Six opportunities for public relations in 2015

Yesterday we published #PR2015, a collaborative piece of work looking into the trends and issues affecting the business of PR in 2015, from the perspective of 23 of our regional, national & sector groups.

There are many common themes: content marketing, media change, integration with other areas of the organisation, the blurring of internal and external audiences, an increasing recognition of the strategic value of public relations, and measurement of the economic contribution of public relations.

But you all knew that, right?

So in the spirit of giving, I’ve picked out six interesting issues from #PR2015 that stand out as opportunities for PR professionals across the UK.

6. Cultivate your communities

In 2014, viral movements such as the No-Makeup Selfie and the Ice Bucket Challenge generated millions of pounds for good causes. What is interesting is that these campaigns were not dreamed up by charities themselves, but were started by communities online. The organisations which benefited the most were those that responded quickly.

Public relations professionals who embrace this approach are seeking to build reputation and engagement not only through third-party influence but also directly via its own media and social forms of media. This is an increasingly competitive space as other disciplines such as advertising, digital and creative all vie for budget and work.

Undoubtedly, success here in 2015 relies on following the profession’s true function not just as the voice of an organisation, but also its eyes and ears.

In the words of CIPR President Stephen Waddington: “the shift to an organisation participating in a community is the biggest communication change that organisations face in the coming decade.”

5. Infrastructure will build bridges for business

The opening up of new road networks and transport systems outside of the South East will see increased investment across the UK, with more promised to come after the government’s recent announcement of a £15 billion ‘Road investment strategy’.

It may sound trivial, but in East Anglia, the opening up A47, is a chance for public relations professionals to boast about the quality of tourism, the creative arts, agriculture and finance, in the region. As PR professionals we need to work hard for our sectors but shout a collective message, especially in the regions.

The growing digital infrastructure of the UK will also provide opportunities for the PR sector to grab hold of the power of the Internet of Things.

For public relations professionals, most of these technologies will provide new streams of data for us to interpret and will have a dramatic effect on how we research, plan and measure.

From a consumer perspective, the Internet of Things will produce new products and services – all intended to make the world around us easier to interact with, so expect to see more of driverless cars. Trusted brands will hold the key to the public jumping on board.

That’s not to say this will all be easy. A major challenge for public relations professionals will be weighing the potential benefits of this technology against the inevitable privacy and security concerns that consumers may have.

4. Wake up to local television

Last year many of the #PR2014 contributors eagerly spoke of the anticipation of Ofcom’s rollout of local television channels throughout the UK.

London Live launched with a bang in March 2014, a key milestone in the project, but how many of you have tuned in to ‘Wake up London’?

The bungled launch of CityTV in Birmingham has been typical of the rollout experience so far, characterised by Jamie Conway, the chief executive of Made TV, who back in September said that only a “half-arsed” service could be launched by November.

However, in Scotland, STV has successfully launched Glasgow TV and is about to do the same in Edinburgh. One of the first local channel successes was Mustard TV in Norwich who have been broadcasting since March of this year, and across the UK over twenty new channels are expected in 2015.

Regional and local television networks provide the opportunity for public relations professionals to engage with their audiences on the local issues that matter to them, producing timely and relevant content – often eaten up by hungry producers looking to fill hours of programming.

However, is this all commercially viable? The jury on local TV remains firmly out.

3. England decides

While the General Election (see below) will frame much of the early political debate in the year, the issue of England votes for English folks will be a sticky issue for politicians, the media, and business in 2015 – and probably for the next five years after that! This may feel remote to some but for communicators, context is critical.

However far down the path devolution develops, public relations and public affairs professionals beware, positioning your organisation’s or clients’ view on this issue will be tricky. See this year’s #indyref for lessons learned.

2. Sport will unite the kingdom!

Many #PR2015 contributors pontificate the benefits of international sporting events coming to their areas of the UK next year, citing the success of this year’s Commonwealth Games and the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France.

Three UK-wide events stand out on next year’s calendar.

July and August will see the 69th edition of The Ashes begin in Cardiff, visiting London twice, and also spinning its way through Nottingham and Birmingham. Over 250,000 fans are expected to turn up to watch the England and Australia bat it out over the summer, including a six game one-day series (with one game in Belfast against Ireland) and one T20 international.

In September the Tour of Britain will wheel its way around England and Wales in eight days, and will be passionately cheered along the route by Britain’s growing number of 3 million regular cyclists.

Later in the autumn, 12 towns and cities across England, as well as Cardiff, will host matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Rugby’s biggest stage is billed to draw an international television audience of over 4 billion.

Each and every one of these sporting events set the news agenda, and presents the opportunity for the local economy to showcase the best their city, region, county, or nation, has to offer. PR professionals should be forward planning now to make the most of these moments in time.

1. #GE2015

The General Election is cited by more than three quarters of #PR2015’s contributors, and will no doubt saturate the news agenda from now until at least the 7th of May.

For public relations professionals, the election will test the relationship between business and politicians — and consequently with the electorate and communities at large. That said for the first time we’ve had the luxury of planning ahead due to the new fixed term Parliament.

This certainty however has been blown out of the water by the fact we have probably not seen an election where no one can say with any confidence what is likely to happen, who will be able to form a Government and who the Ministers are going to be.

For the education sector, education will continue to be a defining issue for all parties and that there will be yet more change and adaptation. PR professionals will be in the vanguard of the sector’s responses to this.

For the health sector, the NHS will be firmly on the agenda as candidates either protect or point fingers at Nye Bevan’s baby.

There is a world of opportunity out there though. Ministers and managers across national government, local government and public services should identify that in an environment of change where news and opinions spread ever more quickly, never has there been a greater requirement to increase investment in communications. PR professionals are ideally positioned to facilitate change and create improved engagement with all stakeholders, across all sectors.

Finally, it will be interesting to see the impact of social and digital media on campaigning, and the end result.

Big data campaigning should come to fore through its ability to capture and record the voting public’s personal data to deliver targeted messages to specific voters. Politicians and campaign teams still defining us by ABC1’s and C2DE’s will be the ones without a seat come the 8th of May.

The battle for the electorates’ time will be fought out across tablets and mobile devices as traditional media and challenger news brands like BuzzFeed look to appeal to vast and varied audiences. Ultimately, targeted, well researched content, will win out.

Next year, #GE2015 should be the one search to save in all of your social streams.

View, share and download #PR2015 via SlideShare.

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