It’s been an exciting time to build a public relations firm. There are new rules, new tools and a breathtaking pace that requires nimbleness, entrepreneurial thinking and a willingness to stick your neck out. For me, the prize has been to work with savvy and exuberant people who question everything, demand innovation and bring creativity to work each day. Our clients’ businesses are changing dramatically, too. Some are industries, such as fintech and the sharing economy, that didn’t even exist ten years ago. Here are some changes that hit us all this past decade:

  • A decade ago, there was no Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest. Today, they’re our best friends. We had MySpace and Facebook, but only 10% of American adults had at least one social media profile, compared to over 77% now. What started out as a fun way to connect with friends has spawned business-to-business marketing opportunities and turned traditional advertising upside down. Public relations has become as much of a conduit for targeting your audiences as advertising.
  • A growing skepticism in society has meant that third-party endorsements rule buying decisions. Yelp, LinkedIn, online product reviews and Glassdoor have given mid-size and small businesses an opportunity to compete for business, employees and awareness. What’s the first thing you do before purchasing? You check out the customer reviews and recommendations.
  • Public relations is expanding content development. The PESO model (paid, earned, shared and owned) refers to the different ways to communicate for successful awareness campaigns. PR firms can no longer snub their nose at the “P”’ aspect of the equation. Social media and the media’s move into social offers opportunities to target select audiences, improve a brand’s SEO and create credibility by providing insights directly to their audience without selling anything.
  • Video content is king. In today’s media landscape, the focus is on authenticity and instant, unfiltered action, and video is the perfect channel for mobile consumption. With video now accounting for more than 82% of internet traffic, PR pros and brands must embrace YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and whatever pops up next to share their brand messages. These platforms make you the broadcaster and allow for direct and immediate communication with customers, prospects, employees, partners and the media.
  • Companies’ reputations, market share and revenue are in mortal peril as never before. Customers, investors, employees and communities respond to negative reputational news within hours today. As a result, reputation management and crisis communications are C-Suite issues.
  • Thought leaders are the new superstars and celebrities. That doesn’t mean anybody with an opinion is a thought leader. A thought leader is trustworthy, not salesy. Their goal is to educate and empower others with insider knowledge and new perspectives. They inspire discussion about the industry and how to change it for the better. Their value is that they make change happen.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here. With newsrooms across the country running on skeleton staffs, reporters are focusing on in-depth stories and letting technology take the reins on earnings announcements. With AI bots spitting out just numbers, the onus falls on communicators to bring context when we can. It’s crucial for PR and marketers to adapt and embrace the chance to tell client stories in a fresh, immersive and compelling way.
  • Creating strong personal relationships is more important than ever. Innovations in technology and social media may have redefined and molded the field of public relations over the past decade, but one truth remains the same: relationships are all that matters. Communicating values is as important as describing what you do. Bonds forged with reporters, employees, clients, prospects and communities are the most valuable assets.

This week Olmstead Williams Communications celebrates ten years of success in business. I intend to make our 11th year our best. We’ve all been in it together—let’s keep it together for the decade to come.