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Public Relations and communications has evolved significantly in recent years. The increased prevalence of digital and social media has propelled ‘word of mouth’ and, more than ever before, digitally savvy consumers are shying away from more traditional advertising methods and are instead being guided by the opinions of peers, friends and industry experts.

So as we start 2017, let’s take a look at four top trends that we expect to impact on the industry over the next 12 months.

Executive Thought Leadership

Public Relations professionals work closely with their clients to generate high quality optimised content on behalf of key employees and leaders. Sharing opinions, experience and intelligence on their industry and trending topics – opinions that are personal to them and different to everyone else’s – makes thought leadership an excellent way to create standout and build reputation

Click here for more on how thought leadership is a strategy for corporate growth.

Influencer Marketing

With consumer trust in advertisements and even in traditional media sources on the decline, a recent study showed that we now trust influencers as much as our friends.

According to a report carried out by Twitter, around 40% of respondents said they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. And 20% of those questioned said they had shared something they saw from an influencer.

And even more astounding are results from another survey that show 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands.

Industry studies have also found that 37% better retention is reported for customers acquired through word-of-mouth advertising with 51% of marketers questioned in another survey believing that they attract better customers from influencer marketing because the relationship began with trust in the influencer.

We predict influencer marketing to develop this year as agencies leverage influencers as ongoing contributors. It’s important to partner with authentic advocates who truly connect with their followers and your target audience.

Celebrities and influencers just looking for payment in return for their advocacy is not a route that many companies are taking. This year authentic voices will take the spotlight and deliver the best results for brands.

All in all, it’s a good idea to really consider your influencer marketing programme in 2017.

Contributor Marketing

The distribution of the good old press release is far from passé, but as media outlets continue to cut back on staff journalists, contributors – both paid and unpaid – will continue to rise if they have something interesting valuable and engaging to say.

We live in a 24/7 media environment. The pace is fast and opportunities plentiful for those who produce really good content—it’s very much in demand. This can be something you’ve produced internally as long as it’s relevant and targeted to the audience and is valuable enough for them to want to publish and share.

The likelihood of which is even greater enhanced for those who are active within relevant social network communities and have proven influence and sectoral ‘clout’ in your own right. Such a reputation – paired with strong content – will mean that media outlets will want to work with you as you’ll no doubt be increasing their own page views and even their audience base.

For more on how to share, promote and distribute content click here.

Earned Media

As PR professionals, we specialise in directing clients to good content all the time and understand the importance that organically earned views have on clients’ budget planning – shaping spend and funnelling budget and campaigns to areas where they are gaining more views and traction.

So as we move through 2017, SEO and PR will become even more closely aligned so all high quality content published supports key messaging and is fully optimized for search. SEO – once the function of the digital marketing team – is a skillset that will continue to develop in PR professionals as the prevalence of earned media and thought leadership continues to grow.

For more on how SEO and PR should be working together click here.