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The 10 rules of PR for 2016

If only everything stayed the same, life in PR would be so much easier. But change is inevitable, and brings new ways of doing things. Here are 10 rules for PR in 2016:

  1. Get attention
  2. Focus on convergence
  3. Work in real time
  4. Have clear objectives
  5. Understand your audience
  6. Be persuasive
  7. Deliver messages effectively
  8. Measure the outcome
  9. Content, content, content
  10. Challenge the status quo

The first three rules are selected as being the most important by David Meerman Scott, marketing strategist and author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Discussing the need to get attention, he says: “You can buy attention though advertising; you can beg for attention from the media using old-school PR; you can bug people one at a time to get attention through sales. Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: A YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter feed, an ebook, an infographic, a Periscope stream ...”.

Talking about convergence, Meerman Scott says that he is fascinated by the convergence of sales, PR and marketing on the web: “Today buyers dictate how they choose companies, products and services with online content driving action. The difference? Marketing and PR is when a company communicates to many buyers at once whilst sales is communicating to one buyer at a time. Both are optimised through great content and real-time connection.”

Focusing on this real-time connection, Meerman Scott continues, “Gone are the days when you could plan out your marketing and PR programmes well in advance and release them to suit your own timetable. It’s a real-time world now, and if you’re not engaged, then you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance. What counts today is speed and agility.”

Rules four to eight come from Trevor Morris, professor of Richmond University and co-author of PR Today. Morris says these are not really new rules: “Most new rules are actually just the old rules using new words. Content creation, authenticity and conversations, to name but a few, simply describe in a slightly new way things good PROs have always done.

“The fundamental rules of PR remain: “Have clear objectives. Understand your audience. Create persuasive messages. Deliver them in the most effective way. Measure the outcome. Similarly, communication integration, measurable evaluation and a valued reputation in the C-suite aren’t new rules. They are timeless goals! So why do we so often end up talking about ‘new rules’? Because ‘new’ is a wonderful word that excites and motivates people even when the substance is pretty unchanging.”

Rule 9, focusing on content, is key according to James Holmes, managing director of PR agency Limelight. “Content marketing is the most valuable approach because today it’s trackable and if you ensure it has a unique insight, then it helps people to solve a problem, fill a knowledge gap, inform a strategy, back a hunch or inspire an idea. But to get to this point, you need to understand your audience so as to create a higher level of engagement.”

This leads to rule 10, challenge the status quo. Holmes says we should not challenge this for the sake of being opinionated, rather, he points out that the most erroneous stories are often the ones we think we know best so never think to question. “Change to a person’s purchasing habits or behaviour will only ever happen if you can deliver something new, this means breaking away from the ‘equilibrium’.

“We need to apply this thinking to content creation and in the delivery of that content if we want to show authenticity, encourage participation and ultimately influence and shape opinion.”

What do YOU think the new rules of PR are?

Mark Knight, director at PR agency Four Broadgate:

“It is time to rethink your PR campaign structure because the world of brand marketing has changed to the point where you simply no longer gain direct access to your consumer’s attention. You are fighting thousands of distractions and being the loudest is not going to help.

“There are so many online review websites and portals that a PR agency’s job has become a lot harder. If you are not authentic, truth will out and your brand will be rumbled with lasting and potentially irreversible damage.

“You have to remember that modern businesses are running scared thanks to the new wave of online reviews, especially those businesses in the service industry. Companies are running themselves into the ground to provide an over-the-top service to their customers for fear of a bad online review.”

Rajmeena Aujla, corporate account director at the PR Office:

“Looking around the office and listening to what clients and journalists want, I don’t think there are any new rules for PR. If anything, we need to be more human. Why reinvent the wheel when all it needs are new spokes?

“PROs know that digital is part of the landscape; taking an integrated approach is vital; and that relevance, emotional intelligence and explaining the business impact are key ingredients to any story. PR in 2016 is about working on the existing rules and developing them to enable clients to be better prepared at navigating the media landscape. This only happens if you are confident about what your clients want. Do this by getting to know your clients, their business and the business of their target audiences to make sure everything you suggest is relevant for what they want to achieve.

“It’s also about finding clearer methods to communicate to clients about the way the media is changing. Talk to people in person to build a rapport and don’t just fall back on email. Be adaptable to scale (both hyper-local and global) and explain to clients what journalists are looking for to make a story stick.”

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