6 essential PR trends to watch - the experts' view

show me pr disasters to avoid!

But what trends do PR professionals need to track in 2018? We’ve asked some of the biggest names in PR, to tell us what they think will be important this year and beyond.

With input from:-

Sarah Hall, Karen FrebergRichard Bagnall, Martin Waxman,

Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Francis InghamGini DietrichStephen Waddington,

 Lisa BuyerIan GriggsSte DaviesRachel MillerJanet Murray

Planning and measurement are essential for campaign success

Gone are the days of using unreliable metrics like Advertising Value Equivalency to support your PR strategy. PR specialists are turning to business goal relevant metrics, for definitive PR measurement. With the Barcelona Principles offering an industry-wide set of metrics, will 2018 finally be the year we see PR align towards one consistent measurement method?

Sarah Hall bio

“PR in 2018 will bring a welcome return to belt and braces, with conversation building around the fundamentals of data and science and how these can be used by communicators to achieve organisational outcomes.

While finding that creative spark and new routes to market will, of course, remain important, the campaigns with the greatest resonance will be based on planning and insight, use integrated communications to reach their audiences and be continually measured, evaluated and evolved to secure the best outcomes possible.”

Sarah Hall, President of the CIPR and founder of #FuturePRoof




Karen Freberg Bio

“In order to be able to provide value to the C-suite, PR professionals must be able to tie in key metrics that have a direct impact on both communication and business objectives. Without the connection, senior management will not be able to demonstrate the impact of the work being done by the PR and social teams.

It is key to explore advanced metrics like: Return on Connection (as recommended by Deirdre Breakenridge), Influencer Impact, Emerging Community Trends in Network, Reputation Impact, Health of Community and Network, and Conversion rate.”

Karen Freberg, Ph.D. Social Media Professor


Richard Bagnall Bio

“The measurement and evaluation of communications is one of the hottest topics in our industry today. No one is short of data, charts, or dashboards. The big issue will be making sense of the information they contain, gleaning the meaningful insights and telling an effective and relevant measurement story that shows the effectiveness of our work.

I expect therefore there to be a greater demand for educational resources, expertise and advice as measurement and evaluation finally goes mainstream.“

Richard Bagnall, Chairman of AMEC, and Global Communications Effectiveness Consultant




PR teams must re-establish ethics and trust

New media has had a rough time over the last year or so, with social networks facing issues such as fake followers, and the intervention of foreign parties in national elections.

And the mainstream media has suffered alongside them. With certain politicians focused on “fake news, ” it’s no surprise only 40% of people believe mainstream media is useful for separating fact from fiction.

A trust gap is forming between the media and the public, and the next PR trend will be closing that gap.


Martin Waxman Bio

“With fake news on the rise, I believe having credible media is more important than ever. And it's incumbent on PR professionals to do what we can to support journalists and their work - rather than simply pitching them when we want coverage. One way to do that is by amplifying reporters we trust from our own social accounts – and not just when they give a positive mention to our organization or client.

PR should refocus on the ‘R’ in our name’: relationships. We can do that by creating mobile-first multimedia content on channels that resonate with the audiences we’re trying to reach, one of which may be media. We should also learn how to interpret small (and big) data and use our insights to customize and predict the types of stories that are more likely to build and sustain those relationships.”

Martin Waxman, communications strategist, Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning author, Inside PR podcast author, and past-chair of PRSA Counselors





"News and media have been disrupted by technology and it's safe to say that traditional media is in a digital spin. Trust in the media is at an all-time low according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018.

Upholding the truth is the role of media and they need to step up their digital game or else risk becoming more irrelevant.

Content and news is now a commodity, owned by everyone. But not everyone has the public interest in their mind. Further erosion of trust in the media will have negative impacts on economies, political stability and issues of major public importance.

What people may not realise is that on average 50% of people are getting their news from social media. Trusting what's posted on social media versus what's reported by journalists is causing this blurring of truth. The reluctance of traditional media to ramp up digitally has caused a vacuum which is filled by those most skilled at creating and optimising content.”

