Over the last decade, the traditional world of public relations has completely evolved.

There has been, and continues to be, a blurring of the lines that traditionally separated marketing and public relations.

Not to mention a raft of emerging tech-related trends - from the shift towards online PR channels and harnessing more readily available data, to the emergence of video as people’s preferred way of consuming media. From the challenge of using new technologies such as VR and AR in creative ways, to the rapidly changing nature of influencer marketing.

And yet, there’s more change on the horizon for PR professionals.

So, what does the future of PR look like in Australia?

In 2020, the disciplines of pubic relations, marketing and advertising, are becoming increasingly diverse, while simultaneously becoming more entwined. Today’s PR professionals must now become brand ambassadors, social media and digital experts, content marketers, and strategists.

So here are 8 key trends shaping the future of your PR career in Australia.

1. Data Analytics and Reporting

The expectation for agencies and their employees to have an understanding of data analytics and how it can be used in measuring campaign performance is increasing.

While measuring your PR performance has been historically tough, the shift towards online PR channels means data sources and analytics have improved. There will be an increased expectation for PR professionals to have the skills required to measure PR success based on KPIs such as social media impressions, engagements and shares, website traffic and conversions, website backlinks, domain authority and brand mentions and sentiment.

2. Personalisation and Niches

The media landscape has fundamentally shifted into fractionalised, concentrated audiences.

Far removed from the mass media landscapes of TV, radio and outdoor from the past, targeting your key audience means communicating with them when, where and how they prefer.

Intimately knowing your target audience is essential for creating a seemingly personalised PR message, delivered in the right way, at the right time. Because of the masses of content online, PR professionals need to be specialists in creating meaningful, personal engagements that cut through the clutter. They must connect through their content, events, stunts and other forms of communication.

Coca-cola’s “Share a coke…” campaign is an excellent example of personalised PR.

3. Digital Amplification

Clearly, consumers now expect companies to know them intimately; serving them the exact content they want right when they need it.

One way PR professionals have begun to achieve this level of personalisation is through hyper-targeted advertising.

Through digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google Ads, Outbrain, Taboola and more, PR professionals can now serve their target consumers the most relevant content. This ensures your PR efforts are seen by a wider segment of your audience, increasing the effectiveness and reach of your campaigns.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of how a PR campaign can be amplified across social media via both organic and paid methods.

4. Integrated Agencies

Which leads us to integrated agencies.

Because of the increasing overlap between marketing, advertising and PR, more firms are now rebranding to integrated agencies, offering other services beyond traditional PR. Hybrid agencies with creative, digital, social, marketing, advertising and PR expertise will be increasingly sought-after in the coming years.

Instead of looking for a niche PR agency, businesses in 2020 and beyond will be looking to partner with agencies that have a broader skillet within a niche industry.

In fact, research shows top PR offerings are no longer media relations and press offices but rather social media management (77%), content marketing (77%), influencer marketing (67%) and link building for SEO (56%).

This means PR professionals will need a wider understanding of the marketing and media landscape, and must build the skills to work collaboratively to deliver complex and comprehensive PR campaigns.

4. New Look Influencers

It’s no secret that social media influencers have been earning inflated incomes from branded and sponsored content.

But is change on the horizon?

With Instagram and Facebook recently hiding ‘like’ counts, and cracking down on paid followers, it is now harder than ever before for influencers to fake engagement and legitimate account fans. Plus, the introduction of in-app analytics means more emphasis on reporting and ROI from influencer PR.

Due to this, the popularity of the micro-influencer is predicted to pick up over the next few years.

Micro-influencers have proven to be more manageable and are more willing to work alongside brands, not for brands in a true partnership. PR professionals can harness these influencers for a longer-term relationships, which will help businesses build trust with niche audiences - authentically connecting brands to target audiences.

The most common way PR pros engage with influencers for brand collaborations is through discounts or competitions & giveaways (49%) followed by attending events (41%) and affiliate marketing (30%).

5. Storytelling

If PR is all about building connections personalised niches, then storytelling is how PR professionals can achieve that. Storytelling helps you:

1. Draw your audience into your brand narrative and makes your news and content relatable

2. Influence changes in thought and behaviour which is a powerful way to convince and convert

3. Get the attention of your audience, cut through the noise and get your message heard

4. Communicate technical concepts so that your content is exciting and easily digestible

5. Build your brand voice to create a positive perception – you can’t copy a great story

Here are some of the best storytelling PR campaigns of 2019.

6. Building Personal Brands

PR professionals have historically worked hard to promote their company brands, but in the future, personal brands will experience a renewed focus.

In fact, on average, it is said that 49% of a company’s reputation is attributable to their CEO’s or leadership teams personal brand and reputation, so this focus is long overdue.

By building the personal brands of key individuals within organisations, PR professionals can create more personalised messaging, engage in storytelling, build human-to-human connections and boost the company brand. Personal branding also helps you build your client’s credibility in their field and showcases their leaders as experts who can be trusted in their particular niche. When focusing on personal brand, it’s essential to identify your client’s target niche audience, audit their current activity, be authentic, be consistent and be entertaining.

Here are some of PR’s biggest personal brand success stories, we particularly love Michelle Obama’s story.

7. Crisis communication and reputation management

Research shows that companies risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search results.

The fast-pace of social media and the sheer quantity of communications businesses are releasing, coupled with today's economic, political and social climates means the potential for backlash and social pressure on brands will increase.

So in the future, PR professionals can expect to see more in-house roles dedicated exclusively to personal and corporate reputation management.

Check out some of the best managed PR crises here, like the time KFC became FCK.

8. The New-Age PR Professional

It’s clear the PR world is changing at a fast pace. So too is what PR agencies are looking for in their next team members. Our team at Future You have spoken at length with a number of PR agencies around the country to find out exactly what agencies are really looking for in their employees.

PR agencies have indicated an increase in the importance of integrated skills rather than pure PR skills. This includes skills across digital, social, and media contacts. This also means being able to understand data and analytics and the role it plays in measuring campaign performance. Other technical skills agencies are placing importance on include strategic thinking, writing and presentations skills and researching.

But technical skills have never been enough in PR and soft skills are now more important than ever. Agencies are looking for candidates who are honest, have relationship building skills, can multi-task, have attention to detail, and have the ability to adapt to change.

Agencies also want candidates with an international mindset. We live in a completely globalised world so people willing to engage with or potentially work in international settings are a bonus.

PR firms are moving away from ‘personality and culture fit’ and are looking for people who can add diverse perspectives and innovative ideas to their team. They are realising that many skills and media contacts can be built up and developed, but personality and work-ethic can’t.

If you’re ready for a new PR role, or are interested in talking to someone about the current job market and opportunities, please get in touch with our FutureYou’s PR consultants, Vicky Winstanley (vickywinstanley@future-you.com.au) or Jessica O'Dell (jessicaodell@future-you.com.au).