7 Communications and Measurement Predictions for 2017

Paine Publishing’s predictions 2017: here’s what the new year will bring to communications and measurement.

1. PR will have to pivot.

The very term PR may be obsolete by the end of 2017. The concept of PR meaning “building relationships with one’s publics” is still a very valid one. But the common vernacular meaning of PR as being mostly about media relations is rapidly going the way of the landline and the floppy disk. Look at job titles these days. My database used to be filled with titles like “PR Manager.” Now it includes one or more of the following in an astonishing variety of combinations: Social, Digital, Content Marketing, PESO, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Communications, Advertising, Marketing, Development, Events, etc.

A PR person’s daily assignment might include anything from creating content, to reaching out to influencers, booking a speech, organizing an event, crafting an employee email, or arranging a meeting with a local government official. (Which means that traditional media measurement is equally obsolete, but more on that in the following prediction.) All of which can be considered building relationships with one’s publics—it’s just not clear where that will live within an organization.

Old fashioned silos are collapsing and budgets are now being allocated according to a new set of buckets, which has been migrating to the PESO (Paid vs. Earned vs. Shared vs. Owned) model.

I would argue that in 2017 you will be dropping the S and O and just called it Paid vs. Earned. As the Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards concluded a few years ago, one “earns” shares by creating great content, so the acronym really should be POE.

But that still leaves the dangling adjective of “owned.” Owned made sense back in the days when organizations did a little social on the side when they weren’t busy doing other things. Somehow it seemed free. With social media budgets expected to rise 21% in the next five years, it’s clear that we are we are pretty much paying for everything social these days, whether in labor or in sponsorship, ads, or some other form.

So, tell me again why we need four words to describe what people are currently doing in marketing? In 2017 we won’t.

2. Media Measurement as we knew it is over.

In 2017 we will be sticking a fork into the old days of measuring communications via placements, column inches, impressions, and—god forbid—AVEs. New tools like Glean.Info and Proof and the incorporation of digital metrics in traditional media measurement systems like Trendkite have made obsolete the old single-channel metrics. Today you can easily evaluate all your outreach—be it in The New York Times, Instagram, NPR, or Twitter. More importantly, these new tools make it easy to see the impact of your media activities on conversions on your website, activity in your CRM system, or anything else you consider business impact.

3. Bespoke engagement scores will begin to kill off impressions.

Impressions are no longer impressive. If nothing else, this past year’s Olympics and NFL season have demonstrated that traditional ways of evaluating “reach” are failing. TV ratings for both the Olympics and the NFL are both down dramatically, mostly because people are consuming sports content in so many other ways.

  • Many of my friends got their Olympic news via their favorite athlete’s stories on SnapChat—one of the few as-yet un-measurable media.
  • Facebook Live, YouTube, and a gazillion other ways to watch have been streaming onto cell phones for years. As bigger cell phones become more ubiquitous the trend will accelerate.

Advertisers and networks understand this and are valuing digital engagement as highly as they once valued ratings. Sadly, PR folks are still obsessing about impressions, so their vendors supply them with ever-sillier, more inflated impressions counts that no one with any knowledge of business believes.

2017 will change all that. Senior leadership is fed up with inflated vanity metrics and will increasingly focus on bespoke engagement scores that are closely correlated with revenue, sales, leads, and other business results.

4. Highly credible media brands and key influencers will replace the “all you can eat” approach.

For years, monitoring vendors have bragged about the millions and millions of outlets they can serve up to their clients. However, in the wake of the avalanche of fake news stories and bogus media outlets that drowned out truth during the election cycle, readers, (and presumably the PR people that are trying to influence them) will realize that, for their messages to be credible, they need to appear in credible outlets and/or picked up by credible journalists.

Communicators that want to be accountable will focus their evaluation budgets on those key authors that are most likely to influence their target audiences.

5. Consolidation will continue—but not in the way you expect.

In recent years, every prognosticator has predicted, mostly accurately, the increased consolidation among social listening and media measurement companies. Cision was gobbling up everything in sight and everyone has expected that trend to continue. But more recently, IBM, Oracle, and other large tech firms have become the gobblers as they increasingly require data for their data analytics operations. God knows the social listening and media firms have that data. For these mega-consulting and tech firms, they are a relative bargain compared to the expense of starting from scratch.

6. Data analytics and insight will be more valuable on your resume than “good people skills” or “great writer.”

These days, the shrinking of newsrooms everywhere means you can pick up an Assistant Managing Editor for not much more than the cost of an intern. The problem with hiring former journalists is that, while they have a nose for a story and can write up a storm, they probably won’t be able to deal with your deluge of data. On the other hand, a good data analyst can dive into your data and very quickly learn about your customers and gain insights into your business. Increasingly, the open hire slots in communications departments are going to data analysts. PR graduates are you listening?

7. Not-for-profit PR will be the place to be.

The past year, and in particular the election cycle, taught the power of activism. Millions of people who never before took part in the political process got to experience the exhilaration of political participation. Thousands knocked on doors, came out to rallies, and took to the streets for the first time. In the election’s aftermath, millions of people who are unhappy about the outcomes are expressing their displeasure with “rage donations.” As a result nonprofits are suddenly swimming in new donors. This unexpected windfall will in some cases turn into opportunities for PR. And for people who have good writing skills and want to make a difference, not just a paycheck.  ∞

(A version of this post originally appeared in PRNewsOnline.)

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.