Joanne Sweeney-Burke, CEO of the Digital Training Institute


Francis Ingham Bio

"The PRCA’s campaign for 2018 is Ethical Professionalism. Why? Because in the wake of our expulsion of Bell Pottinger, and its collapse within just one week of that decision, our industry has never been more aware of the need to prove that it is ethical and that it is professional. The days of the unregulated flourishing in PR are dead.

Clients, colleagues, the media, and the public all demand and expect PR practitioners to be ethical; professional; accountable; honest; transparent. And those expectations are not going away - if anything, they will become all the deeper. That is the big trend of 2018. It is a trend that the PRCA welcomes."

Francis Ingham, Director General of PRCA UK


AI & VR offer business impact for PR pros

With brands such as Zalando now relying on algorithms instead of actual staff for sales and advertising roles, so they can focus more on personalized marketing, it’s easy to see how AI could affect PR in the future.

Consumers are expecting more personalization, and the revolution in AI with deep learning, allows brands to offer that personal touch with minimal effort. It’s a significant PR trend that’s impacting on Talkwalker’s own social listening features.

According to data gathered with Quick Search, conversations including PR and AI peaked at 6,900 mentions in January. Artificial intelligence is certainly generating a lot of buzz.

Mentions of AI & PR

There were 6.9k conversations including PR and AI in January 2018.

Get real-time trend research with Quick Search

Yet it isn’t the only tech that’s impacting the industry. VR has escaped from the games console and is becoming a fascinating tool to win clients, as Chelsea Football Club used to win a new sponsor.

Gini Dietrich Bio

"Our artificial intelligence overlords are coming... and I cannot wait! Today we have software that makes our jobs significantly more efficient—tools such as Talkwalker, Iris, and CoSchedule, — and it's going to get even better. Imagine being able to sit down at your desk each morning with a task list automatically generated, based on which projects you left open the day before.

A media list already crafted, based on responses (and non-responses) of your priority journalists and influencers. A carefully curated meeting calendar. And automatic follow-up with your new business prospects. Some of it is already here and, as an industry, we need to embrace it. And others are coming. It's an exciting time to be in PR. We can focus on creativity and strategic thinking while the robots do the mundane tasks."

Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich & author at Spin Sucks


Stephen Waddington Bio

“We’re starting to feel the impact of machines in at least three areas of public relations: content production; content distribution and publication; and workflow.

We increasingly use tools to make sense of conversations and content shared in networks. Algorithms crunch through huge amounts of data to identify influencers, networks, and trending topics.

A new panel created by the CIPR in the UK is seeking to characterise the impact of artificial intelligence on public relations. It has published an initial list of 95 tools.

Only a handful of the tools in the list utilise AI but the growing level of sophistication is clear. The next job is to map the capability and growing capability of tools against 50 areas of competency in public relations, identified by the Global Alliance. I’m hoping to share our initial findings at the World PR Forum in Oslo in April.”

Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum PR



Lisa Buyer Bio

“Headsets are the new press kit?

AR + VR = a public relations reality to share experiences with journalists, bloggers, investors and stakeholders. Instead of sending journalists a media kit, they will expect a headset to experience the story.

I also see smart brands getting smarter with video, especially leveraging the PR power of Facebook Live and Instagram Stories.

Chatbots and Messenger are now part of the PR play and should be included in the public relations strategy to improve the PR process and also ways to use AI to streamline communications with the media.”

Lisa Buyer, author of Social PR Secrets


Regulations impact influencer marketing

Influencer marketing. If you’ve not heard of it, you’re probably living on another planet. (Though if you’re not using it, that’s another matter. Our ultimate influencer marketing guide can show you how.)

For such a new PR trend, it’s already changing, and will continue to do so in the coming years. With new regulations in Europe and the US (the FTC issuing warnings to some of the largest influencers on Instagram), it’s going to be a slippery path.

