There’s a proverb in Romani culture that goes “a dog with two masters will die from hunger”, implying that you shouldn’t divide your loyalty because each master will assume the other has taken care of you. The philosophy of moral determinism – also notably satirized by Jean Buridan and, erm Amy Farrah Fowler from the Big Bang Theory – is particularly poignant as the PR industry reaches a crucial crossroads in 2017, where it must decide how to properly balance its commercial considerations with a responsibility to media publications and its consumers.
Last year as part of our annual white paper we noted the merger of several digital disciplines coming together under an umbrella leveraged by the creation and distribution of content. Our take on the year ahead was that traditional PR disciplines are no longer confined to the PR industry, with SEO practitioners dabbling in content to satisfy Google’s demands and marketers making the shift in response to consumer disdain for display placements.
What we didn’t initially foresee was how the input of marketing and SEO industries would impact the sort of content being produced. Marketers, for example, are slaves to the brand and very much tied to its messaging. SEO professionals are ultimately looking for tangible search results. But we PR professionals have to satisfy two masters, and as the industry starts to swell we must capitalise on the opportunity to take back control.
As an agency, 72Point is in a unique position in that we’re sat between PR agencies and the media. Our parent group, the UK’s largest independent news agency, is a shout away at any point and are there to lend us their insight into what is working at any given time, which is advice we dispense to all our clients as well as at Creative Therapy Sessions, which we rolled out across the country this year. We don’t embargo, we don’t distribute our news content in press release format, we don’t include brand mentions in the opening paragraph and we stick to the best stories, and that’s why we landed 100 per cent of our projects in back-to-back months in the close of 2016; We make it as easy for the media to lift our content as possible.
Twenty-seventeen is a big year for the PR industry, possibly the beginning of a golden age as digital disciplines merge and the media landscape continues to evolve. But like the dog with two masters, we must ensure we remain fed from each to ensure we remain relevant and avoid becoming redundant.
Publications will adapt at pace
Despite much change in the mainstream media market the forecasters are all starting to paint the same story; print revenue is in decline, digital revenue is yet to be fully realised. This year the pace of change is set to shift a gear, with editorial teams likely to shrink and commercial departments expand in scale and remit, often with conflicting implications for the PR industry. Soon, many media publications will be viewed more as partners than a separate entity.
The PR industry is suffering from a serious numbers addiction. It uses estimated coverage views that bare little relevance to the social interactions and absurd projections based on simplistic mathematical sums. At some point, we’ll get found out and there will be a shift to more meaningful measurements which will result in targeted distribution on relevant publications and, crucially, better quality, shareable content.
Google will shift its indicators
In the same way brands will demand more human interactions over meaningless numbers, Google is about to shift from “exogenous”’ to “endogenous” signals to incorporate more genuine quality signals. The end may be in sight for link-building practices, which are currently a key indicator of trust, but a rather shallow one. Google’s algorithms in the future are more likely to incorporate the time people spend on the page and the way they interact with content.
From visual to interactive
Publishers want people to stick, brands want people to share, and both parties want content that works across channels. That’s why 2017 will be the year of the interactive. Quizes, graphic puzzles, even the old “spot the ball” type competitions will have their day in the sun again as we fight to keep consumers engaged.