Avant’s sixth birthday: a look back over the last six years in PR

This week, Avant celebrates its sixth birthday. Inevitably, talk in the office has turned to how the PR industry has changed since – consumers have seen the way they consume news completely transformed, as well as the ways they’re encouraged to buy, which has naturally led to a shift in how PRs do their jobs. We’ve taken a look back on some of the major changes in the last six years.


Social media as a major marketplace


Gone are the days where shoppers hit the high street after seeing the latest must-have item on the pages of their favourite fashion monthly or Sunday supplement. Nowadays, through a careful mix of targeted advertising and influencer strategy, social media is most often audiences’ first port of call when it comes to clothes shopping, holiday inspiration, browsing for gifts and researching tech buys. With businesses from high street stalwarts and supermarkets to independent boutiques and local restaurants all pumping budget into their social media presence, it’s a platform that taps up a potential market that’s not to be missed. High street cosmetics retailer Lush caused a stir in recent weeks when it ‘quit’ social media in order to re-engage with its customers, but is this likely to spark a trend in other brands following suit and missing out on this audience?


Demise of print press


Perhaps the biggest and saddest change in our industry over the last six years has been the demise of print press. Since Avant’s beginnings, we’ve seen some of our favourite magazines including Look, Company, InStyle, Shortlist, Now and Reveal closed due to dwindling readerships, as audiences opt for more readily accessible ways of getting their news on their phones, laptops and tablets. It has naturally caused a huge shift in the industry, with publications and websites now employing ‘hub’ type teams with a large focus on online outputs, and PR strategy more geared towards digital media. As easy as it might be to get the news on your phone, at Avant we’re of the opinion that you can’t beat sitting down with a good magazine.


The rise of influencers


As the general public got wise to collaborations between big name brands and A-list celebrities, bloggers began to carve out a niche for themselves, posting authentic photos and reviews on their own websites and Youtube channels. As businesses picked up on how much more their audience trusted this type of endorsement, blogger seeding was incorporated into marketing strategy, with would-be influencers receiving free product in exchange for honest reviews on their platforms. With influencers’ popularity increasing hugely over the last few years, most of their collaborations with brands are now paid, with these partnerships forming a main source of income for influencers, and designated a large chunk of brands’ marketing budgets.


Distrust of celebrities and influencers


Despite the origins of influencer posts as generally trusted sources, as they’ve evolved into predominantly paid partnerships over the last few years, the lines between genuine reviews and sponsored endorsements have become somewhat blurred. Of late, the ASA have cracked down on influencers responsibly marketing to their audiences, with new rules in place for declaring when products are gifted and posts are paid for, with celebrities such as Millie Mackintosh, Louise Thompson and Marnie Simpson being subject to action as part of the clamp-down. Recent chatter about ‘influencer fraud’ has added fuel to the fire, with some influencers allegedly paying for fake followers and likes and thus skewing their genuine engagement. With a recent study by PowerInbox concluding that only 34% of people trust social media, it’s unclear whether this avenue will continue to reap the same level of return for businesses.


Awareness of social issues


One of the most notable changes has been a further reaching public consciousness of issues such as politics and climate change, with press from fashion teams to tech writers all tuning their agendas to reflecting the country’s current shared narrative, whether it be Brexit or how we can employ more sustainable practices in all areas of life. Press have thrown their weight behind movements like plant-based lifestyles and reducing single use plastics, leading to significantly wider awareness and, consistently, change.


Are there any other industry changes that have affected your PR and marketing strategy? Tweet us @avant_pr to let us know.


– Ellen Kelly, Director and Co-Founder


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