It was a good year for PR.
The industry is growing
. While it’s harder to crack the streams of tweets and updates that fly at us each day, PR has an unprecedented opportunity to tell stories through new vehicles.
The stakes are higher, though. We have to be smarter and more creative. I used to tell clients not to worry too much about negative coverage because Google’s memory is short. Well, it’s gotten a lot longer this year with archive searches, so you can Google this post next December and call me prescient—or just plain wrong.
1. Infographic saturation
Like all shiny new toys, infographics are suffering from an abundance of enthusiasm. Data visualization is an important piece of content marketing, and one that isn’t going away.
However, in the next year we’ll see a bit of a contraction in infographics as the market tires of the onslaught and demands quality design work based on great data and equally interesting insights.
2. PR skills move well beyond media relations
Recruiting is a challenge for the PR industry, which is enjoying a nice period of growth (a November 30 Forbes
article cited the PR industry’s growth at 11 percent in the past 12 months
At InkHouse, the firm I co-founded, we call this a good problem, but a problem nonetheless. A successful PR professional today must have a wide array of skills. Gone are the days of cranking out press releases and simply excelling at selling stories to the press.
PR pros have to be good at both of those skills, but they also have to understand the fast-changing social media and content marketing world and be able to write like never before. It’s one thing to write a formulaic press release, but an entirely other writing challenge to ghost author a blog post for a CEO in his or her tone and style.
3. The phone matters … again
We had a few years during the blog explosion when some PR professionals slid into the keyboard, choosing to type their media correspondence behind the safety shield of their monitors. Email and social networks are important tools of the trade. However, to have good relationships, you need real conversations.
PR people who pick up the phone get better coverage, period. In the late 90s, we used to send FedEx packages to reporters to convey importance, because they stood out from the regular mail and daily barrage of faxes. Today, the phone is worthy of a resurgence since very few people use it anymore.
4. Social chaos comes into (better) focus
When clients object to Twitter, the first concern is the sheer exposure to followers they probably don’t know. The second concern is due to intimidation by the Twitter fire hose.
Those of us in the industry have found ways of filtering and focusing social content. I am the first to admit that it took quite a long time for me to get my system to a place where it works for me, though. It’s a manual process. I chose Tweetdeck
because it helps me filter by list, search term, Twitter handle, etc.
This year, LinkedIn Today launched, and it is one of the few places I look each day outside of Tweetdeck. The content is dead on and I always see something I missed elsewhere.
Facebook and Google+ have both added new functionality to make content streams more customized and to enable people to group their contacts by topic and share selectively. This will only improve in 2012, and I’m thrilled.
5. The influence bubble deflates.
Influence metrics like Klout
work because they play to our narcissism. And they are addictive. People get attached to their influence scores, and some check them every day. As Klout discovered, people become so attached that changes to the algorithms can create a lot of frustration (see The Next Web’s Klout’s scoring changes incite a riot of complaints
Aside from personal frustration, these changes also have an impact on social media measurement. We used to use metrics such as Klout in our social media reports, but the ever-changing metrics make it impossible to benchmark and often make it appear as though our clients have lost ground in the social sphere, when they have actually gained ground.
My prediction: It’s becoming clear that no influence metric is truly accurate—yet. Until we can benchmark and show real influence—what of the figures of major influence who are not involved in social media?—influence metrics may be relegated to points of interest, not points of real value.
6. Content is critical.
Content, content, content. Good, creative content. This has always been the basis for good PR, but now it’s more critical than ever.
Blogging and social channels have opened up an opportunity to have direct and meaningful conversations with your target audiences. To do this, you must begin with great content, told through the right lens.
Next year will bring more of this.
7. Tech product launches take a back seat
Remember the days of big bang technology product launches?
If you work at Apple, you only have to think back to the iPhone 4S. However, for the rest of us, product launches have lost their luster for the press. A product launch tells a reporter that 20 other reporters are going to be doing the same story, which is a major deterrent today.
Product news is important, though. Unless you have a product launch that will change the shape of a market, you might consider casting a smaller, and more focused net on the few reporters who will write longer, more in-depth stories.
Good PR people know how to couple this kind of launch with quality content—demo videos, infographics, Slideshare
, etc.—to populate the launch through social channels and directly to the target customer base.
8. RSS feeds lose more ground
From a content syndication standpoint, we use RSS feeds every day at InkHouse. However, from a consumer’s perspective, as Twitter lists, Google+, Facebook, and others provide new ways of filtering content, RSS feeds will lose more ground. My personal favorite tools are Twitter Lists and NetVibes.
9. Measurement gets measured
PR and social media measurement is a big market. For example, Salesforce acquired Radian6 this year for $326 million
. Measurement is critical, but it can also be pricey. Tools like Radian6 and Sysomos are fantastic, but I have yet to find a tool that gives us everything we need.
Good PR needs access to listening tools to find hot topics and competitor information, but we also need a platform for acting on that information. PR measurement is certainly growing up, and I see more on the horizon in 2012 as the industry defines what is required in much clearer terms.
Until then, my trusty Google Analytics, NetVibes
(the free version), and a cadre of other free social media monitor tools
will get us by.
10. Transparency trumps spin
Yes, it is the job of the PR professional to position a company’s story in the best possible light. This will always be the case.
Transparency, though, has gained in importance as social media has taken off. It’s no longer about talking at your audience, but about communicating with them. The coming year will only bring this need into sharper focus. This is one of the nice side effects of social media—it keeps everyone honest.
Beth Monaghan is a principal and co-founder of InkHouse Media + Marketing. A version of this story first appeared on the InkHouse blog.