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Public relations trends of the future

Public relations continues to evolve and is poised to dominate the communications field in the near future. A report published earlier this year – based on data from a survey conducted by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and the Association of National Advertisers – provides insight into the likely PR marketing trends, as well as the ways in which public relations and marketing roles might change.

The researchers surveyed 875 public relations professionals (both in-house and at PR agencies) as well as over 100 in-house marketers. According to the report, the top five most important trends impacting the future of public relations, with results broken down by types of respondent, are:

1. Digital storytelling (88 percent PR professionals; 80 percent marketing professionals)

2. Social listening (82 percent PR professionals; 88 percent marketing professionals)

3. Social purpose (71 percent PR professionals; 73 percent marketing professionals)

4. Big data (70 percent PR professionals; 63 percent marketing professionals)

5. Behavioral research (65 percent PR professionals; 51 percent marketing professionals)

These factors rank above other trends that respondents felt might have an impact on public relations, including influencer marketing, real-time marketing, branded content, live streaming, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and – bottom of the list but not insignificant – “fake news.”

It’s interesting to note that technology-driven trends – such as AI, VR and live streaming – figured much lower in predicted impact than factors such as digital storytelling, social listening and social purpose – elements of PR and marketing that are more about emotion and social engagement. According to the report, these are also aspects of public relations that current PR marketing students are more likely to be interested in.

In addition, the report gave an insight into how the balance between PR and marketing functions might change over the next five years. The results differed slightly between agency and in-house PR professionals:

Agency PR professionals:

47 percent say PR will become more closely aligned with marketing
29 percent say PR will play an increasingly important role vs. marketing
12 percent say PR will play a dominant role over marketing
7 percent say PR will become a distinct, separate function from marketing
5 percent say PR will become a subset of marketing

In-house PR professionals:
45 percent say PR will become more closely aligned with marketing
23 percent say PR will play an increasingly important role vs marketing
12 percent say PR will play a dominant role over marketing
12 percent say PR will become a distinct, separate function from marketing
8 percent say PR will become a subset of marketing

Although numbers varied to a degree between in-house and agency PR staff, the overall trend suggests that most see the two functions becoming more closely aligned in the near future. Interestingly, the marketing professionals surveyed seemed even more convinced that this would be the case, with 61 percent saying that the functions would become more aligned.

A final point of note is the breakdown of skills that the report suggested would be most important for future growth in the field of PR marketing. The top five most important skills – strategic planning, written communication, social media, multimedia content development and verbal communication – dominated over arguably more technical skills such as primary research, behavioral science and search engine optimization.

At Beyond Fifteen, we stay ahead of public relations trends so you don’t have to. Call us today for a free consultation.

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