curated by the usc center for public relationstherelevancereportleading trends, topics, wisdom from thecommunications leadersbehind theannenberg school at theuniversity of southern california2017

introductionThe mission of the USC Center for Public Relations (CPR) at the Annenberg Schoolis to shape the future of the communications industry and those who will lead it. Tothat end, we have created the first annual Relevance Report – a forecast of topics and trendsthat will be important to communicators in 2017.All of the contributors to this project are associated with the Annenberg School forCommunications and Journalism at the University of Southern California. They includeprofessors, students and members of CPR’s advisory board. They are a diverse group of leadersin their agencies, industries and academic fields, who represent equally diverse points of view onthe future of communications.The Relevance Report is designed to give those studying and working in public relations apreview of what the coming year will mean for our industry, for our society and for our careers.The pieces are brief and insightful and cover a broad range of topics from Cuba to China andfrom silent films to virtual reality. We hope the Report will become a valuable tool for thosewho want to remain relevant in one of the fastest-changing global professions. We plan toexpand and enhance the content in the future. So please let us know what you think.Many thanks to our contributors who took time out of their busy schedules to share theirperspectives, to our staff members who manage the editorial, design and production process,and to our sponsors who make our work possible.fred cookdirectorusc center for public [email protected]

table of contentsmediabrandCome Closer, Bernadette Anat, Instagram06Brand Building in Real Time, Heather Rim, AECOM56Mainstreaming of Video Streaming, Cindy Gordon, Nintendo of America Inc.08Seeking Relevant Insights, Robert Kozinets, USC Annenberg58You Get What You Pay For, Gabriel Kahn, USC Annenberg10The Omnichannel Customer Experience, Kirk Stewart, KTStewart60Learning from Machines, Alex Cohen, Apttus12The Road to Relevance, Caroline Dettman, Golin62Cutting the Cord, Stephanie Pulido, USC Annenberg14Reputation Requires Permission, Michael Stewart, Ketchum64Looking into the Future with Outside Insights, Kaveh Rostampor, Meltwater16Sixty and Significant, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Dr. Katherine Pieper, USC Annenberg18peoplecommunicationsNever Being Content With Content, Corey duBrowa, Starbucks22Influencers: Now More Than Ever, Deanne Yamamoto, Golin24Changing Skills for a Changing Landscape, Bob Feldman, PulsePoint Group26Navigating Social Geology, Dave Samson, Chevron28The Rise of Purpose, Burghardt Tenderich, USC Annenberg30Chief Gatekeeper?, Don Spetner, Weber Shandwick Worldwide32Vir tual PR, Juan Garcia, USC Annenberg34Time to Retire Old Expressions, Bill Imada, IW Group36Global Policy in a Fracturing World, Jay Wang, USC Annenberg38technologyReturn of the Silent Film, Tyler C. Stevens, Shareability42Vir tual Reality is a Reality, Rober t Hernandez, USC Annenberg44The Future of Online Shopping, Dan Tarman, eBay46Screaming into the Echo Chamber, Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications48China Technically, Glenn Osaki, MSLGROUPMr. Robot, Tony Weisman, Digitas LBi5052Millennials in Management, Adrienne Cadena, Havas Street68Demographics and Race Reshape the Future, Julia Wilson, Wilson Global70Wheels Up for Cuba, Jim Olson, United Airlines72A Life Half Full, Tom Noland, Humana74Why Empathy and Why Now, Dr. Ernest J. Wilson III, USC Annenberg76


the focus of next year’sinnovations will becomea bit more humanized.come closerrelevant comedybernadette anatComedians are dominating video views on Instagram, and they’re capturing young audiencessimply by illustrating the tiny truths of normal lives. To seem #relevant, and to make the#relevant hilarious, is to be powerful. These video creators will be the keyholders to the rapteyes and ears of millions of their teen fans, and teen-hungry brands will continue to flock andthrow money and products their way, as they’ve done throughout 2016.In the world of social media, innovations in 2016 were all about speed, efficiency and frenziedlaunching – it seemed like, every five seconds, a major social media app was coming out with anew feature to better serve their communities. Our messages could disappear; our faces couldtransform; our videos could tell much longer and more provocative narratives. With InstagramStories, we went from only allowing the world to see your most precious, beautifully curatedmoments to being able to capture everything that happens in between.In short: 2016 has been a lot.My job at Instagram is to think about what is important to the everyday teen who is inundatedwith these updates; who is confronted daily with the thousands of surfaces on which they areexpected to share their lives. I don’t think the pace of product update launches will change –I think we