The Four Major PR & Comms Trends for 2019

PR trends are like the oil that keeps your car lubricated. A regular check of current trends will keep your public relations strategy running smoothly and limit the chances of it breaking down on the side of the virtual road.

As we leave 2018 behind, here are my predictions for the top PR and comms trends for 2019.

Social purpose matters

Social purpose is an issue that’s quickly rising up the political and corporate agenda. Take 2018: Conservative Party Prime Minister Theresa May revealed her long-term strategy to eradicate avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. Supermarket Iceland then followed suit with its announcement of a five-year aim to remove all plastic packaging from their own brand products.

These issues matter to consumers too: 75% of consumers expect brands to drive social and environmental change, and this percentage is only going to increase. So, if you don’t have a social purpose and do your bit for society, now is the time to figure out what you’re going to do.

Social purpose covers a broad variety of areas, including the responsible sourcing of products, supporting local communities, changing manufacturing processes, and showing compassion to disadvantaged groups.

Social purpose is not only a ‘must’ from a societal perspective: it’s important from a PR perspective. After all, your reputation is everything.

Artificial Intelligence will go from ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have been the talk of the town for the past few years, and the hype isn’t going to die down anytime soon. 2019 is going to be the year for businesses who have watched and waited to finally jump on board the AI train.

Forward-thinking brands are already utilising AI and machine learning to track audience sentiment on social media, develop media lists, scout out appropriate influencers and interpret analytics, to name a few.

I believe there are two main ways AI will help PR in 2019:

1. Audience Insights

AI will help companies delve deeper into their target audiences to reach them on a more personal level. With the ability to predict interests and uncover trends, companies will be able to create more relevant products and services with the buyer experience front and centre.

With this level of intel, PR pros can produce more sophisticated campaigns with relevant messaging that corresponds to specific audience segments.

2. Social Interactions

Chatbots are increasing in their capabilities and prevalence as major companies invest in the development.

And AI advancements are helping create smarter chatbots that are paving the way for PR pros to help further conversations on behalf of brands in a relevant way. The easiest place to imagine this is on social media where chatbots could interact intelligently with relevant hashtags or respond to comments or direct messages on a company’s behalf. It’s just a matter of harnessing that level of machine integration in a strategic way to help expand PR efforts.

Increased focus on earned media

Publishing social content that generates likes and shares is extremely cost-effective. In fact, it’s free. Earned social media is the modern equivalent of traditional ‘word of mouth’ PR on an exponentially larger scale. Earned social media is particularly valuable when customers share positive sentiments about a brand, or an influencer decides to share or Retweet content. Furthermore, earned media provides the kind of third-party validation that customers trust over any other.

Social listening for managing brand reputation

Social listening is the process of using digital tools to monitor what people are saying about brands online. Marketers and PRs who perform social listening are able to gather key insights about their target audiences, competitors, and any potential issues coming their way.

Social listening helps marketers better manage their brands by allowing them to become embedded in the conversations happening online. Luckily, today there are a wide range of free and paid social monitoring tools such as Social Mention, Mention and Hootsuite to help marketers own the conversations happening around their brands. While the capabilities of each tool vary, many social monitoring tools offer brand mention tracking and frequency, consumer sentiment analysis, keyword and hashtag discovery as well as features to identify the most relevant bloggers and social influences.

Responding in real-time to concerns or negative reviews is crucial to a brand’s general well-being. With the right tools and strategy, social listening can be highly effective in controlling a PR crisis or addressing customer concerns.

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