After attending PR Council’s Annual Critical Issues Forum #PRGenome recently in New York, I concluded that PR is as interesting and challenging as ever, only now the opportunities are more global, more entrepreneurial and more collaborative.

For me, it validated that the way rbb works to identify and engage with the right influencers and experts and focus on clients’ business goals and strategy, rather than just execution, will lead to continued agency success.

CEOs from the worlds of publishing, media technology, influencer marketing and content creation, along with CMOs and CCOs of Fortune 100 companies shared opinions on industry trends with PR Council members. Here are the most important takeaways.

1. There Is Shared Responsibility for Brand Ownership

Four Trends Shaping the Future of PR

L-R: Ali Kavulich, Mike Santoro, Dorothy Crrenshaw, Jeff Altheide, Laura Tomasetti, Lisa Ross, Jennifer Tucci, Eric O’Brien

Sitting with my PROI agency owner counterparts, we agreed that the opportunity is greater than ever for PR to be disruptive as today’s consumers are prepped and ready to engage with brands that are creative and authentic in how they launch new products and services.

Our responsibility as strategic counselors is to help clients understand that brand ownership is shared with customers and influencers who are shaping consumer perception and acceptance as much as corporate marketing. They must be convinced to think beyond owned communication channels as success is where distribution is, not necessarily their websites or social platforms.

2. Influence Must Be Earned, Not Bought

Influence

A popular panel focused on Influencer Marketing and whether popularity equals influence. Understanding that influence is the give-and-take between individuals where there is trust and transparency, I agree with @Padday who shared that too many companies and marketers have confused volume with credibility.

Consumer mistrust is the result of hiring “influencers and brand ambassadors” with large numbers of fans and followers to share corporate-sponsored content rather than building a relationship of knowledge sharing with trusted experts in their respective areas, who can range from researchers and educators to moms and teenagers. Influence can’t be bought, it must be earned, authentic, credible and relevant to foster meaningful brand connections with consumers.

3. Content Marketing Needs Strategy

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One discussion, “Are Marketers Killing Content?” shared how everyone claims to be “contentcreators.” The result – oversaturated social platforms that turn off real customers. Good content can help a company achieve its business goals but it requires specific knowledge of audience, proper medium and distribution timing.

Brands that simply seek to create and post about themselves will eventually lose their audiences. Successful alignment between developing good content and distributing it effectively equals customer engagement that results in brand growth. Not easy but yes attainable, if approached with an eye towards strategy rather than just execution.

4. Agencies Must Invest To Succeed

PR Genome Panel

PR peeps, pay attention… Corporate PR and marketing executives shared that they value agencies with practice strength, strong value propositions and smart data/analytics. Invest to develop these and long term partnerships should result.

According to @virtualmonteiro, CCO of Mastercard, agencies that act like deli counters waiting on orders rather than telling, sharing and showing expertise will lose. Agency owners have a responsibility to foster learning, provide smart PD offerings, invest in research, new systems and encourage staff to make time to engage. Prediction…ignore and you’ll be left behind.

All in all, while this is a challenging time for communicators, it is an exciting time too. After 25+ years, I continue to be inspired to experiment, discover, and share valuable insights with clients and smart, relevant content with audiences. Bravely I go to conquer the future in my chosen profession: PR.