Five trends and predictions changing the PR industry

by | Jul 31, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

Our agency team keeps a close eye on emerging trends and frequently reviews new communications opportunities and needs for Fineman PR clients. I recently asked my team to share their predictions and observations as we reach the halfway point of 2017. Here are five takeaways to consider:

1) Non-Traditional Sources Are The Norm And Require Dedicated Focus (and Budget) What is it that is having the most impact on communications today?

Michael Fineman (1)

Social media and blogger influencers will gain even more relevance in playing a major role in consumer opinion and spending decisions and must be part of any integrated communications strategy.

Michael Fineman (1)

Public Relations will evolve into a mar-com service as paid, earned and owned media continue to integrate. People are increasingly getting their news from social media and spending more time on those sites to connect with friends and family, so I think this channel will become even more important and prominent in public relations functions.

Michael Fineman (1)

Non-traditional media spaces continue to increase in size and popularity. Newspapers are no longer the arbiter of what is or isn’t “news.” As social media/blogs/podcasts continue to capture and keep more consumer attention for longer amounts of time, there’s a need for professional communicators in these spaces.
– PEW reports 68% of all American adults now use Facebook1
– Popular YouTubers are hiring PR firms when they have a crisis2
– PEW reports as of 2016, 21% of Americans age 12 or older say they have listened to a podcast in the past month3


There will also be a continuing need for content updates for Search Engine Optimization purposes. That includes the ongoing need to have the client’s voice heard and its values promoted to the audiences that will resonate with those values.

2) Visual and Virtual Reality Platforms Are The “New” Storytelling, er, Storyshowing3

For Public Relations, storytelling and communication will remain important, but the medium for that storytelling will continue to evolve with even greater emphasis on visual communication.


And that goes for messaging, too. Visual mediums (especially video formats and virtual reality technology) will require specialized public relations professionals who are adept at developing technical, visually compelling content with ease. Agencies today are seeing the need to amp up their own offerings in this area, both for their clients’ business and for their own marketing purposes.3

Virtual reality will transform how our industry tells stories. As VR equipment and technology become more accessible, public relations agencies will be able to construct entire worlds for fully immersive experiences.

3) PR Pros Need Multifaceted Skills, Including Content Development, Project Management and Coding:


“On the issues and crisis side, the industry will need to continue to emphasize the need for timely, substantive communications with tools and technology that make the process more efficient. PR agencies are embracing an even more diverse mix of professionals with specialized experience in graphic design, content development and coding, in addition to traditional core communications skills.”

Outstanding writing abilities alone won’t cut it for the next generation of communicators.

4) PR Audiences Are Data Driven and Demand Multiple Sources for Credibility


As public relations pros, our future with the enduring news media will be defined and enhanced by the data we’re collecting today and how we use it. It’s intelligence that is valuable and packaged conveniently if we are doing our job. We are constantly learning more about consumers – when they’re open to new messages, what influences their behavior and how to responsibly guide their decisions. For example, we’re seeing how brands break through the incessant clutter surrounding their audiences and make consistent gains toward building trust, reputation and loyalty, as well as recover from missteps.


That’s an important point.  I recently joined the PR profession because of its potential to grow. Mass communication is so cluttered and increasingly difficult to sort through. Consumers will want to get real information from reputable sources, and journalists will need resources to help provide for that need. As people become more and more wary of commercial advertisements, authentic stories and real news will be what they want. And crisis PR, I think, will always be significant especially as activism continues to rise and people seek consumers’ rights.

3“Corporate blunders will never end as they have their basis in human fallibility. There will continue to be a need to protect brand and organizational reputations from accidents that happen, libel, fake news and social media rants, and journalists will need resources to be sure they have both or all sides of the story.

It’s critical to point out that we are not necessarily talking about just press releases. I see more and more cases of journalists asking for statements, interviews, expert opinion and testimony, data and assets.

Michael Fineman (2)
Communicators and credible journalists will have to work harder and together in the name of defending our professions and promoting real news.


Often, too, there is the multicultural component that will require journalists and PR people to work in tandem. Agencies and brands are seeing the need for hiring community and cultural insiders, people who know how to navigate the social space of each diverse community. This new reality is also an opportunity for creative development, as the mainstream becomes more accustomed and receptive to multicultural imagery, flavors, sounds, stories and products. I think the key to multicultural communications in the future will be subtlety, as opposed to, for example, trying to engage Latinos with a mustachioed guy in a sombrero speaking Spanish with Mariachi playing in the background.

5) Constant Data Collection Sources Means Measurement Capabilities and Tools will only Increase. Get familiar with them.


Program measurement is becoming more sophisticated, accurate and meaningful as technology continues to develop. Google, for example, is using credit card transactions to track how digital ad campaigns are linked to purchases. To extend that kind of technology means that we’ll be able to track how content consumed via online/mobile/digital channels impacts consumers’ offline purchasing behavior and vice versa. So, for example, say I read a magazine article about a new product and see an ad for that same product on Instagram; then after a few weeks, I decide to buy that product in a brick-and-mortar store. Measurement technology will be able to correlate my purchase to the magazine article and the ad. We have even more ways now to measure the value of our communications, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Michael Fineman (1)

To Karmina’s point, we’re also seeing more companies using data collection in combination with technology to measure and influence consumer behaviors in new ways. The rise of smart personal assistant devices like Alexa and Google Home have brought behavior-tracking even further into consumer home-life, but are still trying to find the balance in what kind of content they can serve to consumers before it becomes too intrusive. Google Home recently came under fire for serving unsolicited ads to consumers who had selected to have their daily news voice-read to them. While technological capabilities increase due to better data collection, its more important than ever to craft stories that consumers will choose to listen to.

As we look ahead to the second half of 2017, Fineman PR is fine tuning our own crisis, marketing and corporate public relations programs and service offerings accordingly. Which trends and predictions do you see changing our field? Join our conversation below.

1 https://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/
2 https://theoutline.com/post/1472/a-youtube-family-accused-of-child-abuse-has-hired-a-crisis-pr-firm
3 https://www.journalism.org/2016/06/15/podcasting-fact-sheet/


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Michael Fineman
Michael Fineman is the owner of Fineman PR in the San Francisco Bay Area.