Earlier this month, Onclusive Chief Strategy Officer Rebekah Iliff joined Nasdaq for its #PRInfluencers series on Facebook Live. Hosted by Deirdre Breakenridge of Pure Performance Communications, and joined by fellow panelists Shonali Burke and Shannon Furey, the panel covered emerging PR trends including how corporate storytelling has changed in recent years and what PR professionals must learn to sustain their careers. Watch the Facebook Live event or scan the session’s top takeaways below.
1. PR is no longer a linear process.
In the past, PR professionals pitched the media and threw events with little proof of how PR moved the needle. Today’s PR strategies are more iterative, forming a continuous loop where outcomes are measured and insights are frequently incorporated back into the strategy.
2. Apply critical thinking before fulfilling the “ask”.
Fact: PR is often a fire drill. A client is launching a new product in three weeks and they want to be featured in TechCrunch. But will an article in TechCrunch really contribute to the client’s goal of 100 demo sign-ups by the end of the quarter? Maybe. But at least consider other solutions that might help you reach the same goal. Maybe running a targeted marketing campaign in tandem with PR is your best bet.
When we step back and apply critical thinking, we’re more likely to help our companies and clients in a tangible way. There are countless critical thinking frameworks online to lead the way.
3. PR and marketing are converging.
PR professionals and marketers alike are beginning to see PR attribution as a mandatory mechanism for accurate marketing measurement. “In most instances, PR professionals only see about 5% of the traffic and actions their PR drives because traditional marketing attribution only tracks PR mentions when there is a link,” said Iliff. “We created technology that tracks all mentions, not just when there’s a link back to the company’s website.”
4. The narrative is now primarily owned by the brand.
“Based on our data, some brands are starting to see more traction with their owned media than their earned media,” said Iliff. “Technology has largely enabled this.” To take advantage of the rise of owned media, large companies must build in-house teams of digital storytellers.
For small companies, this often takes shape as smartphone storytelling, explained Breakenridge. Every PR professional has the ability to record videos, stream live events, and create ad campaigns to promote content. In this sense, owned media makes storytelling more accessible to all whereas earned media is largely dependent upon journalist interest.
5. Skill diversification is career insurance for today’s PR professionals.
It pays to be a good writer if you work in PR, but having baseline knowledge of digital marketing tactics is powerful too. “Will every PR professional be versed in everything from domain authority to SEO?” said Furey, “Probably not.” But having a greater understanding of the various parts of PR that fuel the marketing funnel is a great start, she explained.
6. Proving PR’s value lies in the quantitative.
There’s no doubt that brand awareness has high value, but the phrase has become a bit of a catch-all for PR outcomes that haven’t been analyzed using hard data. Today, PR professionals must learn how to justify their work with both the qualitative and quantitative so they can make more strategic decisions. Start by familiarizing yourself with today’s PR technologies so you’re in the know, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert user yet.
7. Commit to attending one conference or class a year.
Whether it’s getting Google Analytics or Marketo certified, attending a social media conference, or taking an SEO course so you can learn how to improve the searchability of your brand’s owned media, commit to continued education. “It will set you apart from the 100 other people who only know how to write a press release,” said Iliff.
8. For social amplification, go to your community. (Don’t make them come to you.)
When it comes to creating a community around your niche area, it’s best to meet your customer where they hang out, not where you want them to be. “You can have a great brand narrative, but if you’re not focusing on what makes your community tick and being a part of that community, you won’t be able to form genuine customer connections,” said Burke. “Be a part of their community. Don’t just invite them to be a part of yours.”
9. Data and technology don’t have to be scary.
Burke, who teaches two PR courses at Johns Hopkins University, consistently encounters seasoned PR practitioners who understand how to tell stories but are afraid of the technology side of things.
“We’re not mechanical engineers or software engineers, and we don’t need to be,” she said. “All we need to do is understand how to use the tools we have at our disposal for our work. That’s all. If we understand how to use those tools to do our jobs better, that’s what will help us grow.”
10. PR influencers who are thought leaders themselves will rise to the top.
The best PR professionals “walk the walk” in the sense that they understand the power of raising their own thought leadership profiles, so they can demonstrate best-case scenarios to their clients and customers: the C-suite.
The “PR Influencer” will become a key part of the business. This person has a strong understanding of what works and doesn’t — and can explain to a room of marketers and executives how their PR efforts helped the company reach quantifiable goals in addition to brand aspirations.
Deirdre Breakenridge, @dbreakenridge | Pure Performance Communications
Rebekah Iliff, @rebekahiliff | Chief Strategy Officer of Onclusive
Shonali Burke, @shonali | Shonali Burke Consulting
Shannon Furey, @shannonmfurey | PR Director for M studio