4th January 2019 at 13:48

Reflecting on 2018 in PR and Four things I’ll do differently in 2019

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions generally, but as I launched the agency last year I thought it would be worth sitting down and reflecting on what I saw and experienced, and also how that will shape 2019 strategies.

2018 reflections

Brexit completely fucked us.

I mean this both in terms of the country but also in terms of PR. The news agenda can be unpredictable and sometimes things happen that just take over the agenda, that’s just one of the things you accept working in PR. However, I’ve never experienced something take over the news agenda so frequently and so completely as Brexit did last year.

This proved a nightmare for a number of campaigns, as feedback from numerous writers especially at nationals papers explained they were being pulled onto politics stories every time any Brexit news broke. This meant they weren’t able to cover our campaign even though they liked the angle and normally would have done.

Now, obviously I understand why each development took over the agenda so wholly, however that does not mean that it made it any easier to explain to clients why they weren’t always getting the levels of coverage we’d be used to. This was especially hard being a new agency launching in the year!

AI is finding its feet in the industry

And no – I don’t mean this in terms of the fear of it stealing people’s jobs just yet. We have had tools that utilised AI for years – think social listening tools etc that simply help us to do our jobs better and faster.

However, taking a look at the journalism industry we see many more steps ahead with usage of AI which is helped largely by Google’s Digital New Innovation Fund (DNI Fund). I attended a Business Wire roundtable with Influence magazine (write up here) where I first learnt about the fund from Gary Rogers who co-founded Urbs Media and then teamed up with the Press Associated (PA) to pitch a project called RADAR to Google for DNI funding, which they secured.

“RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots) was set up to meet an increasing demand for fact-based insights into local communities by using Natural Language Generation (NLG) software to create up to 30,000 localised stories a month from open data sets.” (PA)

There are numerous other projects like RADAR (funded by the DNI) which are utilising AI in the journalism industry. Examples include projects that improve fact-checking and translation accuracy as well as those which create video programmes purely from being fed just one news video clip.

The feeling is that journalism is slightly ahead in it’s use of AI right now in comparison to us in PR. This conjures up some important questions surrounding this gap, as well as exciting opportunity as we enter 2019.

PR and SEO are actually working much closer together

Having worked across the PR and SEO industries for around seven years now, it baffled me how PR and SEO teams still remained siloed in 2018. However, within my training sessions that I run with BrightonSEO, I noticed we’re getting a much better mix of traditional PRs and SEOs in the sessions, usually because they are being encouraged by management to work more closely internally. This is a big step in contrast to when I first took over running these sessions around five/six years ago, when it was overwhelmingly just SEOs attending them.

I also had the pleasure of speaking at PRmoment’s ‘The intersection of PR and SEO’ event, which highlighted just how many people in the PR industry are wanting to learn more about SEO and was very popular. The number of email questions I received afterwards was equally as encouraging.

I hope this continues in 2019 as I certainly enjoy training both sides which slight plug I offer bespoke for clients and agencies, or will be delivering at the following upcoming events:

Plus more will be announced throughout the year.

4 things I’ll do differently in 2019

So, bearing in mind all of the above, here are the changes I will be making in 2019…

  1. More evergreen campaignsBrexit chaos will continue well into next year. To combat this I plan to work on more evergreen campaigns that will still have an initial timely hook, but that will be relevant and newsworthy at later points as well. This should hopefully mean that if something Brexit-related (or anything else) messes up the initial launch we still have other opportunities to generate coverage.
  2. Smaller campaignsAlthough it’s exciting to work on the big budget campaigns, if something comes along in the news agenda or worse in some cases, for example if someone else happens to launch with a similar campaign around the same time, they can end up being a very costly disappointment. I’ve enjoyed working on smaller campaigns in 2018 because there’s less at stake should something come along and mess up (sabotage?) your launch. That’s not to say I won’t also look to run large campaigns, but these will definitely be interspersed with increased smaller or ‘always-on’ campaigns.
  3. Level up reporting I’ve spoken about reporting on Digital PR numerous times at conferences and within training, but I still see a lot of confusion and quite poor reporting out there. I experimented a fair bit with Google Data Studio last year which received good feedback from clients and was also apparently quite different ( a new/novel thing?) for a PR agency to do. In 2019 I plan on working more on our own reporting and measurement for clients as well as work around educating others on the possibilities of measurement and reporting for Digital PR.
  4. Read up on AIBearing in mind the use of AI in journalism mentioned above, it is only sensible as a PR to keep an eye on the developments and innovations there to ensure we’re ahead with anything that might change how we need to do our jobs. I’ll also be looking out for any innovative uses of AI within the PR industry.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any of your own reflections on 2018 or things you’ll be doing differently in 2019 – let’s talk over on Twitter.