A new exciting decade for communicators – by Sawsan Ghanem

Sawsan Ghanem is the Joint Managing Director of Active DMC

2019 was a challenging year on many fronts, politics, social media, media, influencers, natural disasters, all culminating with one denominator, dented trust. An era of ‘instability’ change and evolution is set to continue, directly impacting communicators, challenging them to grow into more holistic human beings and professionals. Pace of change is on turbo boost mode across all sectors thanks to rapid advances in smart technologies and AI.

This calls for communicators to wear several hats, one for PR, one for marketing and one as a technology practitioner, juggling seamlessly between the three. A global report by Talkwalker revealed that PR agencies are no longer relying on media relations as their main service offering. In fact, more than 50% of research participants offer social media management, content marketing, influencer marketing and link building for SEO.

Communications professionals will need to work more closely with clients on building awareness and positioning the brand whilst at the same time creating demand for their products and services. PR and marketing will become even more entwined requiring PR professionals to be able to provide marketing expertise, thinking on their feet, making the necessary recommendations, driving and delivering integrated communications plans across multiple sectors.

I intend to focus on the key areas that I believe will shape the world of comms going into 2020 and beyond.

  • Trust building trust with target audiences will be a priority for brands and their communication strategies in 2020. One of the most powerful ways of doing so is by positioning themselves/spokespeople as respected experts. A voice of ‘reason’ and authority, someone people want to listen to.

Another key contributing factor in building trust is the content that brands share. It should be relevant, authentic and helpful to their target audience. In the current climate of constant change and breaking news, governments, companies, and individuals need to be more humane, relevant and responsive. Communications professionals will be prioritizing and underscoring this in their recommendations to clients and their campaign plans.

  • Spotlight’ Profile pieces For B2B brands, this will be key in 2020. Aimed at more niche media outlets, news sources such as newsletters, closed Facebook groups, vertical industry and specialized titles, LinkedIn groups, and other SM pages. These opportunities will allow brands to illustrate their empathy and authenticity, as they’ll be engaging with people who are familiar and interested in the content being shared. It’s about elevating the voice and speaking out as an authority on a topic or issue that’s important for the local and regional communities.

There is an increasing number of micro publications that have smaller distributions but are highly specific in nature and often very receptive to thought leadership and related industry news. Incorporating these into the company’s media relations strategy can help to expand their influence with peers and prospective clients.

  • It’s the narrative that counts – We all know that journalists’ inboxes are flooded daily with press releases and pitches. PR professionals will need to work harder and smarter to make their clients’ content more interesting, impactful and engaging. They will need to prepare content that is literally ready to publish and is in line with the publications’ style, target readership and news style. This is invaluable when it comes to building relationships and respect with journalists and securing earned media coverage. This can through different forms of content from op-eds to guest posts and infographics, the list goes on.
  • Authenticity & user-generated contentWith a greater crackdown worldwide on transparency in disclosures on behalf of influencers, there is a call for more “real” people to share their feedback, and advice on products and services in organic settings by consumers versus hearing from brands directly. It really is very much about the human element, credibility and authenticity to secure customer loyalty, trust and buy-in. As marketeers, we need to be more creative in our campaign concept design. For example, We can be creative by leveraging organic content and thus empowering fans to share the brand’s message because they feel they want to whilst investing in additional influencer partnerships. We need to make strategic investments with influencers who embody their own brand/personality values and have an authentic relationship with their followers. 
  • Video – Video stays very much in the lead when it comes to the content vehicle of choice. The reason why is simple, video in different styles, format, lengths, can deliver complex messages with ease in a matter of seconds. Engagement is achieved successfully with low commitment. However, the main challenge is in creating engaging video content efficiently as it’s time consuming and demands skill, talent and the right equipment.

Platforms like Lumen 5 streamline the creation process for any communications professional looking to deliver dynamic video content creation service offering. Lumen 5 has a great feature which allows you to scan a news release and uses Artificial Intelligence to generate a full video in three minutes based on the content provided. An important point to remember is that video tools streamline the content creation process at a fraction of the cost of a full-time production studio. They also provide PR pros easy access to effective tools to create content that resonates and engages with their clients’ audiences.

  • Podcasts Delivering voice content in the form of a true dialogue is impactful when establishing yourself as a thought leader. Podcasts are growing in popularity as listeners connect with the speakers and their subject matter when on the move. Getting your opinion heard as a guest on a podcast can be very impactful and will help you achieve your marketing goals. Hence why podcasts, should be a priority your communication campaign to-do list. Forrester Analytics’ Consumer Technographics data say that consumers are spending more than 3 hours per week listening to podcast content and 45% of them have in excess of US$250,000/- in disposable income. Get your podcast spots secured and get your voice heard as this is a priority communication medium with measurable ROI.
  • Digital tools At the end of the day, the ROI on strategic investments in new tools that are widely available is huge. In doing so, PR professionals will be able to expand their capabilities, simplify many common pain points, and further drive their own and their Clients’ success. Investing in such tools will keep the digital world at their fingertips.

Whether it’s mastering analytics, improving content creation, or streamlining social media management, PR pros have met the challenge head on. Today’s digital tools enable that journey by providing easy-to-use solutions for everyday challenges. There’s a wealth of resources out there today and all communication professionals have no choice but to embrace it – authentically.