What will be the top public relations trends in 2019?

I asked fellow PR folks to weigh in and got dozens upon dozens of responses. The demise of the press release. The return of the press release. More influencers, storytelling, internal communications and attention to social media. Many of the same themes came up repeatedly.

I decided to choose the three that stood out to me and offer my commentary and ideas for how entrepreneurs can put each idea to use to attract more business next year and beyond.

1. Content marketing will grow and evolve.

This one comes from Rick Lyke, executive vice president at Mower's offices in Charlotte. He says quality content will become "an even greater part of client marketing programs, with increased reliance on higher quality content ... More video, podcasts, infographics, photography and other `beyond text' types of content.'"

I like this a lot. The fact is people consume information in all sorts of ways right now. They don't have time or energy to get all of their information from long-form stories.

Think of how you can offer different content -- a video on your website or an announcement made via Facebook live. Or maybe it's an infographic or photo you post to LinkedIn. Think also about how you can pitch your story to non-traditional storytellers. For example, instead of pitching your story or company expert to the local newspaper, what about a local podcast?

2. PR will get more political.

Consumers increasingly want more than a "no comment" from companies on political and social issues, says Kyle Austin, founder and managing partner of Beantown Media Ventures in Boston. He added that, according to Edelman, 59 percent of American consumers base their buying decisions on brands' publicly stated beliefs. 

"Therefore brands like Patagonia and Nike that take a political and ethical stand will continue to drive media awareness and dollars to their bottom lines in 2019," he says. 

To be honest, I've been thinking about this a lot throughout 2018 -- as a PR pro and as a consumer who for years has been making buying (or not buying) decisions based on companies' beliefs and actions. For example, my family doesn't eat at Chick-fil-A anymore, and you'd never find me at a Hobby Lobby

So, like it or not, I think Austin is right. But whether this is right for you depends on your audience. PR, marketing and communication all comes back to knowing what will resonate with your audience -- customers, partners, employees, stakeholders and more -- and what will land with a giant thud.

Only you know your story and what you stand for and what you can and should stand up for in the marketplace. If you're unsure whether to weigh in on an issue, do some consumer research and until you know the findings, play it safe and find other stories and messages to tell.  

3. Bye bye lazy pitching.

"The PR pro to journalist ratio is now 6:1. Those odds aren't ideal for anyone as journalists are forced to sift through a flurry of pitches for golden nuggets that fuel good stories," notes Brittany Martin, media relations strategist at Walker Sands Communications in Chicago.

Successful PR pros must identify "hand-picked stories" for individual journalists, she says.

Yes!  

As a full-time journalist, I yearned for this but it rarely happened. Each day offered an in-box full of emails with half-baked, generic story ideas that had little, if anything, to do with the topics I covered. Since I started writing this column, I'm sad to report I've been reminded of this.

On a positive note, knowing this and working hard to not do this has set me apart in the PR profession. I make it a practice to pitch stories in a very intentional way -- different angles to each individual reporter. I pitch to a specific section or standing feature or TV segment, essentially saying "I know you have this spot to fill with this kind of story and here is that exact kind of story." It's about making it easy for reporters to see how your story fits with what they cover and what their audience wants.

Notice the common thread here? It's about knowing your audience. 

Published on: Dec 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.