This year was far from normal for members of the news media—and PR pros felt its effect.
As newsrooms continue to work under shrinking budgets and increasing pressure to publish more content across a variety of formats, brand managers will be challenged to shift their communications strategies.
Here are five industry predictions business-to-buisness communicators should watch for next year:
1. Content marketing will become content creation—for coverage . With shrinking newsrooms—from The New York Times to niche publications—there aren’t as many reporters as there used to be.
The American Society of News Editors’ annual census reports a steady decline in newsroom staff since 2007. That year, there were 55,000 newsroom employees, and 2015’s cencus accounted for only 32,900 employees. That’s a 40 percent decrease in less than a decade.
This isn’t about a new business model in journalism, but rather a resource problem that is requiring brand managers to write their own stories and have them approved for publication alongside the content written by the editorial staff.
2. The importance of social media will decline for non-consumer businesses. I predict diminishing interest and diminishing returns for B2B organizations on social media, as the landscape is further fragmented.
“There are the staple platforms where you have to have a digital presence. These include LinkedIn and Twitter for business and Facebook for employee and community relations.
Many brand managers, however, are pulling back from Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and other sites if they are not targeting consumers. These platforms have increased in popularity, but the desire to focus on measuring ROI has led many to rethink their strategies.
Although brand managers’ target audiences might be using these platforms, they don’t necessarily want to be interrupted with business conversations. It’s the virtual equivalent of the cold-caller interrupting dinnertime. These sites are used primarily for entertainment, gathering news and communication with friends and family. If your organization doesn’t fit, it will be extremely hard to succeed.
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3. Video will no longer be optional. According to a recent Microsoft study, the human attention span is now only 8 seconds—shorter than a goldfish.
Research also shows that the majority of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video, and nearly 60 percent of B2B audiences prefer to watch videos instead of reading text. The trend is pretty clear: Video is going to become an increasingly important content format for PR and marketing in 2017.
To grab—and keep—their audience’s attention, marketers use videos as a powerful storytelling medium, infusing them with emotion, humor and strong narrative arcs that compel their audience to take action.
4. Sponsored content will earn a crucial place in B2B PR strategies. In 2017, PR professionals and marketers will have to redefine the balance between earned and paid placements as part of their overall communications strategy.
Though B2B organizations have traditionally placed emphasis on earned media, it will become increasingly difficult for many companies to secure consistent, high-profile coverage as publications continue to consolidate and newsrooms shrink.
Paid opportunities—by way of sponsored or native articles, opinion pieces and multimedia content—can secure coverage in sought-after media outlets and ensure an organization’s messages reach wider audiences.
5. Shorter news cycles will make pitching tougher. Journalists are expected to
churn out multiple articles everyday. The Washington Post publishes upwards of 1,200 stories, graphics and visuals every single day, with its editorial staff responsible for at least 500 of those stories.
The shorter news cycle and raised expectations on journalists who are inundated with ideas and up against multiple deadlines will pose a challenge to PR pros in 2017. Savvy PR pros will learn to move more quickly to provide reporters will quotes from qualified sources as quickly as the news breaks.
When it comes to rapid response, the cream rises to the top. Brand managers can only build strong relationships with reporters if they consistently provide meaningful commentary, data and opinions.
Sandra Fathi is the president of NYC-based PR and social media firm, Affect. Follow @TeamAffect on Twitter, and learn more from Fathi at our PR Measurement Conference in Miami on Feb. 1-2, 2017.