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Childhoods on film

Gen Z is developing maturing perspectives on lives in which the highlights of birthdays, holidays and random events aplenty have been relentlessly captured, captioned and shared on social media. Images of the innocent things kids do which seem innocent enough at the time, to the doer can become sources of embarrassment best destroyed once adolescence kicks in. Yesteryear’s photo album, pulled out and shared sparingly with visiting friends and extended families has been replaced by fully labeled and ‘liked’ mini-encyclopedias of youth, day in and day out, available for the world to see 24/7, compiled by those who didn’t grow up that way but often featuring subjects that have little say in their having ‘gone public’.

 

Epic fails, memorialized

 

From literal run-ins with walls or dogs as toddlers to off-key versions of evergreen songs bravely performed in school concerts to sport days that may not have gone well or, worse, ended in goofy victory dances, the normal growing pains of the earliest years are there for the gawking. Generational Kinetics, a Gen Z-focused company, has through polls deduced that the world’s latest generation shows a heightened awareness of privacy rights, because fighting for them – often with their parents and friends – is the new normal.

 

Image control

 

Millions of people barely on the threshold of adulthood are being forced to enter negotiations to control elements of their public persona. Actors once came to such agreements with their agents, and companies still do with their PR representatives. But today it is the norm for everyone to be, at least potentially, known far and wide. Lives are lived in the public domain, or something close to it, monitored by CCTV. Young people today have grown up instant experts in cultivating their image – and coping with posts that spun out of their control long ago, and if even if taken down, leave behind archival memories and the stuff of myths.

 

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Ads surviving and thriving

Some 90% of smaller businesses plan on increasing their budgets for this year, according to a new study. While the widespread and increasingly effective role of semi-autonomous influencers focused on special media platforms continues growing apace, and more and more customers get their information on products and services from peer reviews, the direct messaging of ad campaigns remains very relevant for spearheading and reinforcing the key messages streaming in from a dizzying variety of sources.

 

Making a name for yourself

 

Over half of the firms surveyed reported allocating less than $US50,000 on ads. Industry experts aware of new trends maintain that the benefits of advertising remains high in order to stand up and be noticed in an era marked by diminishing consumer loyalty. In terms of age differentiation, while both Millennials and Baby Boomers stated support of ads, Baby Boomers, who were less saturated with ads as children, were somewhat less likely to find them necessary.

 

Social media is where it’s at

 

In terms of placement, preference was by far strongest for placing ads in social media, with buying ad space on Google search pages, banners and retargeted advertisements also being popular. The dramatic growth of online shopping helps fuel the trend for the increasing relevance of traditional ads placed in new places, via the Internet. At the same time, traditional – and expensive – means of advertising such as on billboards and at bus stands shows only modest usefulness in terms of the much greater dividends paid for ads placed online. Despite the growth of big data and potential for specific sales and cashback pledges, ads online and everywhere remain based around the fundamental concept of generating greater brand awareness.

 

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PR ethics for competition and communication

In this final edition in a short series of blogs on how the Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics relates to online-based PR today, the concepts of furthering communication and competition are looked at. On the face of it, the nature of digital realities today make ‘competition’ and ‘communication’ rather synonymous and symbiotic, seemingly forever feeding each other in an endless round of healthy if at times barbed exchanges online, with no communication-inhibiting monopolization in sight thanks to the competitive nature of posts and counter-posts on Facebook, Trip Advisor and the like…

 

Beyond tit for tat

 

…Only that these social media platforms can become self-serving pedestals and alter the nature and purpose of communication carried out on them. The PRSA’s stated commitment to a free flow of information, are checked by societal forces that have always worked to crush competitive forces, for better or worse, which often links with the idea of limited or at least dramatically curtailed communication. Worse, the go-to biggies of the digital age like Google, Facebook and Mircosoft, while officially espousing free expression, have all come up into trouble for hindering the freedoms they claim they stand for. These three titans have faced, and fought, for example, enormous fines from the European Union, and have become accustomed to operating with few to no rivals. The democratizing forces of the Internet have come up against firewalls protecting multinational institutions, which are often the ones setting the new standards.

 

Is there still room for privacy?

 

While Facebook’s CEO famously derided the idea of privacy in the future, and censorship, facial recognition technology and other digital forces coalesce to serve the consolidation of power, signs of counterbalance are found in new messy norms which champion the peer reviews of the little guy and the growth of the next big-time Gen Z influencer. But as long the Information Age police are the information providers themselves, the whole point of digitalupgrades’ are called into question.