all have to become accustomed to this breakneck Update Your App Every 12 Secondspace. However, as we stumble confusedly into 2017 – or, personally, sprinting manically awayfrom the moral garbage fire that was 2016 – I think the focus of next year’s innovations willbecome a bit more humanized.If this year’s social media landscape seemed to poke young users with a message of Share More,next year’s innovations will be telling us all one thing: Come Closer.Here’s how next year will get us all to bring our networks closer around us:video: permanent, ephemeral and livePresent teen communities effortlessly and comfortably express themselves via video. (Us Olds,who clam up or run screaming when a camera is pointed at us, do not.) The three main meansof vertical, mobile video broadcasting – Permanent, i.e. Instagram video or YouTube; Ephemeral,i.e. expiring Instagram Story or Snapchat videos; and Live, i.e. YouNow and – will growto the point of total fluidity and fluency in our younger teen communities. In short: All formsof video will proliferate and rule, and mobile teens will be totally fearless about using all of it.(Which will, naturally, terrify adults.)6social goodThe upcoming wave of teen communities consists of humans who know that the generationsbefore them have, essentially, ruined the earth in countless ways and feel an instinctiveresponsibility to be a part of the solution. In the wake of this tumultuous election year, we willsee unprecedented teen interest in causes, campaigns and products pointed toward preservingthe earth, giving to those less fortunate, and displaying awareness and support around issues ofsocial justice.a return to IRL (in real life)In the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with many teens – international and domestic, normaland “influencer-level” – they are all deeply grateful to social media for one thing: Giving themreal-life communities. I am referring to the teen who finds a supportive LGBTQ family online,away from their conservative hometowns. The teen who shares photos encouraging total bodypositivity and filters her comment section to ensure only positive and enthusiastic conversation.Our teens are eager to bring their online circles of support to life, whether through organizedmeet-ups, fandom-focused events like VidCon or TwitchCon, or shooting a DM to a mutualfollow near them and brainstorming new places to hang.As media platforms, brands and PR professionals catch on to the fact that today’s teencommunities are not shallow or wasteful, but incredibly creative, powerful and hungry for deeperhuman connections, the landscape of media directed at teens must – and will – morph. I amincredibly optimistic about the forecast of teen community engagement in the next year.The kids are, have been, and will be, alright – we just need to listen to them, keep themconnected and stay out of their way.Bernadette Anat is a writer, producer and teen advocate living in San Francisco. She is currently a Producer on Instagram’sCommunity team, focusing on Teens & Emerging Trends. Bernadette obtained her B.A. Public Relations from Annenberg andis an advisory board member of the USC Center for Public Relations.7

mainstreamingof video streamingA fun and vicarious chance to feel like you’re looking over a player’s shoulder. Enter sites likeTwitch that took out the one-step removed, virtual, “feels like” element of canned video andmade the experience live and even more real and appealing in all its rough, unproduced andstreamed authentic glory. Amazon thought enough of the idea to pay nearly 1 billion for Twitch,and YouTube soon followed suit with its own live streaming gaming site.cindy gordonThe appeal of these live stream videos transcends the so-called video game fanboy because theytap into a much deeper consumer yearning for real and unaltered content – that just happens tobe colorful, compelling and a little voyeuristic to look at with a community of co-viewers.The writing, or in this case the video, is clearly on the wall.That’s why we’ve seen the world rapidly shift from not just static video to live stream, butfrom desktop viewing to follow-you-anywhere mobile live streaming. What started with appslike Meerkat and Periscope has now taken hold as a foundational element of social media andstalwarts like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.As a marketing medium, video has amped up consumer conversion and click-throughs by aminimum of 80%, it’s created a new tier of mega influencers with millions of followers and itsmobile variant is jumping by orders of magnitude in volume and views. And if a picture is wortha thousand words, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million, according to one analyst’s estimateon video’s impact.Marketers have gotten the message. In 2016, video ad spending exceeded 5.5 billion and videoads will account for more than one-third of online ad budgets.But for all the runaway momentum, video is about to become as stiff as an old-school infographicin the ever-evolving arc of “visual