“If you see millennials grabbing onto an idea and doing what you like to see, blow the horn, cue the band, and shine a spotlight on it.” Jack Welch, former Chairman, GE 
In December the National Press Club hosted this year’s annual PR News PR People Awards luncheon. The event honored individuals across a range of media and public relations specialties, including H+K Strategies Global Executive Chairman and CEO Jack Martin, who was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame.
Alongside the industry leaders recognized for a lifetime of talent, PR News honored 60 young professionals as among the nation’s best emerging talent — aged 30 or younger. These millennials were asked to give brief remarks on where they saw the best opportunities for growth in the public relations industry in general, as well as for their personal careers.
Among the many answers, 10 emerged as recurring themes. The results of this informal survey reveal what some of the country’s most talented rising stars of PR see as the biggest trends for strategic communications for 2014.
- Storytelling – Storytelling lends emotional resonance to your client’s cause, and the public responds best when you personalize the story, breathing life into it beyond mere facts or statistics.
- Campaign Strategy – Because the news cycle has shortened, public relations teams must now approach their client service with the kind of real-time media monitoring, agility and rapid response traditionally reserved for political campaigns.
- Native Advertising – Native advertising — in-stream ads that blend in to the content around them in look in feel — have become key revenue streams for such social media platforms as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Agencies should likewise endeavor to craft messaging that flows naturally from its environment.
- C –Suite Coordination – Access to and buy-in from senior leaders will be increasingly essential for PR campaigns to succeed. H+K Global Chairman Jack Martin pioneered this idea with his concept of The Fifth Seat® — that executives should accord the same weight to their interactions with the public as they do corporate concerns regarding law, banking, management consulting and accounting.
- Integrated Campaigns – Public relations can no longer operate in a silo; rather, the future’s effective campaigns may be those that enlist the coordination of corporate communications, sales, marketing, and even legal departments.
- Hyper Targeting – With increased monitoring and measurement possible, effective PR professionals must be flexible enough in their messaging to reach increasingly small (yet influential) numbers of key stakeholders.
- Content Creation – As brands continue to embrace a steady pulse of content creation as a key means to amplify their message, media relations professionals will increasingly be asked to shift from communicating the message to media influentials to actually creating the thought leadership itself on behalf of clients.
- Visual Communication – Conventional wisdom has become that “the press release is dead.” However, a common theme was that printed news stories themselves are dying, supplanted by more engaging visual media such as infographics or videos spread through channels like YouTube or Vine. Multimedia fluency is now mandatory.
- Social Media – Social media has shown its value in facilitating direct consumer engagement. By knowing and talking with, rather than simply to, your customers, you better earn their trust. Tomorrow’s smart PR leaders know this and have attained fluency in both the technical aspects of such key social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, but also best practices for their deployment in order to energize and engage their clients’ fans and followers.
- Research and Measurement – While agencies have long understood that clients respond favorably to metrics that support the success (or failure) of a given campaign, 2014 will see a greater emphasis not on raw data, but rather the insights those data reveal.
Whether these impromptu survey answers truly capture the key future trends in public relations remains to be seen, but veteran practitioners would be wise to note the words of these millennial voices, as they represent the future of public relations and client service.
Peter Morscheck is an account executive in H+K Strategies Washington, D.C., office.