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7 content and PR predictions for 2020

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With the new decade in full swing, we share our thoughts on some trends we at BrandContent expect to have a big impact on the PR and content industry this year.

1: There will be growing awareness that brands need to pursue purpose-led marketing. But it shouldn’t just be integrated into their campaigns and creative work – they need to really make it part of their proposition.

Consumers are savvy and can see straight through woke-washing. More agencies will advise their clients on how important it is that they consider purpose in their communication programmes. But we don’t think most brands will really take it on board until at least 2021. At that point, they’ll realise how important it is that they are seen to be doing good for the world and not solely focusing on making profits.

People need to see brands walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

2: A shift in the brand-agency relationship, with many businesses looking to use smaller, specialist agencies or freelancers. We’re already seeing this shift, but it will gather momentum.

There’s been a general decline in trust in the large, traditional agencies. Service standards, attention to detail, strength of relationships and depth of specialist knowledge are lacking – despite big budgets.

At the same time, businesses are becoming increasingly comfortable with the fact that smaller agencies have a mix of agency staff but also pull from the market for expertise in different areas when needed, which gives them access to the best talent in the market at all times, not just bums on seats. We see this trend continuing.

We’re also expecting agencies to be less rigid in their own working hours and practices – and using freelancers more. We expect more full-time staff to go freelance in order to achieve a better work/life balance and to free them up to work with a wider variety of clients.

3: Just like with celebrities and politicians, we’ll continue to see greater individualisation from brands and, in particular, their CEOs and key spokespeople.

Previously communications strategies were focused on building the brand as a thought-leader. But consumers are much more discerning now and want to see that the people behind the brands are experts themselves.

So, as brands come under increasing pressure to demonstrate the positive impact they are having in the world, we expect to see more first-person comms from their leaders.

4: Link building became much tougher in 2019 with many publishers implementing a no-follow link policy. We expect this to continue to get harder in 2020.

Businesses have really begun to understand the value of links for SEO and are increasingly demanding them as KPIs alongside media coverage and content programmes.

However, publishers are now much less inclined to link back to brands, especially brands who are very well known. Many publishers are implementing policies where their links are “no follow” links, if they link at all.

Despite this, content marketers will come under increasing pressure to secure links for clients in 2020 as brands want more for their spend.

Content marketers will need to get much more creative with their content in 2020 in order to make it almost impossible for the content not to be linked to by those journalists and publications who do still link.

At the same time, brands will need to make sure other ranking factors such as brand mentions, traffic, time on page, bounce rates (all signals to Google that the content is good) stay in focus so it’s not just an obsession with the link itself. 

The key things to remember are: is the content good? Does it add value to the visitor? Are we giving them something they can’t get elsewhere? Are we giving them a good content experience? These are the questions that all content marketers should be asking themselves. If you can genuinely answer yes to these, then you will already be putting your best foot forward when it comes to hitting your SEO objectives.

5: Content-driven brands need to capitalise on the failures of traditional media

How people consume mainstream news is changing. People see traditional publishers as good at ‘breaking news’ and keeping them up to date with current affairs. But when it comes to explaining the news, people just aren’t getting that from mainstream media.

This is where brands can step in. Brands can take a topical subject (relevant to them) and go more in-depth than publishers have time for and provide answers to questions people have. Tackling topical content in this way will mean that when people are searching for answers, your content is more likely to reach them because it is useful and informative and answers specific questions they have.

Brands should do more of this in 2020 to fill the void left by publishers who are time-poor and often rush to break stories.

6: Content repurposing

Content marketers with huge content repositories should think more about the existing content they have and look for opportunities to repurpose it and refresh it before creating new content.

Less is more (and quality is more important than quantity) so it’s worth investing in making any existing content as good as it can be before throwing more at the wall and hoping it sticks.

When it comes to social, brands don’t need to create entirely new content for each platform. Instead, they can tailor it to be platform-appropriate. There are plenty of posts and images to scroll through on any newsfeed so it’s important your content is eye-catching and gets their attention. Brands are still falling into the common pitfalls of uploading images that are the wrong size and videos that are too long or need sound to be understood.

7: Investing in social, but smartly

Many brands (both new and existing) want to achieve the “Monzo effect”: a highly engaged community of customers on social that are also avid brand ambassadors.

Brands need to invest upfront in building brand awareness and getting their proposition in front of target consumers and educating them. Hard, direct sales ads at the top of the funnel are especially transparent on social and detrimental to your brand. Providing introductory offers and discounts through these ads might drive sales in the short term, but it won’t do anything for the longer-term success or loyalty of the brand as customers fail to remember who they purchased from or why, without the initial education stage.

Populating your feed with regular, relevant and engaging content is key – but just because you’ve built your profile, there’s no guarantee that customers will come. Investing in paid-for content is key to getting your brand out there and building traction on your posts.

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Sharon Flaherty

Hi, I’m Sharon the Managing Director of BrandContent. Day-to-day I oversee client satisfaction and carry out strategic client work. I work on both established financial services brands as well as challengers and love working on both. In a previous life, I was a journalist at the Financial Times and worked in-house for brands including the MoneySuperMarket Group and leading their Content, PR and Social divisions.

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