content marketing.” Like every aspect of tech-drivenconvergence and disruption, video is being upended by the next big thing.Ironically, in this case, video is being disrupted by itself.I’ve seen it in my world of video games, where it seems like five minutes ago the rage was “Let’sPlay” videos, where gamers are entertained and educated by watching a YouTuber work theirway through a game in a packaged video.Tapping into this trend might seem like an easy pivot for brands already dabbling in video or forthose looking to get into the next new channel for direct-to-consumer communication. But it’snot that simple. The challenges of not selling or pandering to today’s digital native are magnifiedthrough the aperture of live video, unadorned of gloss and packaging. If brands don’t raise thebar in creating real-time, unpolished, and authentic moments in their live streaming efforts, theywill pay a painful price with clear-eyed video viewers.As communication innovators, we have the chance to lead the mainstreaming of live videostreaming if we don’t stop at simply wedging our marketing messages into the stream.Can we create live video experiences with energy and personality that interact with consumers’lives and loves in a manner that respects the medium, defines it further and makes a naturalhome for brand and product story-telling? Or do we play catch-up to this next trend, bolt on anad or product placement and hope we don’t get burned by consumer backlash?Added bonus: The work we do here will position our industry better for future developmentsin emerging areas like augmented reality and virtual reality – all pieces of the bigger visualcontent puzzle.if a picture is worth a1000 words,one minute of video is worth1.8 million8Given the potential lasting nature of this medium, it will be worth the effort to lead the charge.The possibilities are as endless as the potential of a live video once the camera starts to shoot.With more than 20 years of PR experience in consumer brands, Cindy Gordon joined Nintendo of America in March 2011as vice president of Corporate Affairs. Cindy is an advisory board member of the USC Center for Public Relations.9

you get whatyou pay for40 % of people gettheir news via Facebookgabriel kahnThis expression, repeated to me by my grandmother, who came of age during the Depression,frames the current struggles of the news business. To put it bluntly, for close to two decades,readers of news have been fed the intoxicating proposition that they don’t have to pay a dime.Now, it’s becoming clear that the massive online advertising market that magically was supposedto make that all work is coming unglued. As it does, it is bringing about seismic shifts in theworlds of advertising and news.In the mythology of online publishing, national brands were supposed to garner immense digitalaudiences, advertising would flock to them and money would fall from the skies. How weresmaller, local news publishers supposed to compete? Simple. They attracted a more definedtarget audience, often distinguished by geography, so they could charge a higher rate and get byeven with fewer eyeballs.Publishers were just as eager as readers to believe this fantasy, and they adjusted theirdistribution accordingly, flooding the Internet with free content. This system was brought downby the most basic law of economics: supply and demand. In a digital world, it is easy and cheapto create new advertising inventory (supply), but advertising dollars (demand) consistently growin line with GDP.10Therein lies a thorny problem. For years, platforms, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, hadpushed the gospel that their interests were aligned with publishers. Make your content freeand we’ll send you more traffic and more money. But only one side of this equation is working.And though many publishers, at the behest of Facebook, crafted their audience acquisitionstrategy around the promise of finding readers on the social network, the Palo Alto firm recentlydemonstrated that love isn’t a two-way street. In July it tweaked its algorithm to give higherpriority to photos from friends and family than to news.So these two industries, platforms and news, are starting to untangle themselves from whatwas always a dysfunctional relationship. But as it is with many separations, it isn’t pretty. Newspublishers are now scrambling to squeeze more revenue directly from readers in the form ofsubscriptions, memberships, specialty paid products, conferences, or whatever else they candevise in a hurry. But after decades of being told that news was free, not every reader is willingto pay up. Banner ads are giving way to branded content in an attempt to create advertisingthat doesn’t get immediately commoditized by Google. If you’ve noticed a proliferation of emailnewsletters in your inbox, it’s because publishers now need to claw back that direct relationshipwith readers that they previously had ceded to the social platforms. It’s a major shift towardproducing and distributing content, and publishers