A new year sparks renewed energy, a refreshed focus and of course some trend forecasting for all things PR. Well in our world anyway.
And while we talk about these trends in our PR workshops; we want you to be across them too.
To give you a quick history lesson on consumer and PR trends of times gone by, here is how things have rolled over the past near-century to now from a PR messaging perspective.
Where does your PR and comms strategy sit on this ladder?
Communications, key-messaging strategy for a person, place or thing over the last century.
PR practitioners focused on the product features.
PR practitioners focused on the product features and lifestyle benefits.
PR practitioners focused on the product features, lifestyle benefits, experience and emotion.
PR practitioners focused on the product features, lifestyle benefits, experience and emotion, core values of the business front and centre.
PR practitioners (and the best brands) focus on product features, lifestyle benefits, experience and emotion, values and a cause beyond the business.
This is all led by what consumers expect as we all mature in our experience of being marketed to. Dare I even put marketing and PR in the same sentence for fear of confusion (the horror! NB: PR is not marketing). But at the end of the day, it’s important to know PR has a commercial interest to build reputation by promoting, influencing and compelling change. Marketing has a commercial interest to sell. Advertising has a commercial interest by ‘telling‘ the audience about the ‘person, place or thing.’
So as consumers move up the ladder of expecting more from the companies we spend with; PR moves with and guides these changes. And so the biggest trend, challenge and opportunity for PR Pros or businesses trying to manage their PR better it this:
You must absolutely be communicating: product features, product benefits, experience and emotion as part of your value-led key messaging – these are all a given and expected. But to stop there would be keeping your PR strategy stuck in the 80s with bad perms on wet days (sadly most businesses are still there).
The opportunity however is this; to dig deep and get clear on your core values and communicate them consistently; bringing each layer of content to life with stories anchored by your values.
The values themselves are rarely unique. But how you bring them to life, how you wrap stories around them, how you shed light on the people behind your brand, your process, your knowledge, your value, your impact, your contribution…all of that…and how you do it consistently in a thoughtfully designed and well-positioned way is what will set you apart. All of this is guided by the PR function.
And THEN, consumers of the now absolutely expect a business to have a cause beyond themselves.
As consumers we want full transparency on what we are contributing to on a grander scale. And to make the CEO more wealthy is not one that inspires action to ‘join a brand’ over another. This might be a company goal and profits are survival to a business, but it is not a vision that inspires a community. And it’s not a communication strategy that works now i.e. “buy this because it’s good, cheap, better, best.”
This doesn’t mean that your luxury interior styling business, furniture company, restaurant or innovation-led lighting business has to be saving the planet (ideally it is in some way) but it’s not realistic or on-brand for every business to have a ‘save the planet’ cause.
The cause needs to be relevant to you and your team; to its core messaging, to your WHY (the purpose of your business beyond selling).
What I do recommend is digging deep to find the cause beyond yourself, the cause beyond selling and making more profit. Your business is simply a conduit for making the world better in some way. The opportunity is to get insanely clear on how you do that.
What does what you do bring to people? How are your values on display so that they can find you and see you clearly? How does what you’ve got make their world better? And what is the greater cause of it all?
As consumers we are spoilt for choice. Since the 90s being the best or most innovative in your category is no longer enough of a key message to build an enduring brand. What you need in your messaging is to make it easier for shoppers/fans/customers/clients to choose your business over another by making it clear what your company vision is (end result), what its mission is (how you’ll get there) and how by their investment in what you do; does it move the community as a collective closer to this outcome – in it together.
This is what consumers expect now. They want to be a part of the contribution to something better. They want to feel good, look good and do good. When we buy we want shared values and a just cause. Product or service kicks is a given an no longer enough.
This is the most important PR trend of this year and this decade.
Does it matter if businesses use this knowledge for commercial gains?
I don’t think so. What it does is push them to consider that selling and profits is not compelling enough to build community and brand. It nudges them forward into finding the words or to make the changes they need to unearth virtues; so that they can use business as a conduit for positive impact beyond commercial gains and towards greater good. For us all.
Words by Jade Roberts
raraPR Founder and Director
raraPR is above all the sum of people who together help build brands and share stories. We are present in our determination to make a positive difference to the world by representing individuals and businesses that are doing good. We are an extension of the personal stories within us, those that we exist for and those within you that need to be heard.