Our new MD Jo Vyvyan-Robinson shares her most prolific PR trends for 2018. Want to hear more? Sign up to The Enquirer at http://hellostir.com/culture/.
In recent years, influencer marketing has become increasingly more like a digital advertising platform, challenging the integrity of both brands and influencers. We’ve seen an unhealthy blurring of money and influence, whereby influencers take revenue from brands, but pay little regard to the product, the idea or its message; and it’s this inauthenticity that ironically undermines the credibility that brands sought to achieve from working with influencers in the first place. In 2018, the way in which we use influencers as part of the marketing mix will therefore need to become smarter – it’s an incredibly powerful tool, and shows no signs of waning, but must be executed in the right way. Is there a genuine connection between the influencer and the brand? Do they have the credibility to tell me that I should buy the product? Did they post about a competitor only last week? Brands need to apply the fundamentals of communication with digital influencers: relationship building, trust and transparency. And, of course, PRs are the best placed to do this; we have, after all, been engaging influencers long before digital influencer marketing was considered “cool”.
In a similar way, brands will need to stand for something – too often, we’ve seen inauthentic, socially moral messages, but savvy consumers see straight through these lazy attempts at a point of view. While speaking up about divisive issues can be risky, it can be hugely rewarding if done right, with depth of purpose felt across the whole business. We advise clients that this purpose must come from within, linked to commercial targets, and driven by CEO down and shop-floor up, not from marketing. What’s more, standing out has become more important than ever to ensure brand differentiation. One of the biggest challenges faced by consumer brands is how to stay fresh, innovative and relevant in an increasingly competitive market, with lots of choice, savvier shoppers and a demanding consumer looking for expertise, speciality, quality, exclusivity, sustainability, honesty, and/or local credentials. We expect to see engaging, innovative and disruptive brand propositions in 2018.
A brand’s reputation is its most valuable asset – this year, it’ll be more important than ever for brands to build up trust, like credits in the bank, to remain safe when crises hit. If you have enough credits, consumers will inevitably still trust you and not all is lost. Strengthening brand reputations will also be achieved through like-minded brand partnerships and collaborations. While this in itself isn’t new (Nike and Apple did the same thing in the early-2000s), the increased focus on brand trust and reputation at present demands that more brands are recognising the need to take the best of themselves and merge those with the strengths of another brand.
As an industry, we’ve noticed that the worlds of corporate and consumer PR are merging, thanks to a shift in the way we consume media. We’re tackling briefs through one lens, while tailoring content for each channel, having noticed that audiences are no longer in static boxes – for instance, a beer buyer at a large pub chain is reading more than just The Publican’s Morning Advertiser; they, too, are consumers. At the same time, advertising and digital agencies are pushing even harder to take earned media away from PR through social platforms and press coverage – it’s imperative we keep fighting for our piece of the pie…
Finally, the era of traditional, tedious and text-heavy communication is over: the press release has had its day. Having not generated quality earned media for some time, the press release is already being re-defined for today’s digital generation. It’s now more visual, with embedded images, graphics and videos alongside minimal copy, and more interactive, allowing readers to navigate quickly from one part of “story” to the next. Don’t give up on press releases; re-invent them!