The public relations landscape is always evolving but recent years have seen historic shifts in the way that people access and consume information online. It’s imperative for companies to keep up with new trends and technologies if they want to create campaigns that have maximum impact and deliver lasting results.
Today, the lines between public relations, marketing and social media are more blurred than ever before and while blasting a press release to your media contacts might have been a great strategy a decade ago, these days it will likely yield crickets at best.
The latest and greatest public relations campaigns focus on spreading your message across all platforms, particularly on social media and through authentic, thought-provoking content.
Let’s delve into 8 key PR trends for 2024:
1. Artificial intelligence like ChatGPT will save you lots of time (and money)
Artificial intelligence has already caused major upheaval in the media landscape, with many news organizations such as Sports Illustrated having been outed for replacing writers with AI-generated content.
While platforms such as ChatGPT still lack the emotional intelligence and storytelling abilities of a human writer, AI technology can still be used as a fantastic tool for proofreading, research and content creation.
At Eden Communications, we regularly ask ChatGPT to recap the top trends in a specific industry, provide content ideas for blog posts like this one, name news organizations or reporters we might want to pitch, and proofread emails and pitches to reporters.
This can save you and your communications team a lot of time, but it’s important to remember that robots like ChatGPT function by trawling the internet and reproducing what’s already been published – leaving you open to plagiarized or factually inaccurate content.
Make sure you are proofreading and putting your own spin on the material that AI is generating for you.
2. The media landscape is fragmented and audiences are diverse
The way that people get their news has changed. A little under half of U.S. adults say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” according to a Pew Research Center survey from 2021.
Journalists are also ditching legacy media to start their own newsletters. From Puck to Semafor, The Free Press and Morning Brew, along with industry specific Substack newsletters like tech reporter Casey Newton’s Platformer, the most powerful voices in media now are often unaffiliated with larger news organizations.
According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 22 percent of people in the United States use email newsletters to get their news.
This means that audiences are less likely to head directly to the New York Times homepage to read the news and are more likely to get updates from social media where they follow news organizations and other influential voices.
Organizations thinking about how to reach their target audiences should take this into account when developing their list of media targets. While an article in The New York Times will oftentimes be the most coveted placement for a company, it could be much better for you to be mentioned in a more specific publication or email newsletter if your goal is to get in front of more customers or drive new leads.
3. Video content reigns supreme for virality
With more people getting their news from social media and spending time online, video content and visual storytelling has become increasingly important in PR campaigns.
To provide a recent example: when a Stanley customer recorded a viral TikTok video showing her Stanley tumbler as the only thing to survive a car fire, the cup maker immediately responded with a TikTok video of their own and said they would replace her car for her.
At this time of writing, Stanley’s TikTok, recorded by company president Terence Reilly, has had a stunning 39.5 million views and has helped cement the cup maker’s status as America's #1 drinkware brand.
If Stanley had instead sent out a press release announcing that they were going to replace the customer’s car, it’s highly unlikely that the moment would have gone as viral and created as much goodwill for Stanley as it did.
The fact that Reilly also recorded the video on a phone in a natural setting also helped make the company seem relatable and authentic. A highly-produced and stuffy video of Reilly sitting behind a desk in a suit would have seemed awkward and likely would have delayed Stanley’s response.
When considering what video content your company can produce to help tell your story, remember that it doesn’t have to be slick and overly produced, and that it’s important to act quickly when a post or topic is gaining traction as audiences move on quickly.
4. Authenticity and value-based communication are crucial
Humans have always loved an underdog story and that is especially true now as companies are being asked to share every stage of their journey with customers on social media.
Consumers today can easily spot when a brand is being disingenuous, especially if they are lying about their product or services. Being honest and vulnerable about the challenges you are facing – without revealing anything that would irreparably harm your reputation – will build trust with customers and also encourage more forgiveness if you experience a shipping delay, product recall, or unexpected hiccup.
Likewise, communicating your values and emphasizing your company’s mission is expected at a minimum as consumers today expect the brands they support to align with their social justice and environmental causes they are passionate about.
An example of a company that has successfully communicated its values is Patagonia. For example, the sustainable clothing brand took out a daring full page ad in The New York Times on Black Friday in 2011 with the headline “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”
They explained their take on consumerism in a blog post on their website.
Meanwhile, outdoor clothing brand North Face was torn apart on social media with a marketing stunt then they delivered a jacket to a “customer” who complained her waterproof North Face jacket got soaked while on a hike in New Zealand. Eagle-eyed X followers were quick to point out that the video was staged and a poor attempt to cash in on Stanley’s viral car fire moment from the previous week.
5. Internal communications is more important than ever
Employees are among a brand’s most important stakeholders and can be make or break for the success of your business. Just look at the internal meltdown and mass revolt among OpenAI employees after the board blundered its dismissal of CEO Sam Altman.
Internal communications are crucial for fostering employee engagement and attracting and retaining top talent.
Are you properly expressing your company’s values? Are you letting employees know about changes ahead of time? Do you have a two-way channel for feedback?
It’s crucial to communicate your overarching vision and specific business goals and address every team and individual’s role in achieving it. Make sure you deliver this over multiple channels, not just the company ethernet which no one ever uses.
6. PR and marketing needs to be integrated for maximum impact
Traditionally, the operations of marketing and PR teams used to be siloed, but with increasing digital convergence, these two functions need to be integrated in order to have maximum impact.
At Eden Communications, we tell our clients that securing the media coverage is only half of the work. In order to get maximum impact from your podcast appearances and media mentions, you need to make sure you are leveraging coverage on your website, social media, advertising, and sales channels.
A great review and a news organization’s logo can get a customer across the line when they are on the checkout page or when they see your advertisement on Instagram. Similarly, mentioning that your founder just got featured in Fortune can be very impressive to an investor who you are trying to bring on board.
A truly integrated approach can lead to more successful campaigns, so make sure that your communications lead and marketing team are in sync and are across each other’s activities and campaigns.
7. Data-driven pitches will be the most effective
With a smaller pool of reporters now being inundated with more and more emails, having cold hard data to back up your pitches is an increasingly important part of the pitching process. Data-driven storytelling with clear statistics or trends relevant to your audience can help you win over a reporter and get your story in print.
Do you possess any insights or data that can be used to advance a story or topic in the news currently? For example, a dating app could survey its customers and then turn that data into a report on the state of dating in 2024 or pitch interesting takeaways to a reporter who regularly writes about dating apps.
Anything you can pitch that is new and interesting will help you stand out from your competitors and provide value to a reporter that you want to build a relationship with. Providing consistent value to your media contacts will help you.
You can also turn these insights into marketing materials and lead generation tools that potential customers will happily exchange their email for in order to download it. It’s a win-win scenario.
8. Demonstrating return on investment
In the current economic environment, it’s crucial for PR professionals to demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) by measuring and showcasing the impact of their PR efforts.
It’s crucial to know how effective your campaign is so you can iterate and improve instead of just shouting into the wind and hoping for the best.
Media monitoring tools such as Brand 24 and Muck Rack allow you to measure how much traction different pieces of news coverage are getting and whether larger social media accounts are sharing the news. Data is important in PR decision-making to know you’re on the right track.
So how do you do this?
Media impressions, or how many people are reading your press coverage, is a common one. Other measurements include website traffic, followers and engagement on social media, keyword ranking, and the number of backlinks to your website.
Public relations is a constantly evolving landscape but by using a mixture of these strategies when building your press strategy, you'll be in a strong position to command attention and spread your message.