From the Front Lines: 4 Challenges the PR Profession Will Take On This Year

January 3, 2017


By Kristin Hampel and Evan Boyer

As PR practitioners, we are well trained and well practiced at spotting emerging trends and new developments within the communications profession. The beginning of a new calendar year typically signifies an opportunity for us to make a few bold predictions — to clients, supervisors or the C-suite — about what changes are on the horizon.

This coming year will be an exciting time for agency and in-house practitioners to take on new challenges and continue to grow our skill sets. But no matter where you’re working, here are a few areas where you’ll be sure to focus in 2017:

1. Seamlessly weaving public relations and SEO together: Although once considered entirely different disciplines within an agency, these two departments will continue to come together to form stronger campaigns. PR professionals can double down with SEO knowledge to make a campaign reach a broader audience as well as make themselves more valuable to a company.

Content is still king, and the ability to generate thought-leadership content is a valuable tool for effective brand journalism and a strong earned-media presence. Layering on an SEO component that complements the excellent writing and media relations work you’ve done is the piece that many PR pros have missed in recent years. 2017 is the time to ensure that your campaigns hit their goals on both fronts.

Key takeaway: Take time to align your PR and SEO strategies this year, and you’ll reap the rewards of the hard work that you’ve already done to make your brand stand out. As you continue to develop more content, few initiatives will be this important.

2. Budgeting for content: Don’t be afraid to have candid conversations about the financial realities of creating and distributing great content that scales to fit paid, earned and owned channels. It might seem like a difficult path to forge at first, but establishing a dynamic, flexible vehicle to connect with key audiences will be critical to your ability to communicate effectively for years to come.

Budgeting appropriately is especially important considering that many social media platforms are significantly diminishing the reach of organic content, instead forcing companies to become more reliant on advertising.

Key takeaway:
Be prepared for your clients to experience a bit of sticker shock as you present them with a plan. Remind them that if they want to move the needle, there is no shortcut for doing it right.

3. Pushing for more rich-media content: As audience tastes and expectations evolve, so too will the types of content being created. Although easily digestible video is not necessarily new, it’s capturing new audiences in a way we’ve never experienced before. The rapid growth of booming social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, for example, can be tied directly to Gen Z’s affinity for “right here, right now” interactions that other platforms just don’t offer.

Interactive tools and gamification are two other forms of rich-media content that will at least cross your radar in 2017. They will take on a larger role if you can determine how your specific target audiences will want to use them. We think that 2017 will be an eye-opener in that regard.

Key takeaway: Pay close attention to the content-consumption behaviors of Gen Z in 2017 if you want to start (or continue) connecting with this growing audience through your PR efforts.

4. Doing great work: Executing a successful PR campaign often relies largely on our ability to develop a deep knowledge base and solidify relationships with key stakeholders. However, there is a misconception that it is simply too difficult to ramp up an agency that does not specialize in a client’s specific vertical.

It’s 2017, and the reality is that agencies can scale to a level of specificity that wasn’t possible even 10 years ago. Talented practitioners are quick to pinpoint key messages and use their experience in adjacent spaces to the advantage of their clients. For companies considering adding outside support, evaluate how well a new agency can fill execution gaps in your company and complement the strengths of your existing team (if you have one), rather than basing your search exclusively on a shared background.

Key takeaway: Doing great work requires both speed and accuracy, no matter the industry. PR teams who can handle a faster pace will capitalize on opportunities to deliver results and won’t keep you wondering about their true ROI.


PR Account Supervisor Kristin Hampel and PR Senior Account Executive Evan Boyer lead PR strategy implementation and execution for GS&F, a fully integrated marketing agency based in Nashville, Tenn. Visit or get in touch at or


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