The Greek philosopher Socrates once quoted: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new”.  This is a sentiment that applies to our rapidly changing industry which has had to evolve and adapt so much over the past few years with the rise of social media and applied digital strategy. And, as communications professionals, we’re welcoming this shift as it’s a cost-effective, fast and easy way to distribute our clients’ messaging directly to consumers. It’s clear that the two being married together means PR is a force to be reckoned with which will become of even more importance as we head into 2017.

It was only 8 years ago that I was giving a presentation to clients here in the MENA region on what Twitter was, received with some initial side-ways looks about the fact that this was a free platform where you  could send your opinion out to the universe! In 2009 the region had an estimated mere 12,200 Twitter users – this figure now stands at 360,000 sharing 2.5 million tweets per day, while Instagram and Facebook user stats are even higher with more adoption rates by brands themselves.

We strongly feel that social media is now essential for any clients’ PR and Communications strategy, rather than an add-on of traditional campaigns. With this in mind predictions for the PR trends will revolve around utilising content and influencer marketing rather than just gaining exposure and generating buzz for business through traditional print media.

2017 trends in a nutshell:

–    The declining print platforms in the GCC region means that strategies will focus largely on digital titles and influencer engagement with a focus on quality rather than quantity – care needs to be taken by brands to not be dazzled by high follower numbers but instead focus on interaction.

–    Engaging short form video content with cleverly integrated client messaging distributed through opinion formers is a must – budget needs to be allocated to the creation of this content.

–    The increase in resources that collect and analyse data means that we can measure our efforts more effectively and calculate ROI and impact, reporting on campaign successes.

In short, media relations, succinct strategy and solid story telling will ALWAYS be at the heart of PR but now with such a large focus being placed on digital, PR Professionals not only have to be good at the latter but become social media and content marketing gurus to keep up with changing landscape – echoing Socrates; don’t fight it, embrace it!

Caroline Holmberg, Managing Director, Sept PR