Guest Post by Cortney Rhoads Stapleton, SVP and head of the Professional Servies Practice at BlissPR New York & Aven L. James, Account Supervisor at BlissPR in New York City
While most people have made their resolutions and predictions, there is still snow on the ground in NYC, so we feel that is our free pass to add our contribution. This is a synthesis of the thoughts from members of the B2B Practice Group of the Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of independent PR firms. In conversations with Worldcom partners in North and South America, a few trends emerged about the direction of our profession in 2011:
1. PR companies must continue to improve digital communications capabilities for themselves and for their clients. PR firms made great strides in 2010 and many B2B clients have now put PR in the social media driver’s seat. But maintaining the status quo will not be enough. Now that clients are convinced of the power of digital communications, they’re turning to PR firms for guidance on how to maximize the impact of their digital marketing investment. That means PR, as a profession, must stay ahead of the social-media curve and continue to advise clients on the social media channels that support their overall marketing strategies – and produce the best results for their bottom line. If PR firms don’t capitalize on this opportunity, clients will look for guidance elsewhere.
2. Social media communications will be more controlled by both client companies and regulatory agencies. The SEC, FINRA and the IRS all recognize that social networks cannot be ignored. They’re now paying close attention to how online communities operate and how they impact clients’ corporate communications. We’ve already seen regulatory agencies issue “guidance” on the use of social media, and expect to see additional regulations emerge in the years to come. At the same time, the Worldcom B2B practice group predicts PR clients, particularly those in highly regulated industries, will tighten their internal controls on social media activities to ensure they’re compliant with the latest regulations and/or to tighten the reigns on their corporate communications.
3. Reputation management (RM) will become more of a strategic necessity, with clients formalizing RM functions and clearly defining the roles of reputation managers both internally and externally. In mid-December, a seasoned independent marketing and PR consultant said the biggest uptick in his business in 2010 was in RM. He attributed it directly to the rapid evolution of social media and how fast and furiously everything moves online. In 2011, it appears that PR will play an even larger role in RM as we get more and more calls from CEOs to both “get things off Google” and to proactively manage their company’s online reputations.
4. Three magic letters will remain at the forefront of all conversations about Public Relations: ROI. What has changed, however, is that PR firms now have more tools to help prove ROI. Traditionally, PR’s success has been measured by metrics including the number of media placements, reach, awareness and share of voice. In 2011, as clients and their customers continue to move online, PR companies have the opportunity to analyze how different content and channels influence targets’ behavior. With the use of Google Analytics and other online data sources, PR firms can now show when and how PR contributed to business leads, and even to revenue. Will PR companies always be able to tie efforts directly to the clients’ bottom line? No. But content and data are king and queen in the conversation about ROI, and PR professionals have influence and access to more of it now than ever before. It’s critical that PR recognizes the opportunity to enhance the ROI discussion in the coming years.
5. Successful B2B PR professionals will evolve into “content marketers” (see our colleague Elizabeth Sosnow’s post “How B2B will fail in 2011”). Why? Because the collapse of marketing silos, the demise of many traditional media outlets and the shrinking attention spans of clients’ key audiences demands it. That means the conversation will move beyond “social media” to focus on developing integrated marketing campaigns that provide tailored content and services across a wide range of distribution channels. B2B companies will begin to take the information they’ve learned from listening to customers online and translate it into insights that influence their overall marketing strategy (for more, Harvard Business Review has some very helpful survey results on this topic).
PR has an opportunity to play a critical role in evaluating the effectiveness of these efforts. PR firms must push clients to clearly define “success,” establish baseline metrics for all campaigns and then measure the results along the way. Access to new types of data allows PR companies to evaluate the “stickiness” of different types of content, packaging and distribution channels – and use that knowledge to adjust all efforts going forward. The Worldcom B2B Practice Group predicts in 2011, PR companies will get closer to showing the direct correlations between PR and a client’s bottom line than ever before.
Do you agree or disagree with the above? What trends are you seeing for PR in 2011?
About the Authors
Cortney Rhoads Stapleton is Senior Vice President and head of the Professional Servies Practice at BlissPR New York. She is also the chair of the global B2B Practice Group for Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of independently owned public relations counseling firms. Her twitter id is @cortneyr
Aven L. James is an Account Supervisor at BlissPR in New York City. She is responsible for overall marketing and PR strategy, account management and day-to-day media relations and writing activities for clients primarily in professional services. Aven also leads the staff training program at BlissPR.
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