The top 10 changes in B2B PR over the last 10 years by Linstock’s Simon Maule

What have been the major changes in B2B PR over the last decade? We decided to put together our top 10 to mark our own 10th anniversary:

1. Social – obvious, but social media has transformed the way we communicate, with huge implications for all PR professionals. Social media behemoths like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are often the primary source of information for millions of people, serving up suggested content based on users’ profiles.

2. Content – content has always been important, but now it’s critical to develop insightful, authentic material that can be used by journalists and discovered by sophisticated search engines that are wise to key word tactics. Search engine Bing’s three pillars of content quality – authority, utility and presentation – apply equally to online and offline material.

3. Integration – the traditional PR agency world of media relations has moved towards an integrated service, taking on many of the more traditional marketing elements. We ourselves started as a more traditional PR and PA consultancy, but now offer research, design, social media and SEO services in response to market demand.

4. Video and mobile – video is the fastest growing medium for B2B communications and companies need to explain their story in three minutes of less. Video is the fastest growing medium on the web with more than 12 billion video views per month, with Facebook and Twitter beginning to challenge YouTube’s supremacy. As of early 2014, more content is being consumed on mobile or tablet than desktop PC.

5. Return on investment – in the post-crisis environment, clients and companies are demanding clear evidence of the long-term value of PR and how it supports commercial goals. The thud of cuttings books and over inflated AVEs now longer cut it in an environment where PR is increasingly regarded as a key element of the sales and business development process.

6. Decline of the retainer – there has been a shift away from retainers towards project-based work. Agencies have had to adapt swiftly and intelligently to meet demand and keep clients coming back for more. The recent PRCA benchmarking survey suggests that projects now account for 40% of net income across the industry.

7. Government decline – the public sector is no longer one of the biggest purchasers of PR and marketing services. Where contracts do exist, they tend to relate to insight and behaviour change initiatives. Traditional public sector PR now accounts for just 4% of net income according to the PRCA.

8. Audience Insight – behavioural science has transformed our understanding of how people think and act. PR campaigns are now better attuned to deliver genuine outcomes, not just outputs. The recognition that information and awareness alone will not influence behaviour has increased the sophistication of PR campaigns.

9. Accountability – the veracity of comments, claims and evidence can now be checked in seconds meaning companies and individuals need to be on firm ground before making anything public. Crowdfunding backing has ensured the continued presence and influence of the likes of Full Fact, the independent fact-checking organisation that maintained a high profile during the recent general election.

10. Automation – whereas automation was largely limited to media distribution, there are now a whole range of automated listening, analytic and evaluation tools. With news release software also being developed, even content creation is not immune to the onset of technology.

So what next for the next 10 years? Technology will undoubtedly continue to replace or speed up many of the more traditional PR functions. But there will continue to be a place for strategy, insight and quality content. Likewise, the continued integration with wider marketing and sales functions will increase the value placed on genuine thought leadership. One thing’s for sure – the pace of change is only likely to get faster.

Written by Linstock’s Simon Maule

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