Marketing asked PR execs to share their predictions for the year ahead. They say 2014 will be the year content marketing goes mainstream, reputation management escalates and more brands take public beatings for #PRFails.
Andrea Lekushoff, president, Broad Reach Communications
“With marketers already spending over 25% of their budget on content marketing and 78% of CMOs believing that custom content is the future of marketing, content marketing will be bigger than ever in 2014. Because this form of brand journalism helps customers on their journey from awareness, to purchase to advocacy, it has the potential to help brands establish authority, build rapport and gain trust among target customers. And as marketing to the masses through television and radio ads become less effective, content marketing will allow brands to have direct, interactive and sometimes real-time conversations with these same audiences through digital and offline channels.
“But what good is great content if no one can find it? Since search is crucial in helping customers find information when they are actively looking for answers, solutions, or advice, more and more marketers will learn to effectively and successfully integrate content marketing and SEO.”
John Clinton, CEO, Edelman Canada
“The last part of 2013 has been colourful to say the least. Trust – in institutions, corporations, governments, and politicians – has taken a huge hit, making it an even more important issue for next year. Similarly, marketing will continue a drive to native advertising and those that do it ethically will flourish, but those that fail to do so – whether they’re agencies, marketers, or the media – will receive a severe backlash and take a public beating. As the media continues to face greater revenue and margin pressures, innovators will survive and others will fall by the wayside. Most of all, as the shrinking of the creative cycle continues only well-told stories will rise to the top, trumping lazy content every time.”
Carolyn Ray, managing partner, Casacom
“In 2014, a trend that will have great impact on business value is authentic leadership. Authentic leadership is actually more than a trend. It’s the real deal. An authentic leader is someone who is passionate about their purpose, practices their values consistently, and leads with their heart—and their head. They establish a compelling vision, build meaningful relationships and embrace self-discipline to achieve business results. From a communications perspective, this means that leaders must take time to understand their purpose, learn (yes, learn!) to become compelling storytellers, and frame their experience to inspire trust. In 2014, we envision a new generation of business leader—one who embraces authentic leadership as a way to drive a culture of organizational effectiveness, engagement and long-term sustainability.”
Joseph Thornley, CEO, Thornley Fallis
“Sponsored content will go mainstream. It will move beyond the experimental phase to be a proven and necessary part of integrated marketing communications programs. The increasing importance of sponsored content will provide yet another point of convergence between the public relations and advertising industries. Public relations calls it “sponsored content” and emphasizes storytelling to draw and engage audiences. Advertising calls it “native advertising” and sees it as a scalable adjunct to display ads. Two different starting perspectives that will continue to drive innovation and cross pollination of ideas. The outlook: increased innovation and surprises.
“The mainstreaming of sponsored content will also push us to develop a more sophisticated approach to measurement and analysis of its impact. That will drive us to think beyond impressions and reach. Sponsored content is something more than display ads. Sponsored content engages interested audiences in context. It delivers messages directly and indirectly. It positions the sponsor in a halo of credibility. So we need new, multi-faceted measurement programs that will match the more complex nature of sponsored content and the relationships audiences have with it.”
Deborah Weinstein, president, Strategic Objectives
“The internet has forever changed the way brands connect with consumers, now that news – especially bad news – travels at the speed of a tweet. Brand marketers who fail to consider audiences, social norms, and sensitivities beyond their immediate target market – i.e Applebee’s, “Pastor gets server fired;” Abercrombie & Fitch “plus-size and unattractive customers;” Lululemon, “fat thighs” to name only a few of 2013’s most memorable, branded #PRfails – will reap noisy social wrath and negative viral spread. I predict that reputation management will escalate as a primary concern for brand marketers bravely swimming in to potentially stormy social seas.
“The hyper-connected, social consumer is always on duty, ready to criticize when you mess up. In 2014, it will be more important than ever for brands to use social listening, community building, and engagement for reputation management. Social media can be an effective early warning system for negative PR. The key is to act quickly in the face of adversity. I recommend you be prepared with these “Four A’s” of social issues management: Accept. Apologize. Atone. Advance.”