have yet to figure it out.Digital ad prices have been falling steadily with few exceptions. In the most recent quarter, overaladvertising revenues at The New York Times Co. were down 7.7%. A former digital productsexecutive at the Los Angeles Times told me that she had watched CPMs fall from around 20 afew years ago to around 2 recently. Some outlets that depended heavily on digital advertising,such as the International Business Times, have had to slash their newsrooms to adjust.Meanwhile, the platforms are where the eyeballs are. They have been migrating there steadily foryears. According to the latest Pew research, 40% of people get their news via Facebook. This ishitting TV the way it’s hitting traditional print outlets. This year, MTV’s Video Music Awards foundnearly double the audience (12 million) on Snapchat as it did on its linear television broadcast.At the same time, digital advertising continues to be a boon for the two heavyweights -Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. Google’s revenues alone are greater than that of the entire globalnewspaper industry. They have little incentive to change the status quo.Gabriel Kahn is a Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication andJournalism. Gabriel Kahn worked as a newspaper correspondent and editor for two decades, including 10 years atThe Wall Street Journal.11

learningfrom machinesalex cohenThe future is now, and it is not picky: whether through self-driving cars, movie recommendations,or a guiding hand in a complex sales cycle, the effects of artificial intelligence are readily apparentacross every industry. The media relations ecosystem is no exception. This is a field that pridesitself on innovation, adaptation and being ahead of this curve.Not long ago, the onset of digital communications and social media brought about a pivotin media relations so drastic that the entire industry tore up the playbook; we’re still seeingthe impact today. Below are just a few examples of these paradigm shifts, and how informedpractitioners can negotiate them:Intelligent automation has flipped the script on how articles are created, published andshared; nationally respected institutions, like the AP, now employ advanced ‘robot journalists’that generate content with complete independence. This is enabled by institutions likeAutomated Insights, using a data-based algorithm that powers their Wordsmith platform,generating millions of articles per week.If robots are breaking the news, what will warm-blooded people write about?The repercussions, the results, the long-term benefits or consequences of whateverhappens to be dominating the headlines. It’s not yet time to negotiate with A.I. writers;instead, work with your clients to dig deeper into what your pitches are trying toaccomplish. It is likely that the second layer of messaging will be of more interest to yourmedia targets – their voice and opinion is the separating factor between human andmachine, give them a chance to emphasize it.if robots are breaking the news,what will warm-blooded peoplewrite about?12Content curation for your favorite outlet’s homepage is now, literally, a science. Somewriters are allowed free reign to find subjects that interest them, but most are not in thatposition. Click-bait pays their rent and feeds them; if they are hungry for a well-viewedarticle, you must deliver it to them. This can be accomplished in several ways:You must understand a site’s priorities as well as the writers do. Don’t be afraid toask them directly, everyone benefits. For example, how does your favorite outlet’sdisplay algorithm work? If an article is going to stay on the front page it depends on itgenerating 1,000 shares or views in the first day, then you must work with your clientteam to disseminate it to their entire company, and your own organization’s network aswell. If views within the first few hours aren’t spectacular, you might lose your chanceto work with them a second time. Game the system by preparing these measures inadvance of publication.While often built in-house (to mixed results, circa Facebook’s recent content syndicationcontroversies), cloud entities like Domo offer a custom approach to these mechanicsthat use real-time analytics and behavior-based data to bring content to their users.Predictive insights and segmentation have brought a level of personalization to readers thatthey may not even be aware of. Don’t underestimate the reach and value of a little-knownwriter, given modern search engine capabilities.It’s easy to aim high: no one forgets their first big hit in the The Wall Street Journal orThe New York Times. However, these aren’t always going to be the most tactically valuablepieces from your client’s POV. Today, not only are niche topics and angles easy for aninterested reader to find, they are often delivered to them directly. If there’s a specificannouncement or product capability that doesn’t interest the biggest players in yourmedia sphere, don’t abandon it. Dig deeper and find the right spokesperson, even