 

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Loyalty and fairness in the digital age

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) lists the noble but sometimes nebulous ideas of loyalty and fairness among their professional values in its Code of Ethics. Loyalty sounds (and is) great. But loyalty to what? And can or should loyalties be ranked? Broadening the issue, we see that brand loyalty has taken a hit in recent years, as the Information Age comes of age and generates more competition and price awareness. Fairness also has relative qualities as well, to be fair. The PRSA spells out loyalty as a quality to demonstrate both to clients represented by PR professionals and to the public interest. Only that the “public interest” may be more open to interpretation that loyalty…

 

Quantifying fairness

 

Fairness is defined as treating various parties that PR teams come into contact with “fairly”, and respecting different opinions and freedom of expression. A free flow of truthful information is also valued. In terms of effectively and fairly advocating for clients today, publicists have to be smarter and on message with excellent networks of contacts to retain what’s left of their influence, as they find it increasingly necessary to become “content marketers” and more analytical.

 

Integrity-based relations

 

The Code of Ethics references the need to have good relations with reporters (along with government officers and the public). These days, bloggers and posters are everywhere. Maintaining ethical, effective relations with such a growing pool of individuals coming from increasingly varied backgrounds and on an enormous scale presents new challenges. Indeed, by many measures today, most of us are members of the “media”, if we count posting on Facebook or Twitter. The nature of living up to the ethics espoused can become all the more challenging when considering how so much of the public is sharing their experiences with products and services. Just as the values that the PRSA are called on more, they can become more challenging to make sense of in terms of functionality, case by case and moment by moment, in an age where potential ethical dilemmas are constantly played out on social media platforms.

 

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PR at its core

The values listed in the Preamble of the Public Relations Society of America (PSRA) continue to provide timeless advice that can prove useful for navigating the uncertain seas of today’s world. Far from old-fashioned, they represent ideas that can provide clarity for professionals caught up in the spin cycle or find themselves outpaced by the digitally savvy or hyper-networked among rising influencers. For every move in which IT-focused, AI-enhanced protocol and big data threatens to disrupt traditional business patterns, the more innovations can arise for those prepared to take risks, if tethered to some of the most essential of key messages listed in the Preamble, a few of which are addressed here…

 

Advocacy

 

Advocacy often seems these days to have been subcontracted by default to influencers, customers writing peer reviews, social media platforms, and a Gen Z getting a feel for their algorithm-assisted moral compass and wanting companies to focus more on, for example, CSR and taking better care of the environment. PR firms increasingly need to up their game to remain relevant advocates for clients, by harnessing big data to analyze and accurately project spending patterns and the behavior of potential customers, and maintain and update better lists of new-gen publishers and persuaders with a finger on the pulse of today’s trends.

 

Honesty & Independence

 

Facts are everywhere these days, oftentimes therefore cheap, and yet in other instances harder to confirm thanks to the fake news phenomenon. The deeper and more meaningful facts will be carefully cultivated, not copy-pasted, and based on critical reasoning and analysis. And, needless to say, enticingly presented. As always, decisive and discreet selected sharing of information remains appropriate. Another listed PSRA value is the independence to provide counsel to whom one choses. As always, it pays to represent clients who are aligned with your own mission and have messages worth amplifying.

 

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In pursuit of wellness

A new report on leisure spending indicates that wellness tourism is growing more quickly than most other sectors in the hospitality industry. For PR professionals, the potential for cashing in is significant, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.

 

More income, more trips

 

A focus on wellness now accounts for about 6.5 percent of all holidays. This represents a growth rate of 15 percent since 2015, or a raw total of about 830 million trips worldwide. Significant growth in particular is being experienced in Asia. As money becomes more available and the region’s share of the global pie grows, lifestyle upgrades are becoming more affordable and the quest for downtime grows. This is led by the great economic expansion in China over the last 20 years. Yoga, Ayurveda, medical tourism, tai chi, temple-stays, swimming pools, cultural tours and massages are all part of the trend, in addition to entire venues exclusively dedicated to making one feel more balanced and in better physical and mental health.

 

Chinese-led growth

 

Tourists from China are expected to add up to almost a third of the global travel market within 10 years. Chinese are already the planet’s largest group of spenders, infusing some $258 billion each year to the global economy. On the receiving end, China is also anticipated to the top destination country for travelers within a few years. China’s dominant “9-9-6” work culture, in which employees are expected to work from 9am – 9pm, six days straight, fuels the need for vacations that are relaxing and then return you to work in tip-top condition.

 

Girl power, magnified

 

Women are leading the demands for more relaxation. This includes time away from the annoyances and pressures of men on female-only vacations, which have grown in popularity by 200% in recent years. Women are wealthier, less likely to marry and have kids, and thus more likely to pamper themselves than ever before, as socio-economic shifts lead to more lifestyle-friendly travels. This ties into traditional market forces (think 500 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets) appealing to women in spa settings and amplified retail therapy, with wellness products and services in increasing demand.

 

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Trust generally, verify occasionally

Consumers in the US are concerned about the quality of food they are eating, but not going out of their way to look into production practices of agribusinesses — not that it was ever easy to discover the truth about food safety, of course.

