2016 was the year of upsets. Who would have predicted the UK voting to leave the European Union? Certainly not the polls. And who would have predicted reality TV star and self-proclaimed King of Twitter Donald Trump would have won the US general election? Again, not the polls. Jon Brown, self-proclaimed King of Media Outreach at IBA, has decided to write his own predictions set to impact the PR industry in 2017.

Continued focus on content marketing
Content marketing is improving. 62% of B2B Marketers said in a recent survey that their organization’s overall approach to content marketing has been more successful compared to the previous year. Marketers are putting this down to two reasons – better content creation and a change in content marketing strategies.

In 2017, high quality content in the form of thought leadership will help further this improvement and drive more leads. The writing skills of a PR pro and the need to generate content aimed to grab the attention of a potential customer make for the perfect combination. Take for example trends articles. We’ve already seen over 15 thought leadership clippings from our work pitching articles on trends in the Aerospace & Defense industry – and we’re only in the 3rd week of January!

Make sure your content is effective by getting your strategy for the year ahead ironed out early on. Editorial calendars are a good indication of the hot topics coming up in your industry, so be sure to do your research in order to give your content marketing a boost this year.

Influencer marketing 2.0
B2B influencer marketing has evolved quickly in the short space of time it’s been around, and it’s no wonder why. 92% of people seek referrals from people they trust before they make a buying decision – be it a friend, colleague or, most likely in B2B, an influencer.

For B2B, adding an authentic, non-sales, voice to your content strategy from a key influencer with industry expertise sends an extremely powerful message. Used correctly, influencer marketing can have a significant impact on your marketing strategy – boosting sales and brand awareness while adding a fully-fledged product evangelist to your arsenal.

But the meaning of an influencer is changing. An internationally recognized market leader with 1 million followers may have a lot of influence, but is it to the right crowd? Micro influencers are starting to become more popular in B2B communications. An influencer in a niche industry will have a smaller, more targeted following specifically addressed to the market you’re in – while adding that personal touch that makes what they’re saying authentic. Watch out for the evolution of influencer marketing in 2017.

Robo PR
Technology has changed the way we consume information, from augmented and virtual reality to live streaming on social media. But is it about to change the way we present information? The Washing Post revealed back in August it was using ‘robot’ reporters to produce news stories during the Rio Olympics, joining Forbes, the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg to use ‘robo journalists’ in the newsroom. So where does this leave PRs?

Robots will never replace creativity and opinion for content such as blogs and thought leadership, but it could free up more time for PR pros to create such content by taking over the duties of statistical reports, analysis and media listening. There is already a wealth of automated tools out there that can help with monitoring press coverage, but only for websites that appear on the first couple of pages on Google, and none that can find hardcopy magazine coverage.

I’ve spoken before about the newswire services PRs are still using to gain press release coverage in nonsensical publications that are picked up by a computer and have no relevance to anyone in your industry. From our own experience, nothing beats a personalized content relationship with a journalist who puts your content in front of the key decision makers in your industry.

And if you’re still unsure about the rise of the robots, don’t panic – McKinsey research put PR 4th on the list of least automatable jobs. For now…

Jon Brown is Pitch&Place specialist at IBA International.

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