ifit’s a local outlet from somewhere that’s decidedly un-local. Alternatively, pair the newswith a more relevant story: if a new product feature isn’t breaking down doors, howmuch does it benefit from a subtle mention of how it might impact the public markets?Not only does this land you an extra keyword for search engines to pick up on, it couldtip the scales in terms of delivering results. From Google’s ad displays to B2B-focusedorgs like Netline, content syndication is booming due to its critical place in the leadgeneration pipeline.As always, the best-informed professionals will adapt to new technologies. Don’t view them asbarriers to be overcome: understanding each new development is the first step in making itwork for you.As Director of Corporate Marketing, Alex Cohen is responsible for communications strategy and global branding for Apttus,the category-defining Quote-to-Cash provider. Alex Cohen is an USC graduate and an advisory board member of the USCCenter for Public Relations.13

cutting the cordstephanie pulidoAs younger generations move further and further away from consuming content viatraditional mediums such as print newspapers and magazines, it makes sense that eventelevision is beginning to feel neglected. With the advent of online streaming services such asNetflix and Hulu, which allow you to personalize your entertainment selections the generalizednature of cable becomes unappealing. Instead millennials are gravitating towards their electronicdevices such as their laptops and cellphones to engage with content.The only major pull to maintain a cable subscription these days for millennials stems fromlive sports. Despite sporting events maintaining their real-time allure fairly well, even that isstarting to diminish. ESPN from 2013-2015 lost about 1.3 billion in revenue due to 7 millionsubscribers cutting the cord with their cable fees. Since subscribers account for the majority ofESPN’s revenue this loss was not taken lightly. ESPN has thus recently decided to shift towardunbundling their network and will soon be rolling out niche sport streaming services while stillmaintaining prime content like basketball and football on television.ESPN is not alone in this endeavor, as many television networks have launched their own onlinestreaming services. The NFL recently partnered with Twitter to live stream 10 Thursday nightfootball games this season. Their first live stream attracted 2.1 million viewers over the spanof the Jets vs. Bills game and was praised for its accessibility, easy functionality and glitch-freeinterface. The overall thought process behind ESPN and the NFL offering their content via onlinestreaming services is to allow viewers who may not have cable but are active online and valuemobility to have the opportunity to access their content. Now, the tricky part is for networks tomake a profit from these streaming services and for public relation practitioners to navigate thischanging landscape.Live award shows are similarly facing a rating crisis as TV viewership continues to plummet yearafter year. The ratings for MTV’s infamous Video Music Awards have dropped for the fourthyear in a row despite performances made by powerhouse acts, like Beyoncé, and constantonstage drama. MTV states that despite the drop in television ratings there was a 70% increasein online streams from 2015. The only problem with online streams is that they are not nearlyas important to advertisers as television ratings. Advertisers continue to use the Nielsen ratingsystem as a measurement of whether advertising on that network is profitable. As MTV’s ratingsdrop so do those willing to advertise on that network which impacts MTV’s profits. However,MTV is not alone, most networks are facing the same problem as they scramble to maintainrelevance with their millennial audience and the advertisers who want to reach them.14Although millennials are shifting away from television as a prime source of content this in noway reflects a decrease in consumption of content as a whole. In fact, more content is beingconsumed now than ever before. The average millennial spends around 490 minutes a day withsome sort of media and this number is expected to increase to 506 minutes by 2017. The onlything changing is how this content is consumed. The advancement of hand-held technologydemands that communicators be increasingly creative in their approach to reaching youngertarget audiences.As a millennial, I did not own a television during my years at college and only now have onebecause I live at home with my parents. But I never turn it on. I consume all of my mediathrough my phone or laptop and exclusively watch shows and movies from these devices.One of my professors recently asked our class who owned a television and only half of thehands went up in a room of 20 public relations grad students. And most of the TV ownersconfessed they rarely turned them on and when they did they were often interacting with anelectronic device at the same time.The most effective way to target my generation is through social media, specifically throughInstagram, Snapchat and YouTube. We appreciate the curated content marketed on theseplatforms and social media influencers who dominate them. As millennials continue to cutsubscription fees and disconnect televisions, traditional communicators will lose a tried-and-trueavenue to reach younger audiences. But millennial public relations professionals will always knowhow to find them.Stephanie Pulido is a first-year graduate student in the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program at theUniversity of Southern California.the average millennialspends around490 minutes a daywith some sort of media15

