5 technologies that will change how you do PR
Embrace the future of public relations and communications
Technology is changing the world, and the world of PR is no exception. The rise of the internet, cell phones, and social media are just a few examples of how technology has impacted how people communicate.
In a previous article we discussed five trends that will affect public relations professionals in the coming decade. These trends included:
the importance of influencers
the importance of online reputation management
the importance of measurability
Staying on top of the latest trends is one part of the equation. The other part is understanding the technological shifts that will change the world in the coming decades, and along with it, how you do PR. Recognizing and preparing for the emergence of these technologies now will be the difference between surfing the tech wave and being swept away as they break.
Of all the technological shifts that are taking place right now, the one that casts the largest shadow over PR is the emergence of artificial intelligence. According to Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly, we will see increasing ‘cognification’ in the next thirty years, whereby AI systems will infiltrate every aspect of society. The PR world will also see this change - machines will be able to understand public sentiment in real time by leveraging millions of gigabytes of data, write natural and insightful copy, and tailor it to audiences in a highly targeted way, all without human intervention.
This graph shows the rise of data in the past decade. Source: Patrick Cheesman
The second trend that is deeply intertwined with the rise of AI, is the rise of big data. Big data refers to the large amounts of structured and unstructured information that is available for organizations to mine for insights. To put the increasing amount of data into perspective, consider this: 90% of the data in the world today was created in the last two years, at 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day.
IBM correctly notes in its 2017 research that people today “increasingly expect companies to know them and cater to their likes, needs, wants and preferences with every transaction and every interaction”. Though the solution to this problem is big data, most organizations have not yet figured out how to leverage this information to better understand their readers.
Consequently, tools like AI systems that can parse through large amounts of data, and provide highly targeted content to users will become integral in PR. Though today, only big tech companies like Facebook are able to serve content tailored to their users’ likes and dislikes (ads and articles), in a few years this trend will be ubiquitous in PR.
To read more about the rise of big data, read our article on ‘Online data and PR’.
The emergence of Web 2.0 brought forth vast social media and multimedia tools, including video sharing capabilities. As of 2017, Youtube, Instagram Video, and Snapchat are some of the most innovative online tools that brands are employing to communicate their message, especially to younger audiences. Snapchat’s recent addition of ‘link’ capabilities to videos is the latest example of how videos have become the communicator’s best friend.
The proof is in the pudding - research by Animoto shows that 60% of millennials prefer to watch a video rather than read a newsletter, and 56% of consumers believe that if a company has a website, it should have a video. Social media platforms like Facebook have essentially made this decision for organizations by prioritizing video – Mark Zuckerberg has even described video as the biggest trend, and challenge, for the next 5 years.
Subsequently, organizations have had tremendous success communicating their brand through video, particularly by producing video news releases (VNRs), b-roll footage for media use, or by producing pithy brand journalism videos which have the stickiness that marketing and advertising content often lack.
With the emergence of 360 degree videos, live streaming, virtual and augmented reality, video is here to stay and will only continue to become more important in the PR professional’s toolkit. The question will be whether PR professionals will be able to adapt and leverage these cutting-edge technologies to effectively communicate their organization’s PR messaging.
The University of Sydney’s 360 degree tour video, which explores the campus through the different perspectives of its students, demonstrates the power of communication that organizations now harness.
Despite predictions of its demise in the mid-2000s, email has remained a surprising mainstay in the realm of PR in the past decade. Though email has seen little innovation in the recent past, we can expect to see certain advancements which will keep email at the forefront of public relations.
The first of these is increasing personalization through big data. While at the moment we are able to use structured data to superficially personalize emails (e.g. inserting Dear first name), with greater ability to organize unstructured data, PR practitioners will be able to send highly targeted emails using an incredibly personal style.
The second change will be the rise of interactive email. So far email has been unable to support elements of html5. We still won’t see an email load as a web page does: it doesn’t play video or show interactives. But once we see these ‘highly clickable’ elements in email, we can expect to see a breakdown in the barriers to engagement. In fact, html5 video in email is expected to take off in 2017- stay tuned. According to Jordie van Rijn however, the two biggest issues that still hold back adoption are 1) technical challenges around implementation and 2) tracking and attribution changes.
Email will also be a space of increasing automation. In fact this trend has already begun with trigger actions such as ‘welcome, thanks for subscribing’ emails. With greater leveraging of big data, and greater machine capabilities in natural language processing, we can also expect greater output of AI generated emails.
Social media’s rise following 2005 has been meteoric and now it enjoys a comfortable spot at top of PR strategies worldwide, with no signs of any change. Though Facebook and Twitter have seen some decline in recent years, the vacuum has been replaced by new social media giants like Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Reddit. The interactions, tone of voice and distribution capabilities on social media channels have however evolved over the past decade. As the platforms have matured, so have the PR departments that rely on social media heavily. In particular, two major recent shifts in social are of note:
Shift away from organic to paid
In 2016, organic reach on Facebook fell by 52%, demonstrating that the social media platform’s algorithm has steadily shifted away from an organic reach towards a paid model. In fact, research has shown that a page with 500,000 likes could have an organic reach as low as 2%. Facebook’s official stance says they aim to prevent organizations clogging up a user’s newsfeed through excessive content. PR pros that rely on social media for distribution purposes would be wise to consider greater budgets for paid reach via social.
Rise of social messaging tools
As of 2015, monthly active users for messaging apps surpassed those of the social media users. Users around the world are now using messaging apps to connect with friends, brands and to view images and content. This presents a new opportunity to PR practitioners - connecting with audiences via messaging tools. Logging on to WeChat or Whatsapp and interacting with audiences could reap tremendous results - in fact, research from Webio found that 62% of millennials are more loyal to organizations that engage with them via messaging apps.
Embrace the future of PR
The incremental progress of technology often gives the impression of stagnancy. Video, email, and social media have become so fundamentally entrenched in our lives, that we are not always capable of noticing their changing nature or impact. Yet, ideas are always growing, knowledge is accumulating, and technology is evolving. Just as email and social media changed the PR landscape in the past decades, so will the technologies of the coming decades. These tools not only allow us to better communicate our audience, but also better understand them. As PR professionals, we must embrace the future of PR by embracing the future of these technologies.
Five Ways Technology Affects Public Relations
The Future of PR: Tech-Driven Media Intelligence [Infographic]
Video Is The Future Of Media On The Web
The Future of email marketing – 2017 edition
10 Predictions For the Future of Social Media
Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks
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