8 areas PR pros should focus on in 2016

When planning your strategies for the upcoming year, keep these emerging trends in mind. 

Successful PR pros keep track of current trends and adjust their efforts to meet the changing media landscape.

It’s important to focus on the most important strategies that will best boost your campaigns.

As organizations around the world lay the groundwork for their 2016 plans, here are eight areas of focus in the social and digital space that will be crucial for the year ahead:

1. Agility Real-time campaigns demand a workflow overhaul. A 24-hour review process won’t cut it when trends break on social media. Ketchum has built an integrated and agile workflow that we’ve packaged as a proposition called StoryWorks. Our newsrooms combine listening, strategists, creative and community management all working in a live environment.

2. Purpose Social media is collapsing hierarchies and eliminating silos within organizations. Every aspect of an organization must be social. The twentieth-century notion of centralized communication command and control is dead, if indeed it ever existed. Practitioners are helping the leaders of progressive organizations to discover their social purpose and collapse the silos between internal and external communication. 3. Creative

The Cannes International Festival of Creativity teaches us that memorable brands tell stories that respond to what motivates their audience across all forms of media. Award-winning work is based on smart creative teams and content that frequently engages audiences directly as part of the campaign. To build meaningful relationship and trust, brand managers must create a strong, authentic narrative rooted in an organizational purpose.

4. Paid media There are two camps emerging: Half shuns paid while the other predicts that PR is set to overturn the advertising business. As media outlets become fragmented and amplification, paid “influencers,” social media promotions and native advertising become part of communications, we dodge this at our peril. A media-agnostic approach focused on working across multiple channels is paramount. 5. Authenticity

Modern media outlets, as well as consumers, now live on social media. Brand managers must engage with people in plain language and not in polished “brand speak.” You can also dump your stock photography. One of my favorite places on the Internet is the Condescending Corporate Facebook Page, which pokes fun and the nonsense that brand managers say and do. It’s good for a giggle and will make you think. 6. Tools

A burgeoning tool market has emerged to support campaign planning across different devices and fragmented forms of media, analytics and planning. Though you should always automate with care, check out the 50 how-to guides that make up The #PRstack crowdsourced project. They’ll help boost productivity and simplify repetitive tasks.

7. Data When I started out in PR in the 90s, planning was as crude as aligning media titles with audiences. We discovered demographics and segmentation and matched media outlets accordingly. As we head into 2016, PR pros can use tools to identify potential brand advocates by geography, industry or topic online.

8. Professional development Upgrading skills to work across media channels is an ongoing work in progress, much the PR industry itself. We’re moving from being generalists to having broad knowledge of our discipline and specialist knowledge in an area such as research, planning, strategy or content. Talent acquisition is the new front line. At Ketchum, we’re developing these areas by way of our internal university curriculum and online training programs. What additional areas are you focusing on for the upcoming year? Stephen Waddington is the chief engagement officer at Ketchum. A version of this story originally appeared on the Ketchum blog. Follow Stephen on Twitter: @wadds and Ketchum on Twitter: @KetchumPR.

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