looking intothe future withoutside insightsmedia intelligenceenables us to tune intothe never-ending streamof conversation withina business ecosystem.kaveh rostamporA brand adds up to much more than a business asset or marketing metric. Brand activity includesa wide range of interactions. Pick any company and think of all the ways it tries to engageaudiences in dialogue—and all the ways its audiences respond. With the right mindset and tools,tracking these interactions in the news and on social media can go far beyond shaping ourapproach to communications. It can tell us a lot about the business performance of a companyas a whole, now and in the future, with the potential to change how we make even the mostfar-reaching strategic plans.This already sounds familiar to communication pros. They monitor their brand across hundredsof thousands of publications and billions of social media conversations. They do this every day.If they’re proactive, they monitor competitors just as carefully. Even more importantly, theydon’t just address isolated media events as they arise, they use media intelligence analytics touncover trends that are shaping brand perception in real time. They turn what most people thinkof as ephemeral, “of-the-moment” interaction into clear, actionable insight, the kind we calloutside insight.With media intelligence, business decision-makers can shift attention from internal processes toexternal ones. For many years, business intelligence has exclusively focused on proprietary datastored in ERP, CRM, and SCM systems to incrementally optimize operations. Media intelligenceon the other hand enables us to tune into the never-ending stream of conversation within abusiness ecosystem.While corporate communications leaders have a head start in this arena, at Meltwater, webelieve that outside insight will increasingly gain traction across business functions. New data willbe added to the mix, including financials, job postings, real estate transactions, and patent filings.What do all of these data types have in common? They communicate intent. In other words, theyopen up a view into the future of companies, industries and markets.Why limit our focus only to ourselves when we can just as easily look at our competitors,partners, customers and critics? By mining openly available data, we can know as much aboutthem as we know about our own business. And we can respond to change while there’s still timeto do something about it.A strong business can make adjustments as it goes, but as agile as your internal processes are,if you don’t have the relevant input, it won’t matter. External information, openly available onthe Internet is one of the biggest underutilized resources for corporate decision-making today.Think of all the insight that can be had from directly talking to a customer at a focus group.Now imagine answers to all those questions already available to you online, if only you wereable to get to them. The necessary media intelligence tools being offered to decision-makers areavailable, constantly being designed and refined. What are the business questions you’ve alwayswanted answers to?Instead of limiting ourselves to reporting on past activity, we can now access real-time insight.Media intelligence draws on massive data sets capable of uncovering trends while they are stillgathering momentum, before outcomes become inevitable. We are now in the position toanticipate the future, rather than react to the past.Kaveh Rostampor is the Executive Director of Meltwater’s Americas division. More than 25,000 companies use theMeltwater Media Intelligence platform to stay on top of billions of online conversations and to extract relevant insights.Meltwater is a sponsor of the Relevance Report.1617

sixty and significantdr. stacy l. smithdr. katherine pieperEveryone is talking about inclusion in Hollywood, right? Most of these conversations are aboutrace, ethnicity, LGBT, disability and gender. Yet, there is another “ism” facing the film businessthat is costing this industry hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. What I am talking abou

The Relevance Report is designed to give those studying and working in public relations a preview of what the coming year will mean for our industry, for our society and for our careers. The pieces are brief and insightful and cover a broad range of topics fro