FutureComms16: What We Learned About the Future of PR
Last month, Sarah (our Senior PR Exec) and I hopped on a train down to London and attended FutureComms16, a PR, comms and marketing event held at the prestigious BAFTA house.
The event was originally brought to our attention by parenting blogger Susie Verrill, who wrote a great piece on why you should be attending and what to expect from the panel she’d be sitting on (“How PRs Can Work With Their Advocate”). This, alongside a further 10 sessions, made up a full day of insights and discussions on the changing face of the communications industry, with topics including influencer collaborations, social media measurement and gender diversity in PR.
Here’s what we learned from a fascinating day of talks…
Times are changing: gone are the days of relying on simple product reviews, 2008 link acquisition techniques and smoke-and-mirrors PR to get you coverage. Creativity is key for the future communications market, whether it be co-creating content with key influencers, or pushing forward a crazy idea (that just might work).
As two young professionals in the relatively early stages of our career, we were particularly looking forward to a session entitled “#YoungPR – The Traditional vs The Reality of PR”. Run by Jessica Becker, a Senior Account Director at Manifest, the notably all-female panel discussed their perceptions on the industry vs reality, whether a degree in the PR field is necessary, and their predictions for the future of comms.
There were opinions from both ends of the spectrum on the importance of holding a PR-specific degree when it comes to entering the industry. Some panelists argued that they learned most from their experiences while interning. In contrast, others – including Emma Catchpole – believe there’s still an important place for well-managed degrees that move with the times and industry developments. However, they stressed that PR degrees of the future must be focused around practical skills.
Given the all-female panel, it wasn’t a surprise that statistics on gender inequality in the PR industry, shown earlier in the day, were also discussed.
— Alex Myers (@AlexMyers) June 15, 2016
It’s All About The Influencers
Disclaimer: I’ll never be able to summarise this subject as well as Emma Gannon’s blog post, so once you’re finished here definitely head on over and give it a read.
As a team that regularly works with bloggers / influencers, we pride ourselves on the relationships we build and conversations we have. Although we sometimes find ourselves without the luxury of a large budget to work off and pay influencers, we understand the difference between offering an alternative, and simply expecting coverage for a client with nothing in return.
However, Sharon Flaherty’s session on “How to use Influencers Effectively” highlighted that although relationships between PRs and influencers are improving, there is still a general lack of understanding and respect toward the growing influence bloggers have on their specific niches.
Research carried out by Brand Content showed that the key issues bloggers found when working with PRs were:
- Irrelevant Approaches
- Creative Control
Simple lessons included making sure you do your research (‘Dear Webmaster’ probably isn’t going to get you the response you’re after…), as well ensuring the products/service you’re promoting are relevant to that influencer.
The biggest topic of the session however remained firmly on the panelists thoughts on payment within the blogging world and the different collaborative scenarios in which payment shouldn’t even be a discussion anymore.
Brands need to start understanding the influential power bloggers hold if campaigns are done correctly, this includes widening the net when it comes to researching relevant bloggers and not always assuming the bigger the number the better when it comes to followings. Engagement and quality count too and shock horror, followers are still bought!
The key learning from both influencer sessions was to avoid quick-hit engagement, link building, and retaining all content control. Instead, focus on building longer-term relationships where co-creating content is encouraged, which should then result in great content about your brand.
TL;DR – Key Takeaways From FutureComms16
- Make sure all stories are relatable/memorable/repeatable
- Don’t become so focused on the channel that you forget about the overall message
- Both PRs and bloggers need to be more upfront with each other regarding fees, expectations and the end goal
- Allow more editorial freedom when working with influencers
- Avoid quick hit engagement, longer term relationships are much more effective
And above all else, a Britney GIF is always relevant…
— Sarah Thain (@sequinthis) June 15, 2016