Over the past few years, digital PR trend cycles have changed exponentially. The difficulty with trends is knowing when to spot a good one (if the fashion faux pas of mixed neon leg warmers in the early 2000’s is any indicator) and being able to distinguish when a trend is merely a ‘fad’. Our Digital PR team have put together their own predictions for the Digital PR trends we can expect to see on the rise this year – but more importantly, how and when to use these trends to produce campaigns that are successful in brand building and earn great backlinks.
Brand building with purpose
Lou Ali – Head of Digital PR
Societal activism has had a huge amount of public and media interest over the last few years, whether that’s #MeToo or the Black Lives Matter movement, along with a heightened awareness and support for LGBTQ+ and environmental issues. These social and political upheavals have caused a positive cultural shift which we are now seeing reflected in consumer values and, as a result, their buying behaviour.
According to the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), purpose-driven consumers - who choose products and brands based on how well they align with their values and are pushing for change on societal issues - now represent the largest segment (44%) of consumers.
Digital PRs should have this at the forefront of their minds when coming up with campaign ideas or how they’re positioning their data. This is a real opportunity to shine for all the right reasons, but also, if handled poorly and lacking integrity, it can leave you open to criticism in a big way, so don’t see this as a ‘trend’ to piggyback on for the sake of it.
By getting under the skin of your brands and understanding all they have to offer; their values, charitable initiatives, and their policies on mental health, diversity, inclusion, accessibility and sustainability, you will get a good steer on where you can take your ideas.
For example, don’t focus on equity for an organisation that lacks a diverse workforce (and maybe challenge them on this!?). On the flip side, if your brand already has a strong public opinion on sustainability, then play in that lane. You know, like we did with the campaign that shan’t be mentioned because I’m still hiding from Swifties (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the case study).
I’ve seen some fab examples of Digital PR’s already doing work for the greater good, such as when Tom Johnson’s campaign shone a light on the ‘callous’ behaviour of energy companies, resulting in the energy supplier trade body issuing a statement about it, as well as OVO changing their policy and providing thousands of customers with savings on their energy bills!
By going down this route, you’re also more likely to connect deeply with a Gen Z audience, who are famous for being certain that they care more about social consciousness than any other generation. It’s also an opportunity to create something that truly fulfills you and gives your work real meaning and purpose...not that there’s anything wrong with a Love Island campaign (we’ve all done it!).
But the point is, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that individuals, organisations and governments CAN bend when they really must, so wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to be part of bringing about change for good? 2023 is the year I believe many will make that a possibility.
Am I relevant?
Alexander Jones – Digital PR Manager
The relevancy of links is becoming increasingly pertinent within digital PR. Over the past few years, we’ve been steadily seeing a much-needed shift away from campaigns that aren’t in any way related to a brand or tied to its core offering, and towards a more focused, relevant and targeted approach.
Whilst link relevancy has been a factor for quite some time, with the likes of the spammy links update in December 2020, it’s clear that Google is putting even more of an emphasis on the relevance of links in assessing the quality of a website. Which is why, as we enter 2023, link relevancy is becoming even more crucial for digital PR.
The shift of focus to relevancy in digital PR has forced us to become far more aware of brand building for our clients as well as building relevant backlinks and coverage. As such, I expect to see more campaigns which place brand relevance at the heart of both concept and execution. Any research will be inherently tied to a brand’s expertise, services, or expertise. With it, the outreach of campaigns will be increasingly targeted at publications and websites which share commonality with the brand.
In many ways, this trend sees the increased blurring of the lines between “traditional” and digital PR, with Google’s own updates speeding up the pace at which the two worlds are merging.
Video killed the (dream-job-campaign-structure) star
Emma Malcolmson – Senior Digital PR Executive
Journalists, brands and agencies alike are continually striving for a more cross-channel approach to digital marketing. Journalists are covering stories that work across all verticals of their publication. Brands are looking for their Digital PR agency to develop content campaign ideas that will work across all verticals of their business. And what’s more transferable than video content?
The past few years have shown just how powerful online videos are for consumers, with the formidable rise of TikTok – which began appearing with YouTube content in SERPs last year. Interestingly, a report from Bottled Imagination looking into the creative assets of Digital PR campaigns found that only 7% of campaigns used video as their creative asset. However, when it came to backlink performance, their research found that Digital PR campaigns with a ‘hero video’ landed the highest amount of coverage and links – with a median of 59 backlinks!
I think 2023 will undoubtedly see Digital PRs investing more into video-focused campaign structures – something we’ve also dipped into this month. We launched the first phase of a piece of research we conducted on behalf of our client, VisitScotland, to tie in with a popular calendar date for Scots across the globe – Burns Night. We surveyed 1,000 Scots to uncover their favourite Scots language poems and found that ‘To a Mouse’ by Scotland’s Bard Robert Burns was the nation’s favourite. We then teamed up with legendary Scottish actor, James Cosmo, to recite the poem. Click here to read more!
In the first two weeks of outreach alone, we’ve earned 83 pieces of coverage with 40 backlinks to VisitScotland’s site, including two features on Scottish radio and a popular podcast ran by The Scotsman publication.
TikTok – the hub of digital PR inspiration
Monika Metodieva – Digital PR Executive
TikTok has become a powerhouse for trends, which has also transferred to the digital PR world, and its impact will only grow this year. The 2022 PRCA Digital Report found that TikTok has surged in popularity among digital comms professionals – 73% of them plan to use the platform in 2023, up from 44% a year ago.
It turns out that what some people might dub ‘mindless scrolling’ isn't so mindless after all! This is how our team got inspired to create a reactive campaign for our luxury gazebo and garden room client – Crown Pavilions. In the run-up to the second season of Bridgerton, we started seeing #regencycore begin to trend on TikTok (it's now at 61.8 million views). This inspired us to create an idea on how to get a Bridgerton-inspired look in your garden. The campaign was a success, with 28 pieces of coverage and 23 links in titles like Country Living, Yahoo, House Beautiful, MSN and more.
The relationship between digital PR and TikTok is not just limited to inspiring ideation or collaborating with influencers. Furthermore, since many are now turning to TikTok instead of Google when searching for something, we’re planning to use their search data in an upcoming campaign. Similarly, TikTok has also started integrating webpage results into their search pages, meaning the lines between search and video platforms like TikTok are becoming more blurred than we might have ever thought.
According to research done by Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google's Knowledge & Information organization, almost 40% of young people go to TikTok when they're looking for a place for lunch, so this will definitely be something we'll be seeing more of in 2023 in the industry.