As we begin to implement our 2018 campaigns, we look at five of the key considerations facing our industry and the way in which we work.

  1. Prepare for a convergence of PR and influencer marketing

Public relations have evolved from media relations to influencer relations. Every social media channel has given rise to a new breed of influencers. As a result, media relations have shifted away from just pitching stories to traditional news outlets to also targeting bloggers, influencers and advocates.

Regardless of their status or positioning – whether they’re opinion leaders, experts, ambassadors, creators, celebrities, activists, or sectoral professionals – the objective remains the same. Through careful and relevant engagement, we’re able to build relationships and trust with these important, specific communities through third party storytelling.

In the last five years alone, we’ve seen an explosion of paid influencers and creators – a highly lucrative career move for those at the top of their game. So much so, that last September consumer protection bodies in the UK and US increased their crackdown on Instagram “influencers”, to rein in the big business being done covertly on social media.

Instagram’s popularity with young people – particularly women – has led to an abundance of collabs between marketers and so-called influencers with large and engaged followings. Members of the Kardashian clan – who promote a range of products from “detox” tea to waist-training corsets to their tens of millions of followers – can reportedly command as much as $500,000 (£370,000) per post.

  1. Everyone’s a citizen journalist

The age of digital media has changed the face of journalism forever. No longer are members of the public just passive observers. Instead they are active creators and critics. Social media has made us all citizen journalists, whether we know it – or indeed like it – or not. Every time we share stories we are spreading news that influences our own inner circles – with many of us attuning our attitudes with those who gain the most likes or can articulate their opinions with credibility.

  1. It’s all in the numbers

PR and comms folk need to lose their fear of numbers and learn how to interpret data – both big and small – to discover insights that help shape clients’ content. Nifty numbers open up many exciting opportunities – but working with them demands a shift in the way we think. Whilst staring at tables or unstructured data may sometimes seem daunting, digging a little deeper often brings to light a gem of an idea to make a strong story. So, we must embrace the basics of data science and learn how to get the most out of databases, like Excel, for more than just a campaign critical path.

  1. Be more than a media coverage pusher

With some five PR pros to one reporter, today’s successful PRs need to be much more than media coverage pushers. Content marketing, owned content creation, influencer marketing and thought leadership are essentials of today’s ‘comms toolkit’ and must all be at the heart of any campaign.

  1. Understanding who you’re talking to is a good place to start

Over half the world’s population – 4.3 of the world’s 7.6 billion population – is connected to the internet. By 2030, it is forecast that everyone on the planet will be. The sheer scale of the top channels mean that a huge amount of analytical data is generated – which makes it a very powerful planning tool. Every post, click, like and comment leaves an audit trail that can be used to shape and inform.

Needless to say, the quarterly data published by social media platforms tells a very accurate and informative story – and one that should inform every comms campaign.

It’s essential that brands communicate in the same spaces as their audiences – an obvious point but one that is often overlooked. PR pros must monitor and follow the changing media landscape of the markets and sectors within which we operate.

We must then use this data to discover and identify audiences and publics, as well as understanding their motivation. Native planning tools on platforms such as Google or Facebook are a great place to start characterizing and understanding an audience.