Social Media, AI & Analytics:

The Future of Public Relations

Press releases, media pitching and event coordination have long been the mainstays of traditional public relations. Fast-forward to 2019, and PR has transformed to include a whole new world of digital media, too. In order to be the best in public relations, PR professionals and organizations must account for these evolving communication trends and learn to use new, innovative tools for success.

To jump-start your knowledge and keep you ahead of the industry curve, we have compiled several key insights from the 2019 Global Communications Survey by University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Public Relations.

Technology is king

New technologies for communication are introduced to the world almost daily. As such, we believe that we have an obligation to use these tools to secure even bigger wins for our clients.

The impacts of technology are still evolving. According to USC’s survey, the PR community is split on estimates of future outcomes. Three out of five PR pros predict technology will cause the average citizen to become more engaged. Conversely, the same number believe that engagement will enable widespread misinformation, which almost three-fourths (74%) think will lead to greater societal polarization.

Regardless of its impact, advancing technology is too integrated into our society to be ignored. The mission of public relations is to use technology to enhance relationship-building, rather than replace it. As masters of communication, our industry has the responsibility to forward truthfulness when using technology to set a good example and exude credibility and professionalism.

Budget for social

Of the countless technology tools, social platforms will continue to dominate the communication landscape. The USC survey, whose research focused specifically on company leaders, revealed 38 percent of U.S. CEOs believe social media and online influencers are the most valuable form of communication to their companies in the future – even more than original content distributed through their company’s channels or owned media.

Comparatively, traditional media coverage (e.g., earned media) and advertising (e.g., paid media) ranked significantly lower as the most valuable means of communication.

As company leaders value social media platforms, social media is predicted to remain a dominant source of content sharing. Therefore, staying up-to-date on social media tools and best practices only will enhance projects and demonstrate value, particularly when working directly with CEOs. 

Not all social platforms are equal. In the era of decreasing attention spans, images have the widest reach of public interest. The USC survey projected the most popular channels will continue to employ compelling visual imagery, with YouTube (48%) and Instagram (46%) topping the list of tools for effective communication strategies.

Word-based platforms, such as Medium, also are strongly predicted to decrease in public interest. Good writing skills still remain essential to the industry, but storytelling through images and video has also become essential for successful communication.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is not far behind social media in relevance for the PR industry. Through AI seems confusing, the technology can generate quantitative analysis from massive amounts of data and create smarter strategies and better results. Intelligent human minds will always be necessary to translate and apply the numbers, but AI technology streamlines much of the heavy lifting.

According to the USC survey, only three percent of CEOs are knowledgeable in AI, which likely explains their overall low level of confidence in the technology. However, PR professionals with AI expertise will be indispensable to companies with interest in AI, but little understanding to utilize it correctly.

Data Analytics

Historically, ROI from public relations work can be difficult to quantify compared to tangible marketing or sales campaigns. With new social media technology, however, agencies can easily access metrics to quantify success. PR pros who leverage these numbers can clearly prove to clients the value and necessity of their work.

According to the USC survey, social listening and analytics (54%), website analytics (54%) and social media engagement (51%) are considered the most relevant tracking tools to master and implement in public relations. Additionally, understanding the basics of coding, SEO, video production and design will position any PR professional to achieve higher client satisfaction and results.

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It is impossible to separate learning and success when it comes to public relations. If you are a leader at your organization, it is a worthwhile investment to prioritize technology development for both your team and your own personal career. The future of communication is impossible to completely predict, but technology will undoubtedly lead the way.