Woman holding sparkler in the snow.

Predictions for 2017

The PR agency’s new role: SEO

Journalism is not what it used to be before the era of fake news – and we often hear this complaint through stories which frame journalists as PR converts fleeing a sinking ship. More recently, concerns have been raised about the way in which press outlets work with social media: suggesting that in order to stop a loss of revenue, they must rethink their strategies and abandon the likes of their partnerships with tech giants like Facebook.

This is where SEO comes in: it is an excellent way to drive traffic towards media outlets by optimising their content for search engines. It consistently tops the list of important marketing skills to master, and understandably so. Increasingly people reach for Google and other search engines to solve everything from arguments about obscure facts to what they’ll be eating – and creating a brand presence which sits at the top of those search engines can generate an enormous range of benefits.

The challenge for PR agencies, and an emerging trend in 2017, will be to hone in on this key skill and generate content for both journalists and brands which will consistently drive the content they are supplying to the top of search engines. Engaging and interesting content which can keep both journalist and brand a like at the top of the results list keeps everyone happy by driving brand awareness and reinforcing PR’s value to journalists who don’t have time to scrabble for keywords.

Traditionally, the role of SEO fell outside of the PR agency’s remit and ownership was automatically dismissed by client and agency. However, as PR agencies are the experts in creating engaging content that website owners want to publish, surely we – the masters in storytelling – should be owning the SEO role as we not only know the stories that engage consumers, but we also have the publishing contacts.

Live vides and virtual reality

Live Streaming isn’t new, but it’s certainly becoming more accessible. This has caused a surge in demand and interest which is quickly creating waves in the digital world and wider media: Twitter broke live-streaming records by broadcasting the inauguration live, Facebook’s attempts at live broadcasting has consistently made headlines due to poor policing, and Instagram has just rolled out live streaming worldwide.  When combined with the rapid development of virtual reality headsets and games, these advances in technology and the way in which we communicate with it allow for a myriad of possibilities.

The challenge for PR in 2017 is to learn how to utilise this volatile landscape successfully. If done correctly, campaigns which encompass live videos and virtual reality could create experiences which we have never seen the likes of before. Live streaming opens up the possibility of interactive events which can reach enormous audiences and (via comments and chat) allow them agency over what is occurring on their screens – or at the very least given them the opportunity to interact with whoever they’re watching on the screen.

Virtual reality headsets, whilst still young and relatively untouched by brands, open up the possibility of a completely immersive experience. Imagine the impact of campaigns such as Save The Children’s Syria video if they were to completely immerse their audience into the world they were portraying through the power of virtual reality and headsets.

Personalised experiences

Everyone likes to feel special. That’s why consumers will go mad for campaigns which reach out to them directly: we know this from the furore around Kit Kat’s personalised chocolate bar campaign, or the highly successful outreach moves from the likes of Coca-Cola and Nutella which simply involved giving customers the chance of seeing their name on the product. It’s a tried and tested method. Making the consumer feel like they stand out from the rest is worth the effort, as it makes a huge impact.

As Artificial Intelligence and analytics become more precise, it will become possible to create highly targeted campaigns which are formulated by gathering extensive data on consumers – taking the meaning of “direct marketing” to a new level. If we can gather information about our customers that surpasses their name and encompasses their hobbies, beliefs and desires then we can create campaigns which will truly resonate with them on a deeper level than most campaigns have ever been able to reach.

Campaigns which look towards social listening, data analytics and highly targeted experiences will certainly be set to make a big impact this year.

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