What trend or applications will have the biggest impact on content creation in 2013?

Content is key. However, without a proper marketing and communications strategy in place, the content developed by your brand will be lost among the crowd

Panel 
Susan Bean
, EVP, creative catalyst group, Marina Maher Communications
sbean@mahercomm.com

Jonathan Evans, President, Evans Brooklyn
jon@evansbk.com

Mary Henige, Director of social media and digital comms, General Motors
mary.henige@gm.com

Doug Simon, CEO, president, DS Simon Productions
dougs@dssimon.com

Heidi Sullivan, VP, global media research, Cision
heidi.sullivan@cision.com

Susan Bean, Marina  Maher Communications
In 2013, PR professionals have an unprecedented opportunity to finally connect our results to sales by owning as-yet unclaimed platform of mobile marketing.

Just as consumers started gathering in social media communities before brands really understood how to use the medium, consumers are now living on their smartphones.

According to Nielsen, almost half of US mobile subscribers now own smartphones compared with 36% a year ago. In 2011, consumers spent $12 billion shopping on their phones. That number is expected to soar to $31 billion by 2016.

No marketing discipline currently owns mobile marketing. PR practitioners can stake their claim here because "real time" is the world in which we live. We are the perfect discipline to harness mobile marketing by creating purchase intent through engagement, using location-based services to drive consumers to stores and geo fencing to alert people to deals in the store, where they make 70% of their purchase decisions.

And, as we are two-way communicators, we can create an experience that gives them what they want, when they want it with exchanges that enhance the in-store experience.

Mobile marketing is where social media was five years ago. Everyone knew consumers were there, but PR, advertising, and marketing approached social the way we had been operating in digital. We turned to Facebook and let clients accumulate fans as a measure of success. It took a while to know the gold standard of measurement is engagement.

Let's not make the same mistakes with mobile. Let's put ourselves in the mindset of its users, think about how they use their phones, and create a path to purchase where their device gets them to the store, alerts them to deals, and helps close the sale.

Jonathan Evans, Evans Brooklyn
Location, location, location. With expiring air miles, I took a last-minute week-long trip to London with no agenda or plans. Everywhere I stayed and explored was discovered on the fly via my smartphone or iPad.

Social media was useless as my colleagues and friends are not London savvy. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest - all currently hip in the PR world - are not very helpful when you want a decent curry near Paddington Station at 10pm.

I didn't rely on traditional media or search engines because much of the time their suggestions were not relevant to my location.

You see, I didn't want to read an article about the best pubs in the UK. Rather, I wanted to find a good pub near my hotel or within a few hops of my Tube line. More often than not, the online tools integrating content with maps were most useful, for example TripAdvisor and Yelp.

If you represent any type of business or thrive on consumers arriving at your door, then the next critical "big thing" is not just creating compelling content, but material that is relevant to an end-user's location.

Are you properly listed and profiled in databases? Does your website and content list your physical address? Are you using all the keywords someone might use in a location search, such as neighborhood name or nearest transit hubs? Do your press releases mention other nearby attractions that might help highlight your offerings?

Years ago on a London stage the world first heard the words, "wherefore art thou Romeo?" Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, we're all now blips on the Internet's radar. If only Juliet had a GPS-enabled device.

Mary Henige, General Motors
Are we communicators, marketers, customer assistance specialists, or publishers? We are all of the above. Brands and firms will win when internal squabbling ends and collaboration begins. Old rules about who "owns" the customer and who can reach out to media have changed in this digital world.

Rarely has there been a channel in which nearly all functions play, but yet we all do on the Web. Those of us in communications are creating content that we know is available to consumers, whether they are the primary audience or not. And aren't consumers always primary?

The nature of media has changed. It is instant and everywhere. With 1 billion smartphones in the world, we need to consider the mobile application of our content as well as its "shareability."

Conceivably there are endless people who can consume and share our stories, but this assumes our content is visually appealing and interesting. It also means we're not just content pushers. While we want our material to be read and shared, unless we're participating on our channels we will lose these readers and viewers, perhaps forever.

If your organization does not have dedicated community management you will soon begin to lose followers. Nothing turns off consumers faster than to post a comment or question on a brand's page and to be ignored while the presumptuous brand publishes one link after another.

Brands who want to win have no choice but to partner with other functions. We each bring our particular expertise to the Web so there's nothing to fear. We will either win or lose together and we all know winning is a lot more fun.

Doug Simon, DS Simon Productions
The hottest trend next year will be - drumroll please - PinStaGle+. Actually, it won't be. It's not going to be about the hottest new tools. Instead, it will be about how best to use them to achieve organizational goals, a process called PRketing.

As we start the 20-teens, the communication function will be driven by content creation and distribution and how to deliver it in our increasingly opt-in media consumption culture.

Rather than be distracted by which spending silo your communication initiative belongs in or what trendy tool to use, the focus will be on achieving organizational goals. These goals almost always involve changing the behavior of your key publics.

PRketing starts with a step-by-step process that goes far beyond brand journalism.

  • Identify the behavior you are trying to change, the people you are looking to reach, and where they consume content.
  • Create content that will be effective in changing their behavior. Place it where they will find, view, and share it.
  • Measure, assess, and revise.

Marketers will struggle with consumers' increased disdain for advertising and tactics that interrupt their content consumption.

The power of PR has long been the ability to persuade others to attain third-party endorsement from credible sources by creating content that appeals to their viewers and audience. The top trend of 2013 could be the PR function moving to the fore of the integrated communications mix.

Heidi Sullivan, Cision
Content persuasively tells your brand's story through valuable, relevant, and irresistibly engaging pieces of information. Marketing and content creation takes up more than a quarter of US marketing budgets and that share will grow in 2013.

Two important trends will ensure that PR can contribute substantially to an organization's content marketing in 2013. The first is that PR must take its place at the table and align with other marketing disciplines. Content strategies must come from a common communications strategy. The second trend - adopting a content management process - helps deliver results that support strategy. The phases of this process include:

  • Creation. Let communications strategy and audience research drive creative. What people are you talking to and what needs does each audience segment have? What devices and channels are they using? What media works best for each audience?
  • Amplification. Determine the most effective outreach, sharing, or optimization strategies: grassroots/social channels, influencer outreach, pay-per-click advertising, sponsored links, or a combination. What keywords make content easiest to find?
  • Curation. Link your stories to other stories. Comment on similar posts - staying relevant and avoiding selling.
  • Analysis. Examine what resonated using Web and social metrics to determine engagement, increases in reach or frequency, lead generation or sales, and intermediate outcomes. Did I drive consumer action?

As principal generators of earned and owned media through social, news, websites, and word of mouth, PR professionals are qualified to shape and help drive content marketing.

Alignment with marketing and a sound process will help you meaningfully participate in successful content campaigns.

The Takeaway

  • Content is key. However, without a proper marketing and communications strategy in place, the content developed by your brand will be lost among the crowd.
  • Know your audience and engage with your users. Find out where they go to get, share, and view content as a way of identifying their needs. Ignoring your audience will drive them elsewhere.
  • Smartphones should be loaded with smart content, such as location-based information for users or mobile marketing material that engages potential consumers and drives them to stores.

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