsibility for organisational reputation, and as part of this we must address the hoary chestnut of our industry: measuring value. As a profession, we haven’t been good at measuring the benefits we provide organisations, but as David Rockland – CEO of Ketchum Global Research & Analytics – said: “If we want a seat at the grown-ups table, we have to earn it via metrics.”
2. Technology – all the technology and social media platforms in the world are just toys – not tools – unless we can measure the significant positive contribution they make to business bottom lines: financial, social and environmental.
3. PR teams – what will PR agencies and in-house communications teams look like in the future? Will we limit ourselves to one geographic market? Will we specialise in an industry with universal needs around the globe? Will we have an office with a bunch of staff in it, or will we be networked to the best (or cheapest) talent the world has to offer, perhaps calling them in on a job by job basis? These are questions we need to answer.
4. PR people – who do we need in our profession in the future? A major part of our role is story telling so those who can do this will continue to be sought, as will those who can proactively identify issues; honestly appraise reputational risks; fearlessly advise on addressing those risks and effectively assist in neutralising or managing them to the benefit of an organisation.
5. Future services – my view is that the PR industry will be delivering the services it’s delivering now, including publicity, reputation management, publications, training, stakeholder relations, social media management, video production and graphic design. But we will have greater control over the strategy that drives them and the way in which they’re integrated with an organisation’s brand building and reputation protection strategy.
As for future trends to keep an eye on:
In summary, the PR industry is going to be increasingly responsible for developing and delivering business strategies. Our industry’s influence is set to grow, and while our core role and services won’t change in the immediate future, the tools and how we use them will.
Author: Tim Hughes FPRIA. Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, video production, graphic design and strategic problem solving. Find out more.