The future of real-time marketing

If you're still not convinced to add real-time marketing to your communications mix, consider what the future might hold.

In my previous PRWeek Insider posts, I discussed the promise of real-time marketing for PR and shared a few tips on creating a thoughtful plan. If you're still not convinced to add real-time marketing to your communications mix, consider what the future might hold.

We'll stop talking about “real-time” marketing
Over the next few years, expect to see campaign planning and execution fundamentals change dramatically. There will still be a place for static, carefully-choreographed marketing, but brands will invest more heavily in storytelling based on real-time stimulus to win the war of relevance. Much of this will be driven by shifts in media consumption already underway, moving from passive reading, watching, and listening to more active modes of communication in which audiences seek out and contribute to that which interests them now. Real-time marketing will help communicators reach these information-hungry stakeholders with more tailored and impactful narratives, based on what's capturing their attention in the news cycle and in social conversations moment to moment.

We'll stop talking about “real-time” marketing, as today's niche communications techniques will become the norm. Just as most media are now regarded as “social,” so too will most aspects of marketing soon be regarded as “real-time.”

Public relations will shape operational decision-making
Today's C-suite and business decision makers rely on focus groups, exhaustive research, and plenty of other static means to inform much of their operational decision-making. That's about to change. Business leaders of the future will look to those who can provide counsel based on real-time awareness. PR pros will be sought out for business insights, evolving our role from storytellers to business consultants. Armed with real-time understanding of what makes audiences tick, PR practitioners will influence far more than communications decisions, including product development and sales and distribution. Business intelligence gleaned from real-time marketing will make the PR function more valuable than ever.

PR will play a leading role in content creation
Situational awareness will help practitioners skilled in real-time techniques take on greater content creation responsibilities, too. As brands focus more on reaching stakeholders directly through owned channels and heightened influencer engagement, PR practitioners who understand the shifting perceptions and media behaviors of target consumers will be charged with managing the narrative between a brand and its customers. No longer will public relations be called upon to simply publicize advertising's ideas; rather, we will have more opportunities to fill brand touch points with compelling content, based on a unique understanding of consumers' needs at any given time.

Communications departments will look different
Take a look at social listening hubs and real-time engagement centers like The Bridge to get a preview of how most communications departments – both agency and client-side – will look and function in the future. Workspaces will evolve to function more like modern newsrooms and political campaign war rooms. The spaces won't be the only things to change – so, too, will the faces that fill them. We'll populate our teams with more diverse specialists who can help us identify short-term trends and opportunities and capitalize on them faster. 

PR success will be evaluated differently.
Today, most PR activities are still judged by reach, not relevance and engagement.  As real-time marketing takes hold, expect new methodologies to assess performance based on PR's ability to reach and impact people at the right time, at the right place, with a tailored message. Research suggests that real-time marketing can drive valuable business outcomes, increasing consideration, trial, and advocacy.  In the future, the success of PR campaigns will be evaluated by our ability to drive action every day, not just deliver a stack of media clips once a quarter.

Jeff Beringer is global practice led for digital at GolinHarris.

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