Pardon the analogy to Billboard magazine's music charts of days gone by (couldn't resist), but as we look back at 2011 and eagerly look ahead to 2012, it's refreshing to see the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) take another look at its crystal ball in "#PRin2012: 12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations" in its PRSAY blog.
Actually the post contains a lot of interesting observations -- from "business increases its voice in the digital space" (#1) to "talent acquisition goes social" (#12). What I found to be particularly interesting were some of the items in between, like "organizations will be defined by communication" (#3) -- how true! -- and the ones that referenced the growing importance of analytics and data-driven decisions in the public relations process -- including "the rise of the influence professional" (#5) and "shifting metrics and integration drive digital PR" (#7).
However, amid all of the observations, I believe that "the rise of 'brand journalism'" (#10) deserves the most attention:
"Layoffs and rapid turnover mean many PR pros are finding it difficult to establish solid relationships or earn the attention their promotional efforts may deserve. Enter Brand Journalism. As media fragmentation continues relatively unabated, look for more companies in 2012 to explore the realm of Brand Journalism by hiring their own “reporters” to produce brand content and news. While enticing, companies will need to carefully weigh the ethical perils present in Brand Journalism." (Derek DeVries, communications technology
manager, Grand Rapids Community College)
Public relations professionals always need to be aware of the ethical perils present with any company they represent or in any activity in which they engage (and the list of PR "nightmares" of any year past is always very sobering).
That said, companies in 2012 will need more than ever to differentiate themselves through their stories and by creating consist and compelling content that reaches their key audiences -- whether it's via traditional, digital or social media channels. That's brand journalism in a nutshell and why it's so important in today's deluge of news, information and data -- let's see how fast it moves up the charts in 2012 ...
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has entered the second phase of its attempt to redefine public relations in the age of social media.
After 12 days of submissions, they have compiled a list of the 20 most submitted words to their "Public Relations Defined" initiative. Please note that "brand journalism" did not crack this list, but "brand" -- not surprisingly -- did.
And to make it visually interesting, the PRSA has created a word cloud that represents this list and the other words that were submitted. "Organization" dominates this cloud, but it's interesting to see that neither "journalism" nor "stories" is part of it, yet "sale" is.
Now I do love how word clouds create really interesting visual images and are great for spicing up presentations. However, the challenge is now how to pull a new definition of public relations out of this amorphous heap of words. It will be interesting to see what they come up with -- and if it's any better than some of the other definitions that have been presented by agencies and individuals since this process began.
It's too bad we don't have someone today like Noah Webster, the noted author of An American Dictionary of the English Language, the first dictionary truly American dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, he learned 26 languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, in order to research the origins of his own country's tongue. Published in 1828, An American Dictionary embodied a new standard of lexicography; it included 70,000 entries and was felt by many to have surpassed Samuel Johnson's 1755 British masterpiece both in scope and authority.
Webster was willing to innovate when he thought innovation meant improvement. He was the first to document distinctively American vocabulary such as skunk, hickory and chowder. It would be very interesting to see how he might update the current definition of PR is his book: "the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution; also: the degree of understanding and goodwill achieved."