Planning is critical in any business. In marketing, it’s also important to have the right tools in place to transform plans into a solid strategy with tactics that propel your business forward. So, as we look at trends driving marketing communications in 2019, keep your own toolbox in mind, tossing the now obsolete and adding new devices.

1. Refreshing Your Brand: Self-Evaluation

One of the key ways we serve our clients is by helping them to understand their brand – as it was, is and should be. While we’ve been doing this for years, experts report that this concept is taking a stronger hold recently, especially in the B2B realm. The process involves creating or re-evaluating the core brand promise and developing a messaging strategy that demonstrates what that company is today. It’s an inward look at what the rest of the world sees and, from our experience, it can be quite eye-opening.

2. Marketing in the Palm of Your Hand Social Media Still Reigns

Social networking apps have become one of marketing’s most powerful forms of outreach for both content and advertising. Offering a fast track to customer engagement and brand loyalty, apps like Instagram also promise an attractive ROI. Though a simple process, presence on these networks does require a high degree of creativity to draw attention, maintain contact and engage with followers. Strategic planning to grow a profile’s following is also a necessity. In 2019, we can expect to see newer apps like Vero burst onto the scene and potentially dethrone some of the powerhouse social media mediums that have dominated the market this year.

3. Embracing Influencer Marketing: Authenticity is a Priority

Social media is by far the most popular channel for Influencer Marketing, which entails building relationships with others who can connect you to your target market. An influencer is simply someone who has a large following on social media and other digital platforms, and can affect the purchasing decisions of their fans. Seen to be a perfect tool for today’s ad-weary consumers, Influencer Marketing can add authenticity to brand communications and strategy. We predict that companies in the New Year will focus less on simply the number of followers an influencer has, and more on whether the individual is a good fit for the brand and campaign. Veracity will always be valued be social media consumers.

4. Focusing on The Few: Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing concentrates resources and effort on a limited set of carefully chosen target accounts, and has brought a personal touch to business-to-business (B2B) marketing. Based on the needs of each individual prospect or customer in that set, Account-Based Marketing drives customized campaigns designed to speak specifically to them. Admittedly, it’s harder than sending a blast email. However, reports show that nearly 85 percent of marketers measuring ROI say that Account-Based Marketing outperforms other marketing spends – and 50 percent say the difference is significant.

5. Seeing is Believing: Video Will Continue to Grow and Flourish

Video content, which currently makes up 75 percent of internet traffic, is expected to grow to a whopping 82 percent by 2021, according to Cisco’s annual Visual Network Index forecast. A powerful tool in story telling, motivating, entertaining and relationship building, video is poised to continue dominating digital marketing. Here, again and of course, creativity is essential, as the point isn’t just to sell but to create bonds that last.

What Else is on the Horizon? 

While we’ll stop here, there are few other things to put on your “watch” list as 2019 brings another year of business opportunity.

  • Continue High-Quality Content: Having the information customers/prospects need builds trust and relationships.
  • Know Your Audience(s): Despite the power of individual transmission outlets, you still have to deliver information the way they want to receive it.
  • Think Strategically: You have the content and the means to convey it, but it will go nowhere without a strategy behind it.
  • Make Contact: Technology and automation are wonderful things, but they can’t build relationships as strong as those forged with a personal touch.

In recent years, a new form of marketing has emerged on the scene – influencer marketing. This is defined as the practice of building relationships with people who can then build relationships for you. Social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook have helped develop and enable the success of influencer marketing. This blog explores the topic of influencer marketing and how it is impacting the marketing landscape.

In order to truly understand influencer marketing, we must first clearly define what an “influencer” is. An influencer is someone who has a strong connection with his or her audience. Influencers include: industry experts, bloggers, and micro influencers. Unlike celebrities, influencers are everywhere – they can be anyone. What makes influencers “influential” is their large following on social media and other digital platforms.

A large following gives influencers the power to affect the purchase decisions of others because of their knowledge, connection, or relationship with their audience. Influencers affect purchase decisions because consumers nowadays crave a more personal and authentic voice. Consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements, and as a result, they feel more inclined to trust product and service reviews from influencers as they only promote products they feel strongly about. Since influencers have an authentic voice and the power to affect purchase decisions, brands are quickly turning to influencers in order to have them promote their products or services.

If your company does decide to use influencer marketing to promote its product or service, it’s important to remember to set goals. Also keep in mind influencer marketing doesn’t necessarily increase sales; it’s more about increasing public awareness and generating buzz around your brand. This is why it’s important to research and identify the kind of influencers a target audience listens to. It’s also important to note where people are connecting with influencers. Currently, Instagram seems to be the most popular platform for influencer marketing, as about 92% of influencers use Instagram as their number one platform. However, just because Instagram is at the top of list doesn’t mean brands should ignore influencers on other platforms. Each platform has its own niche audience it caters to.

The popularity of influencer marketing is quickly rising; big brands like Dove and Olay have used influencers to help launch comprehensive advertising campaigns. In such a competitive advertising market, it’s important not to over-saturate consumers with influencer advertisements. Influencers can help brands become more personable, as long as there is authenticity in what is being reviewed or promoted. A successful influencer campaign is about creating an authentic voice by finding the right platform and finding the right influencers.

Influencers have helped revolutionize advertising and marketing into something more authentic and personable. Influencer marketing may be a fairly new concept, but as social media and other digital platforms create more ways for influencers to reach their audiences, the demand in influencer marketing will only continue to increase.  The partnership between brands and influencers has definitely become a forced to be reckoned with.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 – Today, I was honored to speak before the Florida Public Relations Association on the topic of “Building and Sustaining a Thought Leadership Platform.”

