Nathan McGregor: 2017: The year ahead for PR

Nathan McGregor

Nathan McGregor of Juggling Swords looks at what 2017 has in store for PR.

Looking back on the turbulence of 2016 – the deaths of such notable people; Bowie and Muhammad Ali, Trump and the presidential race, Brexit and further political unsteadiness – it was a year that shocked and saddened us. However, in amongst the uncertainty, we must reflect on the communications practices.

2016 was a year that saw growth and innovation in the practice of PR. It is a field that must stay up to date on the latest trends and technology. As Paul Holmes, the brains behind The Holmes Report, puts it: ‘The pace of change in public relations has never been faster than it is today, but at the same time, it will likely never be this slow again’.

So, what does 2017 have in store for us? These are the trends and practices that I think will become more evident in everyday PR.

Pitch then press release

You may have heard the phrase, the death of the press release. But, I don’t really think this is something to worry about.

What I do think is now more important than ever is creating meaningful and trusting relationships with journalists.

Let me paint you a story:
You come up with this lovely PR campaign, get the sign off from the client, media list is prepped and ready to go, press release signed off from the client and it is ready to be syndicated. The next day you notice little to no return. Why is that? It’s because you underestimated the power of the pitch.

Unless you are already a reputable source and you have formed that relationship with a journalist, your press release runs the risk of going unnoticed.

Sending off a press release, without pitching the story to journalists will result in the possibility of it being unread, or as I like to call it, the ghost press release – it just disappears from email inboxes.

If you are pitching for the first time, understand the publication – will it apply to their readers; does it have good visuals; does the company you’re representing already have good comments, shares and views online?

This is one of the benefits of an agency like ours, we have the relationships and there aren’t any ghosts in our inboxes.

Fake News

If 2016 has taught us anything, it is that journalists will be more diligent when it comes to facts after the rise of fake news.

The majority of fake news stories arose in the American presidential campaign between Clinton and Trump, but that doesn’t mean fake news stories have just stopped there - they happen worldwide. With the internet now more accessible than ever, websites - or sources - can pop up anywhere offering hyped-up figures, fantasy facts and further information that can easily be cherrypicked and turned into news.

What is most shocking, is that fake news sells and has the legs to go socially viral.

Just look at this little number below:

You have to love the Scottish humour. This was a fake Aberdeen FC Twitter account releasing an update of a new player signing: Yerdäs Selzavön, or Yer Da Sells Avon. Unfortunately, SkySports picked it up via Twitter and got somewhat ridiculed for it. Someone didn’t fact check here obviously.

So, now more than ever, journalists must scrutinise and fact check your news in great depth. Be sure you have all the information correct. One false or incorrect piece of information and you may find it in the bin. It’s their prestige and name that is being put against your work.

PR and SEO relationships

These two different departments are becoming ever so closely linked.

With Google continuing to reward high quality content, embedded with high quality links and SEO techniques, PR practitioners must incorporate this into their everyday PR activity.

SEO, or search engine optimisation, and PR should share the same goal for your client – which is usually optimal coverage achieved. This might mean working harder on sentence structure when submitting a press release off to journalists, in the hope that it will also get published online.

Another technique we are seeing more of is including links in the press release. Although some publications won’t use links, the majority will allow one or two near the end of the press release. They are realising that links from external websites also work in their favour. More links to their news outlet will result in more eyes on their website, resulting in more ad spend.

Make sure your press release is going to work best online and in print media.

Live video continues to grow

It’s insane how popular live video has become.

It comes as no surprise that our society has become more appreciative of visual content. And with this, comes video – it is a huge trend, especially on social media. Live video on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and even Periscope should be included in your 2017 marketing strategy.

With Facebook being the most popular, the beauty of this is that when you go live all your followers get a push notification to watch you. Furthermore, according to the Facebook algorithm, it loves live video and will be given more importance in newsfeeds.

It has been predicted that by 2020 75 per cent of the world’s mobile traffic will be video and 2017 is sure to continue that phenomenal growth. Channel 4 and Yahoo News on Facebook, notably, paved the way in 2016 with live broadcasts of the presidential race.

If live video isn’t in your 2017 PR plan, change that.

Thought leadership

Perhaps not quite as a phenomenal as live video, thought leadership is still an important communications strategy for any organisation.

Thought leadership exists to showcase your knowledge and authority on a particular subject which interests your audience, helping to build that trust and relationship everyone so desperately needs.

Thought leadership doesn’t just exist in the B2B market, but also in the B2C. It’s equally important to know your consumer as well as your overall market.

Traditionally, thought leadership is achieved through featured editorial, blog posts, LinkedIn articles and newsletters. I predict we will see a lot more thought leadership intertwined with live video as well. It makes sense to combine the world of video with an audience who trusts you. Whether you may be selling a product or answering consumer queries, live video puts you right at the heart of the action.

You must be seen as an industry leader with thought leadership. So, if you’re the boss, put your face in front of the camera, tell us what we need to know, give your brand that face-image and help insulate your reputation that will help propel your business forward.

These are the key PR trends I think we will be seeing more of in 2017.

It goes without saying that there are of course other areas which I did not touch on that will develop this year. A few honourable mentions go to: The juggernaut that is social media, sure to expand and continue to grow; measuring PR is becoming far more in depth and detailed – especially in terms of measuring actual video consumption; and, as ever, reputation management matters more now, than ever.