Also, expect a battle as more businesses look to profit from the lucrative influencer market, with people such as ex-Moz CEO Rand Fishkin looking to establish himself in the industry.

There will certainly be a lot of buzz around influencer marketing this year, but campaigns will only be effective if meticulously planned and executed, away from the hype.

Ian Griggs Bio

“Influencer marketing will continue to grow in importance as a tool for the PR industry, as the sector seeks new and inventive ways of creating third-party advocacy for brands, organisations and people.

However, those seeking to use influencers should be aware of a growing backlash against them, by the public and brands.

A recent survey shows that the vast majority of the public believes, incorrectly, that there are no rules governing the use of influencers and they do not have to reveal that they are being paid to talk about a product when, in fact, they are governed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

There has also been push-back by brands against influencers with some treating them as people who just want a freebie. This year could see the emergence of a new type of influencer: employee advocate – that is to say the brand or organisation’s own staff. Watch this space.”

Ian Griggs, Analysis and Opinion Editor, PRWeek


Ste Davies Bio

“The marketing industry is in a state of disruption. Facebook and Google have created upheaval as brands begin to bring more of their work in-house.

Savvy agencies looking for new service offerings are turning to influencers which was, until recently, a domain reserved for PR and communications professionals.

The question is, who owns the influencer marketing space?

Is it PR which has collaborated with influencers (usually journalists and bloggers) for decades creating non-financial but mutually beneficial relationships? Or is it marketing which has the budget and creative flair to create compelling spectacles for clients?” 

Ste Davies, Digital Communications Consultant


Successful PR pros leverage internal advocates

Ian touched on this above, but when it comes to looking for brand influencers, don’t forget to look internally as well as externally. Employee advocacy is more cost-effective (i.e., free), with real advocacy marketing leading to 5% more traffic and 25% more leads.

But it has to be authentic. Brand transparency is still vital for business success, and if you’re going to use the advocacy PR trend effectively, it has to be used honestly.

Rachel Miller Bio

“The most powerful influencers an organisation has are its people. Companies need to focus on creating an excellent employee experience and amplify the employee voice by sharing their own stories. Someone else’s case studies will not resonate, but peer-to-peer communication from employees can transform an organisation from the inside out.

I believe what happens inside is reflected outside, you are only able to think about advocacy if you have that focus in place. I think true advocacy only comes from people feeling equipped, empowered and enabled to thrive inside their organisation. You cannot fake this. Employees expect and deserve authentic and trustworthy communication with an organisation that continually listens and invests in itself and its workforce."

Rachel Miller, Consultant & #3 Top UK PR blogger, Director of All Things IC


PR and marketing must work closer for business impact

Gone are the days of separate PR and marketing departments. With more focus on email & content marketing, the line between PR and marketing is being erased. According to the Global Communications report 2017, 47% of in-house PR professionals believe PR will become more closely aligned with marketing in the future.

This PR trend alignment should be a vital part of your PR strategy, with a clearer focus on the goals of the business. This can especially help with productivity, with the same piece of content being used for PR purposes one day, and marketing the next.

Janet Murray Bio

"In a world where businesses and brands are creating their own media, press coverage is just another form of content. If you have a mobile phone - and a creative mind - you can create high-quality media content that gets the attention of the press - without having to send a single pitch or press release.

This means that PR pros who focus solely on traditional media - and don't understand how to integrate this with content marketing, email marketing and social media marketing - are likely to get left behind."

Janet Murray, PR expert and entrepreneur, founder of Soulful PR

Be the next PR trend

It’s easy to talk about PR trends, but much harder to be part of them. Now you know what’s causing the buzz in public relations, make sure you jump on board. Or risk getting left behind.

To find what’s trending in any industry, Quick Search is our social media search engine, perfect for finding real-time trends. You can request a demo below. And if there are any trends you think we’ve missed, don’t forget to leave a comment.

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