PR Trends 2017: Why we should care about Fake News, Bots, Live Video, Big Data and Dark Social
By Dominik Allemann, Chairman BERNET_PR AG, Zurich/Switzerland
You often don’t know what to believe these days. This phenomenon is not completely new, today you have also got to cut through a jungle of buzzwords. The shere volume of messages and senders make clarifying more difficult than ever. Nevertheless there are some megatrends that need to be understood by professional communicators. Here are the top five to take note of:
Fake News and the demand for truth This really is a new term: If you search for “fake news” on Google you hardly will find any hits before 2015. Today it’s ubiquitous. Is Donald Trump to blame for this? To some degree yes, but undoubtedly without him, a lot of people not only accept “news” from dubious sources but also disseminate them. There is already a backlash: Providers like Facebook are confronted with demands for better content control. Journalists see the chance to stress their core competencies of sound research, provision of background material and evaluation. The greater the flood of fake news rises, the higher the currency of “truth” is valued. This is an opportunity for those PR professional who stick to the old principle of “truth well told”. There is a growing demand for relevant quality content. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.
Bots and the borders of imagination Technology will eliminate much of our work. There are good and evil bots. We can appreciate those making our life easier by taking over routine work like gathering information faster, more easily and more comprehensively. The evil ones attack, steal or create identities to do their work in the dark. They appear to be commentators, spammers or false friends. It’s nearly impossible to identify them and evaluate their influence on public opinion. The borders of feasibility and sensible applications have yet to be explored. However, we must watch over the developments and decide, which of these technologies we can and must use and which ones we will have to ban from our profession.
Live video and the frightening immediate encounter Live streaming via established platforms already was the most important trend in 2015. And this will – undoubtedly – stay the same this year. The technology is ready, extremely easy to use, and has rapidly gained acceptance among users. Facebook started its “Live” service no longer than a year ago. Despite the rapid adaptation by consumers successful examples of live video applications by companies are rare – but they do exist. Basically corporate live video needs some guts. The need to react instantaneously means a partial loss of control. As a reward you obtain high credibility, strong emotions and a close relationship with your customer.
Big data and the need to select Everyone owns data. Only if you know your Google or Twitter Analytics data can you tell anything about your followers and visitors. But gathering, storing, handling and evaluating data is labour-intensive and complex (check this useful overview of tools). You need to know what you want to know. This takes expertise. Otherwise you will drown in a flood of useless data. Communications professionals play an important role in that game. They have to define topics, messages and priorities – by using data, but also by structuring them.
Measurement and its limitations Measurement of interactions is a day-to-day business. We are able to track and evaluate all kinds of interaction. Thanks to mobile applications there is nearly no area of daily life not affected by digital activities. But is this the real picture? There is a lot going on we don’t see. From email to WhatsApp, there is a whole spectrum of communication channels where people interact with brands and products invisible to our analytics tools. This is not an argument to abolish measurement, but we must be careful to set the parameters correctly and we have take so called “dark social” into account when planning and evaluating our activities. Sometimes we should even trust our gut feeling instead of believing in spreadsheets.