Public Relations TNT (Trust and Tech):

October 09, 2019 by Leela Bozonelis

2018 is in the history books.  For PR professionals it was a challenging year of trying to maintain relationships and connections in a time of historic corporate and media distrust. And not all of it without good reason. (We’re looking at you Facebook and Cambridge Analytica). Fortunately for every corporate misstep or PR faux pas, there were countless amazing examples of real PR pros doing what they do best. Kudos.

In 2019 trust and technology will continue to be central themes in every public relations and marketing plan.  Here are a few observations on the potential challenges—and opportunities that lie ahead:

Brands find voice through technology

Siri, Alexa and a bevy of other disembodied voice assistants are already fetching our favorite music and providing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, even doing our Christmas shopping.  All with a simple voice command.

Yes, the use of smart speakers and voice technology is clearly on the rise. And with it comes exciting new opportunities to connect to a growing audience of voice-first searchers.  At the start of Q4 2018, voice assistants were in 32 percent of US homes according to the Adobe Analytics’ State of Voice Assistants 2018 survey. By the end of the holiday season it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number at closer to 50 percent. That’s an audience and an opportunity too big to ignore.

The idea that important content is now just a spoken query away has public relations and marketing teams burning brain cells for new ways to utilize this nascent content channel. Mastering SEO for online searching was one thing. Optimizing content for voice searching is a completely different beast. How can content be shaped to leverage emerging voice technology?  What PR stories can be surfaced and shared for companies and clients?

In an article for PR Daily, Meredith L. Eaton, Director of North America at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, has this to say about the voice technology and the public relations possibilities:  “The growth of users’ requests for information and news is encouraging and where there’s the most immediate potential  It’s still early days, but it looks like we’re finally moving beyond voice assistant responses like ‘here’s what I found on the Web that provides a list of (sometimes helpful, sometimes not) articles that you still have to sift through manually to find the answer to your question.  Now, with technology like Google Speakable (still in beta), we can actually continue the voice experience with excerpts of relevant content that’s read aloud – content that could feature products, cite brands as sources or give updates on companies’ latest developments.”

Bridging the confidence gap: the return of the expert

The average American’s capacity for trust in this uncertain time of Russian troll farms, fake news and manufactured followers has been sorely tested. In fact, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer (a cool tool with a lot to say about our confidence in our institutions), trust in Government, Media and Business in the US is at an all-time low—across all demographics.

However one bright spot cited by the 2018 Edelman report is the return of the expert.  It states “voices of expertise are now regaining credibility. Journalists have risen 12 points, and CEOs recorded a seven-percentage point gain, since 2017. Technical experts, financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50 percent or higher.”  This is certainly a shift that should not go unnoticed in your public relations plans.

An audience hungry for true authority and authenticity

But with trust in media and other institutions at all-time lows isn’t that parodoxical? Not quite. People still want good, information---information to help them be healthier, happier, wealthier and wiser. So real stories told by real experts still have power. Something savvy and successful PR professionals will certainly leverage as they work to bridge the confidence gap and build trust for their companies and brands.

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PR and content marketing continue to align

As mentioned above, people have trust issues when it comes media, businesses and brands. Which just means it’s harder than ever to build lasting relationships, make real connections and promote your brand.

That’s why good content marketing is more important than ever to a successful public relations campaign.  And why strong public relations plans and strategy are essential for effective content marketing.  Success today takes the happy marriage of both disciplines as Heather Anne Carson, PR and demand marketing expert, points out.

It’s not hard to see where the lines intersect

Relying on the right media placements and influencers is not enough when it comes to trust. (In fact many companies are taking a hard look at digital influencer strategies in light of recent findings.) Content marketing has always been about adding value and building trust through engaging, enlightening and educational stories. Stories and messages your audience wants to read and can relate to. It takes patience, insight and deep understanding of needs, challenges and desires.

However, even the most thoughtfully cultivated content can’t help if it doesn’t reach its intended audience. This is where solid PR expertise comes in. A good PR team has the connections that can cut through the clutter and ensure your outstanding content stands out in a crowded digital arena.  As Brian Zeng notes in his article on Smart Insights®: “When you combine PR with your content marketing strategy, it becomes a lot easier to publish your content on a reputable website or blog.  This combination can also help you acquire a broader, newer audience. Plus, it helps you send a unified brand message across multiple digital platforms including online publications and social media channels.”

Bottom line: Without great public relations skills and relationships, your best, most incisive, trust-engendering content may not get the exposure it needs to work its magic.

Done well, with thoughtfulness and authenticity, the beautiful union of PR and content marketing can ensure that your company or client is positioned positively; elevate a brand: and even drive ROI.

Get the latest on voice technology, content marketing for PR pros and other issues mentioned above with a  media monitoring and analytics solution like LexisNexis Newsdesk®