Blog : trends



2017 was certainly a year of development in the digital sphere in terms of hardware and software. As a marketer, it is vital to be aware of new technological innovations and how new tools will impact the relationships between a brand and the consumer.

2018 will mark a more pronounced shift in the world of digital marketing and with more advancements brings more pressure for companies to adapt to this ever-evolving landscape or risk being left at the bottom of the theoretical ‘digital dump’. The public are now seeking more integrated experiences and this year, emerging technologies opens new doors for brands whilst also presenting renewed challenges.

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It may be premature to say the press release is dead but the idea that you can write it, mass distribute through your email…and expect results is no longer a given.

This year in Northern Ireland, not only have we witnessed the continued decline of circulation figures for our leading print publications; but more and more local newspapers have closed or merged, there has been a buy-out of our local television station, and a host of seasoned journalists laid-off. This has been accompanied by an unprecedented rise in contributors and online news platforms – with the PR world grappling to stay ahead of this new era of content driven media.

In this 24/7 media cycle, we find ourselves needing good content—and that can come in the form of something produced internally, so long as it’s targeted to the publication’s readers and is valuable enough for them to want to publish and share. If you have engaged social networks and can prove you are influential in your own right, media outlets will continue to want to work with you, if only for the sole reason that you’ve increased their page views and maybe even their audience base.

The Evolution of Digital

In the past, online coverage was often seen as the poor relation to print and broadcast media, but today it is paramount. Digital coverage allows us to reach audiences quickly and allows us to measure and track the effectiveness of an article against our clients’ website viewing figures, which is vital in helping to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the articles that we place.

Social media has allowed ‘word of mouth’ to move at a very rapid pace and, now more than ever, digitally savvy consumers are debunking traditional advertising methods and seeking the opinions of friends, industry experts and celebrities. PR managers must respond faster than ever to keep up with the increased demand for 24/7 news and social media output, and we now have many new platforms from which to communicate, including blogs, video and mobile platforms as well as a vast number of quality online magazines.

It’s the hit viral video that links to engaging Facebook and Twitter accounts with interesting articles, blogs, competitions and company endeavours that really make an impact.  The ability to easily use these sites to find a product, peruse user reviews and recommendations, or voice customer service concerns, is what fulfils the needs of the ever more demanding customer.

Creating a TV commercial that drives excitement over a new mobile app, and the mobile app that leads a customer to the nearest store location to make a purchase, is what is now considered PR ‘gold’.

The entire puzzle is a complicated one that demands calculated integration, and PR will most certainly continue to change and evolve as traditional media roles become outdated. Companies that have the most initiative to invest in integrated communications effectively will ultimately be the ones to reap the benefits and survive in the long term. PR professionals are experts in developing content but they now need to translate this across traditional as well as new online platforms.

I was once asked if PR was dead and digital is the new and only way to connect with target audiences. No. PR does exactly what it says on the tin (build relationships with the public) and will continue to do so. But one thing is clear PR managers are becoming content managers and marketing departments rely heavily on our ability to connect them with their target audiences.

For this reason, we have seen a lesser reliance on the traditional media release and the emergence of new roles being advertised in the sector for ‘Content Producers’, ‘Digital PR Executives’ and ‘Head of Content Development’ etc. However, at our first CIPR NI #CommsPRDigital conference in Belfast, Former Press Secretary to the Queen, Dickie Arbiter reminded us that nothing beats face to face communication. There is still a need to move away from the computer and talk direct to journalists and influencers, and build vital relationships.

With that all said, one thing that will remain a challenge in 2017, is the ability to bring clients up to speed with this new way of communicating. Clients always want to see their face in the paper…and when they get a call from their mum saying ‘oh I saw you in the local paper’ then they think we have achieved a result. This issue of educating clients to believe in the power of new forms of communication is a challenge we as PR professionals will encounter increasingly over time. Explaining to them that a tweet, a blog post by a thought leader or a content-driven campaign on an online media site is just as significant and is equal in value to what they have done in the past, means we still may have a job to do.

by Samantha Livingstone, NI Regional Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Download the full report here and read what other practitioners, from across the UK have to say: