It’s as if a PR tipping point is near – one created by a bolder mindset among a super-connected consumer group. Think: Occupy Wall Street, and how to do business with a technologically astute and “share”-happy consumer group.
PR departments and PR agencies will certainly feel the effects of more smartphone and tablet users, more voices and activists with power tools. It’ll require more resources to monitoring and managing everything from blogs and social networks to podcasts, Web TV, and wikis. Making the cacophony tougher to manage this year:
- The proliferation of easily affordable tablets;
- Further developments like the voice-activated Siri app for Apple iPhone 4S, which chips away at the need for search engine marketing;
- The anticipated growth in market share of Google’s Android operating system; and
- The cloud, online storage capability that can pose security issues for business users.
PR at a Tech-fueled Tipping Point
What follows are some predictions for 2012, each of which is powered to a large extent by advancements in mobile and wireless devices, and their increased usage by more owners with agendas:
- PR Amidst Six Degrees of Separation (or Less) Conventional wisdom has always held that six-degrees of separation exists, connecting people in modern society. But that’s apparently changing. A recent Facebook study of over 700 million active users found that only 4.74 “hops” exists between any two FB users. This places new emphasis on word-of-mouth marketing and peer-to-peer sharing.
- Consumer Activists Will “Occupy” Social Media Time magazine declared “The Protestor” its 2011 Person of Year. If that energy extrapolates, the accolades in 2012 might be showered upon “The Consumer Activist.” Given the pace and direction of mobile and wireless advancements, consumers are geared to influence businesses in unprecedented ways. This may be the season for extinguishing more PR fires than ever.
- Wired for Greatness: Brand PR Evangelists: Impassioned people are the new PR and marketing channels. Companies and brands must take a more strategic approach to cultivating relationships with today’s vocal and mega-amplified consumers. One PR prediction for 2012: PR firms and departments will get more creative about tapping legions of un-paid brand evangelists on social networks, providing them the PR tools to help convey great brand stories. Many socially networked consumers who like a product or service will be treated nearly as deferentially as paid celebrities.
- Location-based Marketing Will Become Standard: A recent study found that 66 percent of mobile phone users interact with businesses via location-based marketing. Led by apps like Foursquare, Gowalla and Groupon, location-based marketing will continue to soar. As a result, customer engagement via mobile device will become more the norm, with mobile coupons driving more commerce, despite continued economic stagnation. The benefit will be increased purchases, particularly in categories such as dining, travel, and shopping. But it’ll be the PR agency or department creating more content to keep the mobile crowd engaged between “app check-ins.
- PR at the Speed of Social Media: Brand experiences, good and bad, have always been shared one-on-one. But now there’s social media, making every utterance one-to-many. 2012 PR Prediction: Public relations departments will take social media more seriously, become more immersed and responsive. A deft PR hand is required to respond to customer service issues that are aired on social networks, particularly when allowed to escalate. PR will play a larger role in crafting messages and appropriate actions, before situations go viral.
Thoughts for 2012 PR Brand Planning
In 2012, everything we do at public relations firms and in PR departments will move faster – seemingly at the speed of one consumer experience, review, or comment to the next. Influencing purchase decisions and maintaining brand loyalties will require:
- Increased media relations activity across a variety of platforms,
- More content writing, and at a faster clips,
- New responsibilities in event management and community relations, and
- Dedicated social media management.
Have you sharpened your PR and brand marketing strategies for the onslaught of newer, faster, more widely used technology? It offers enormous marketing benefits, but also increased PR challenges. Plan for both now.