THE MEDIA YEARBOOK: South African strategic communications experts share their predictions for the PR industry in 2015. Glenda Nevill reports.
There is no doubt that the practice of public relations (PR) has changed substantially over the past decade. Technology, with the advent of multiple social media channels and communications platforms, has opened up the industry to new ways of doing business. And that trend – the so-called “evolution” of PR – will continue in 2015.
Marcus Brewster, chairman of marcusbrewster, says the PR industry has been significantly affected by technological progress because the changes relate to communication and the way business engages with customers.
“If the arrival of the computer signalled the end of the typewriter, if the internet was the bell that started tolling for print media and if the cell phone was the device that killed the camera, the common culprit in each case is a communication enabler,” he says.
Joanna Oosthuizen, managing director of Ogilvy PR, believes this evolution is driving the need for solid, engaging and relevant content. “In PR, 2014 was all about content, content, content. Agencies and the brands they purvey geared themselves up to deliver content beyond the traditional press release – moving toward more easily digestible content through digital media.
“Good content is not enough if it is not relevant, engaging and adapted to current trends. This is why data and analytics will play a key role in the evolution of PR into 2015,” says Oosthuizen.
“Brands need to be analytical and adaptable in assessing their markets, tailoring their communications to the consumer, the shareholder and the public at large,” she says. “Using data and analytics tools, and by measuring conversation online, brands are now able to fine tune their communications strategies to ensure their outputs are at the level they need them to be to generate publicity and assist with their overall business challenges.”
Oosthuizen says data and analytics have moved beyond being a social media tool. “The level of information you can pull from these tools extends beyond the online space into overall PR strategies. Data allows our PR clients to stay in touch with their competitors’ campaigns, as well as their consumer’s needs, wants and concerns, in a quantitative and measurable way. “
Evelyn John Holtzhausen, CEO of HWB Communications, is convinced digital and social media will gain ground with video becoming the dominant medium. “Media consumers already suffer a rapidly decreasing span of attention, and short, snappy, professionally produced, informative video clips feed this trend,” he says. With digital and social media playing such a vital role in the communications space, a brand’s reputation is increasingly at risk, he says.
“Years of brand building and consumer nurturing can be trashed in minutes via an unanswered, vicious, sour Twitter feed that goes viral. Clients who dismiss social media as a ‘fad’ for the ‘kids’ and ‘not for business’ will be the most vulnerable,” says Holtzhausen.
Media communications specialist Chirene Campbell, managing director of Owlhurst Communications, says, “We need to be where our client’s audiences are. Many marketers are reluctant to dip their toes into the social media pool because they don’t have time, don’t see the value, don’t understand it, fear it or are reluctant to put their brands in consumers’ hands.”
But top of her 2015 agenda is return on investment (ROI). “There still isn’t a globally accepted evaluation method among professionals (and clients). Clients still prefer the Audio Video Interleaved (AVI) method, although it is not very accurate, but it provides a monthly rand value that is trackable and indicates where more attention is needed. The Barcelona Method, introduced in 2010, provides insight into the efficacy of communication efforts, although it has not been adopted by many marketers,” she says.
Holtzhausen also says the development of credible ROI measurement for clients will be a hot topic this year.
Brewster believes the “courtship between media planning and PR” is the most interesting new trend. He says media agencies have “incredible tools at their disposal to quantify reach and frequency to their clients and these media strategies and plans should be overlaid with the publicity outreach”.
“If the media agency knows that regional radio is the most effective medium to reach a particular stakeholder group, why would a client not think to share this with the PR agency to enable the latter to push in the same direction? Is it because PR editorial is ‘free’ that nobody worries if the publicity coverage is colouring outside the lines? If it were being paid for (as in above-the-line spend), that kind of wastage would not be tolerated,” he says.
“When PR demonstrates effectiveness through an alignment with objective media planning, then PR will cease to be a ‘nice-to-have’ and become a valued strategic partner in the communication mix. Grab your surfboard folks – that wave is coming!”
This post was first published in 2015 The Media Yearbook. A digital version of the full magazine can be downloaded here.