This blog was originally written for and posted on Iliyana Stareva’s blog

Much has been said about the PR industry’s struggles to adapt and find its place in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected.

Global PR industry growth slowed 5% in 2015, and Gould Partners says annual agency operating profits have consistently fallen, dropping from about 19% in 2011 to about 15% in 2017.

As if that weren’t enough, the roller-coaster ups and downs of 2017 have made executives more conservative by reducing their marketing and communications investments as cost-cutting activities are now prioritized over long-term investments.

While these figures can be unsettling for agencies and professionals that fail to see and adapt to PR’s growing value in departments like sales, marketing and more, PR professionals now have more resources than ever to demonstrate and prove the value of our craft from headline to sale.

The rise of new digital media channels, marketing technologies, and analytics software are a few of the new tools at our disposal to accomplish this. As we transition into a new year with new possibilities, it is important to understand some of the ways PR has changed in 2017 and how you can take advantage in 2018.

In 2018 PR is….

MEASURABLE

Data plays a vital role in today’s business environments at almost every level and this is especially true in public relations. A question some PR professionals continue to struggle to answer is “What is the ROI gained from your PR activities?” But a savvy PR practitioner in 2018 will know that we can clearly showcase PR ROI by taking advantage of the analytics tools available to us to answer this.

For example, it takes 7 to 13 touchpoints to land a B2B qualified sales lead. Marketing automation software can provide the insights needed to track a user’s journey at each point, from a company’s top-tier headline to its blog and all the way to a gated landing page. Then, the sales team takes the lead to ultimately close the sale.

INTEGRATED

PR professionals have argued that PR is not marketing, that PR should not fall under the marketing function and that PR should not be held to marketing and sales goals.

However, now is the time for the argument to end as customers and clients, not specific projects and responsibilities, should be among both PR and marketing pros’ top priorities.

In 2018, PR should have a seat at the table and have the same goals as the rest of the company – goals that are tied to the success of that team (finance, IT, sales, marketing, etc.). This allows for all communications from various departments to be coordinated and have “one voice” of customer communication.

For example, PR should have input on sales collateral, landing page design, organic & paid social media campaigns, as well as normal media relations activities. This ensures that all messages and resources complement each other at each touchpoint of a truly integrated approach.

Just as PR should have a presence on multiple departmental teams, so should its strategies and tactics when working with those teams.

For example, including sales communication cadence when in content planning sessions and adding targeted media hits to ABM campaigns to establish third-party creditability.

PR in 2018 is all about developing and maintaining a relationship with prospects starting at the top of the funnel through their entire customer journey until they become a satisfied customer.

DRIVING LEADS

As mentioned above, PR in 2018 will be all about developing customer relationships. However, driving leads is the underlying metric by which all are measured.

One way PR can accomplish this is through thought leadership. A brand showing up in trusted, relevant outlets, not to simply promote their business but to provide insights into industry-wide trends and/or best practices is more likely to create a connection and conversation with targets.

Taking it one step further, though, we need to ensure that these articles incorporate the company’s top keywords. Oh, you didn’t think SEO fell into the PR bucket? Wrong. Implementing top keywords throughout an executive’s contributed articles will boost search rankings and even lead to more media opportunities (because what is one of the first things a reporter does when they start to write an article? Yep, they Google).

In short, 2017 was a transformational year for our beloved PR industry that came with its share of growing pains. However, with the lessons learned in 2017, a truly integrated approach and new digital and analytics tools at our disposal, PR is set to have 2018 that defies expectations and produces coordinated and amazing results for your business.

What does PR in 2018 look like in your eyes? Share your ideas, thoughts, and predictions by contributing to the Future of PR.

Alexis strategically combines her social media and design skills with our Panoramic Approach to help our clients make news and drive leads.

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