While creating the presentation, I remembered a conversation with one of our international clients, who said that, in Europe, “knowledge leader” was the preferred term. The more I thought about it, the more I tended to understand. After all, anyone can have a thought or make you think; not everyone can convey valuable knowledge.
So who or what is a “knowledge leader”? Simply put, that person or organization is the go-to for information in their field of expertise. They are people and companies others trust to be credible, have vision and – most importantly – provide answers to their questions or solutions to problems.
Online, these sources are our bookmarks, our favorites, the ones that take just a few letters in our URL bar. They’re places we go for technical advice, enlightening information, industry updates or surefire recipes. They’re the places we go with confidence of good results.
Before you can position yourself or your organization as a knowledge leader, however, you have to know you’re attempting to lead. Like all things PR, it starts with the audience, understanding their businesses, their values and needs and what will resonate with them. Thought leadership, however, also requires introspection, that is, knowing your own organization and the knowledge equity you most likely already have amassed.
Ultimately, thought leadership is a form of content marketing in which you tap into the talent, experience and passion inside your organization to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a particular topic or in a particular area. The goal is to systematically and consistently provide content that is:
  • Useful and engaging
  • Sustainable, current and curated
  • Authentic, concise and fact-based
  • Appropriate for your audience(s)
And don’t be afraid to take risks, whether it’s with infusions of humor or a unique view of the future. Those are the kind of things that come up in normal conversations and should come up here.
As I told my audience at the presentation, this may be a lot easier than they think, as they – no matter where they are in their careers – and their organizations – no matter the stage of their evolution – already have a wealth of experience, passion and knowledge that probably isn’t being promoted to its full potential.
Understanding those resources is the first step in building a thought leadership platform. The next step is determining your core messaging. Opinions may vary but core facts do not. When creating such a platform for our clients, we take a hard look at what they’re saying about themselves, what others are saying about them and what competitors say in comparison. Then we establish a common language, with the proof points, to help guide us and our clients going forward. A critical part of this is getting your current communications up to date with who you are now. It continues to amaze how many organizations have outgrown their messaging or are delivering conflicting information in different media. This creates the most substantial roadblock to a thought leadership content management strategy.
Once you know whom you’re talking to and what you want to tell them, you can tap into that deep well of expertise to build an arsenal of thought leadership assets and choose the right medium for its distribution, aiming at the heart of clients’ and prospects’ share of mind. And, remember, as communications visionary Marshall McLuhan said a half century ago, “the medium is the message.” That is, the form of a message has influence on the ways in which that message will be perceived. Decades later, it has never been more true, as there are now so many outlets and likely no one uses them all.
However, whatever the medium, emails to white papers, eBooks to video, checklists to FAQs, you want to be your target audience’s source of knowledge whenever they think about . . . you fill in the blank.
Among key tactics in creating thought leadership that drives results are:
  • Identify topics that align with your brand
  • Identify the questions customers and prospects are asking and answer them in multiple formats
  • Create value in the process
  • Provide the type of information a reader will want to pass on or comment about to others.
Is it worth all the work? Absolutely. A strong thought/knowledge leadership program creates an affinity for your brand, enables your content to start a conversation early in the consumer journey and develops a higher level of intimacy with your audience.
There are, of course, many ways to measure the success of your content management program, such as online metrics, open and response rates, page hits, etc. It is also important, however, to take note of both formal and informal conversations about your brand – listening to, learning from and taking the pulse of, your clients and prospects.
Before leaders set out to promote their images and their companies’ messages, they need to control the original content around their brands. By focusing on thought leadership, you can surround yourself and your audience with the right kind of content – content that’s valuable, educational and engaging. As thought leadership continues to grow in popularity (and as the base of successful public relations strategies), agencies will need to adjust their budgets to allow for greater thought leadership development and execution.

A recent New York Times article, “More Wretched News for Newspapers as Advertising Woes Drive Anxiety,” took me back to my days as a print journalist, when a certain editor, to keep us humble, would say, “Remember, you’re just filling the white space around the ads.”

He was right. At least at that time, studies showed that people, when presented with multiple publishers, subscribed to the newspaper whose ads reflected their local shopping patterns. For some of those people, nothing we ever wrote would be as important as a dollar-off coupon for ground beef.

But I digress.

The issue here is the bleak future of newspapers as they continue to be drained of the lifeblood that is print advertising and the question it raises, that is, where are those ads going? The answer, you may have guessed, is at your fingertips – on your phone and personal devices.

As reported in AdAge, the latest local ad revenue forecast from BIA/Kelsey indicates that revenue from local-focused online ads will exceed that of traditional ads aimed at local audiences by 2018. This “digital transformation,” statistics show, is taking place across the nation and “risks sidelining traditional print ads.” It also isn’t helping the television industry, as a new report by eMarketer projects that U.S. digital ad sales will surpass traditional TV for the first time by the end of this year.

The bright side for advertisers is that the emergence of digital outreach widens, rather than narrows their opportunities, offering new ways to win new customers.

Still, danger lurks, as every type of advertising – from sandwich boards to emails to the most sophisticated digital ad – requires a different type of knowledge and expertise to create and execute correctly, and most all campaigns require a mix of media. Further, when initiating digital outreach, which can far exceed any publication’s circulation or TV’s program viewership, advertisers pretty much have to get it right the first time.

In other words, it’s not for amateurs.

If you’re interested in initiating or transforming your own advertising, let’s start a conversation. We’d be happy to share our insights and help you share your word.