 

Gluten-free? You tell me

 

Opinion was split about half and half over whether consumer food guidelines were useful and practical, or confusing and not having much relevance to the average investigative eater. Most consumers reported putting at least some small effort into trying to figure out more about food safety, but a full third did very little to no research at all.

 

Second opinions valued

 

The classic approach of consulting informed non-stakeholders into what insight they have on the matter was valued by around 80% of consumers, who were much more likely to trust key third-party certifying bodies or governmental agencies than the producers of food products themselves. Just under half of respondents threw caution to the wind and bought and consumed a product they felt they had doubts about in regards to safety, health or nutrition. Only a third of respondents thought much about the validity of claims made by celebrities or influencers.

 

You are what you eat

 

Compounding the issue was that even though most consumers reported general trust in the safety of what they were eating, it can be challenging to truly know what you are eating, since the potential of big data has done little so far to help trace the multiple origins, production histories and assemblage of the various components going into the foods we eat.

 

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Millennials maximizing their online shopping potential

Reacting with gusto to the dramatically evolving patterns for spending money via the Internet, Millennials are spending like no other generation before them. New research indicates that those born in the ’80s and ’90s are outspending any other age group – both in stores and online.

 

Letting go of money

 

The study show that Millennials are the most likely of generations to drop $50 in the US or 50£ in the UK when they have a chance to so, no matter if shopping at home online or in person in the actual store. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are not spending quite as much as the latest generation to have fully evolved into adulthood. Most likely, once Gen Z fully comes of age, this fully digital native batch will lead the pack in spending as well, as indicated by statistics on those born in the new century who have already joined the workforce and are spending like it.

 

Brand loyalty

 

By a small margin, young people of the Millennial generation are also most likely among the age groups surveyed to support particular companies when they felt their products, services and mission were aligned with their own. Millennials are also more likely to add more items into online carts when they are satisfied by the services provided by a company they like.

 

Subscription box boost

 

In the US, more subscription box business models for starting online income generation based around a particular niche were more popular than in the UK. The trend carried through for all generations. This popular multi-step model outlines how to go from idea to income, based on one’s Internet connectivity and networking skills for finding customers and giving them what they want.

 

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Determining why and how social media matters

New studies this year are telling us what we all know like never before: the impact of social media is significant and growing in many aspects of human life, including buying and marketing of, well, just about everything, now that you ask.

 

Everybody’s doing it

 

Despite a small but significant group of conscientious objectors and an increasingly smaller segment for whom IT is still beyond reach for economic or cultural reasons, social media usage continues growing unabated. Just under half of respondents in a new study reported that they have upped their online portfolios over the last half a year. Businesses know this, and are all the reminded by the potential digitally generated windfall each time a new statistic like this comes out. Ninety percent of these firms are convinced of the significant benefits of maintaining a strong social media presence. Yet they remain unsure of what this means exactly and how best to exploit this new market.

 

Not everyone’s benefitting

 

Seven out of 10 social media marketers believe they are sharing essential information and tips on how in-house teams can develop beneficial strategies. Yet almost 5 out of 10 struggle to meaningfully contribute to the developing pans that help meet their company’s goals and key needs, including positively impacting profits. While the technology and communications norms of everyday social media usage are just beginning to seem understandable, verifying their net impact on various economic aspects of life remains difficult to track.

 

Give the buyers what they want

 

One study of similar demographics produced two years apart delivered results indicating just how challenging it is to reach out meaningfully to audiences and potential buyers. The first study indicated interest in posts making overt reference to sales and discounts, but the response for this same topic this year was much lower. That part of the PR business never changes: trends are just that, and the truly successful messages and campaigns need to highlight something timeless and beyond the interests of the day.

 

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Marketing, automated

When you’re curious about what chance there is of rain, snow or something even more dramatic falling down on you, it’s good to know weather reports are reasonably reliable. While the forecasts for marketing trends may not yet be as accurate, they are getting better at indicating stormy conditions best avoided. Still in its infancy, this technology is called predictive analytics, and uses AI to help marketers forge ahead more confidently with strategy based largely on future customer behavior, in ways that would have looked risky just a few years ago.

 

PR, scientifically

 

The science takes a variety of statistics and facts about current trends to build models that are getting better at giving a good indication of how consumers will spend their money, based on analysis of past behavioral patterns. The big idea is that this will help save a ton of money on splash-out marketing campaigns and help PR agencies and their clients improve ROI numbers. Six out of 10 entrepreneurs questioned in a recent study said that think predictive analytics is an extremely significant trend, while nearly three-fourths of them said it would more definitely be so within two years.

 

Why predictions matter

 

Beyond lucrative applications for predicting the wants and needs of buyers of all kinds of products and services, the technology will be useful for prioritizing and qualifying leads, focusing publicity and campaigns on more targeted audiences, and more efficient introduction and testing of new items in the market. Predictive analytics is one more indicator of how big data is changing and enriching the information landscape in countless ways.

 

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