Like many industries, the world of public relations is changing rapidly. Several trends are in full force, shaping PR practice.

1. Fake News: While companies have always had to deal with malicious rumors and misinformation, the 2016 election propelled “fake news” – information disseminated with the intent to deceive – into the spotlight like never before. As with any crisis, it is important to respond promptly and firmly to any malicious attack. Such an attack should be part of any crisis communications plan.

2.Reputation is Key:

A good reputation takes years to build but can be destroyed in an afternoon.

Reputation management will become even more important on the list of primary PR services. In a fluid and volatile world, the risks to an organization’s reputation are ever increasing. These risks include attacks online, negative media coverage to political changes and cyber-attacks that deny services to customers. In this environment, business, governments, non-profits and individuals will rely on communicators to build, protect and enhance reputations.

3. Convergence of Service: There was a time, not long ago, when you knew who the competition was. They offered the same services and looked pretty much like you did. Now, one of many PR trends involves agencies hiring creative folk, digital experts, content generators and sponsorship strategists. Traditional agencies are now offering social media and digital, some consumer PR and influencer engagement. Creative agencies have hired PR experts, social media experts and more. PR agencies are now delving deeper into brand strategy as well as offering new services such as creative, video and digital design.

In addition, the more traditional corporate and public affairs agencies in many cases own the relationship with the CEO and are guardians of the reputation and strategy. They now are in competition with management consultancies in some places. Thus the competitive set is now far more complex and isn’t going to go away. So, you need to think differently about who you are competing with and how you differentiate yourself.

PR Measurement

4. Data is everything: PR firms and practitioners are good at coming up with creative ideas. The key for 2017 and beyond, is to show the research and insights that led to that idea, and illustrate through data the impact this idea may have. An idea on its own is simply that. An idea. A standalone tactic.

Data also is essential for PR measurement too. Measuring the impact of PR campaigns has continued to be essential. With digital tools available today, we are able to more accurately measure the engagement and real results of PR efforts.

5. Influencer marketing and PR: Agencies and brands will get smarter in 2017 about using influential advocates in their marketing, seeking those who will really resonate with a target audience and who truly align to the product, service, or values. Finding authentic advocates who actually connect with their followers and your target audience is critical. If done correctly, everyone can benefit. Consumer. Influencer. Brand. Agency.

Using Stories to Communicate

6. PR pros are storytellers: How the public consumes media and stories has changed. Many people prefer to learn new information through video, has emerged as a top trend for the past few years. Research shows that the average person watches at least one video every day and it’s no surprise, given live video’s success on social media. Individual learning styles and studies indicate you should start using video and other visual tools such as infographics and slide shows in your PR campaigns.

7. PR’s role in purchased and sponsored media: As first cousins of journalists, many PR pros are experts in developing content used in press releases, statements, opinion articles, blogs and speeches. The rise of sponsored and purchased content provides PR with a massive opportunity. Sponsored content, purchased and advertiser-generated content are PR trends that will not go away. Two factors driving this strategy: Ad blocking software continues to rise and media owners seek new revenue streams via content from trusted third parties.

SEO Boosts Campaigns

8. SEO and PR continue to align: The missing link to bolster PR campaigns and PR-generated content is Search Engine Optimization. As PR and SEO work in tandem, earned media and PR leadership will dominate strategic campaigns. We can expect more PR professionals to develop this skillset.

9. Value not cost: For years, PR and Communications firms have applied the traditional and restrictive pay-per-hour system, often through retainers and projects. But is your hourly rate the right mode for both client and agency longer term? As PR consulting becomes more strategic, consider charging for the value and continued business impact of your advice. As the perceived value of certain strategic advice increases, charging for the value and potential business impact may be worth more than its cost. PR firms should consider being more bullish about the value of their work.

Today, communications professionals operate at boardroom levels for major companies. Some of us will continue to assert that in today’s fluid business environment, a head of Communications or Corporate Affairs is just as vital to company success as the head of Finance.