2018 was a busy year from a PR Industry perspective as the business community worked towards growth and profitability in a rather stable economy. As a communication’s agency, WMC Africa is well positioned to analyze the PR environment in the past year as well as predict trends for 2019. We spoke to the team and now bring you these insights.

Mulinde Musoke- Strategic Writer

In 2019, traditional media especially newspapers, will continue to fight for market share, revenue and relevance as other news channels and online gossip platforms capture increasing public attention.
Newspaper circulation in Uganda has stayed relatively flat for many years now and major traditional media houses no longer boast about paper sales as a way to attract advertisers. But again, it is still early days for setting up pay-walls considering Uganda’s household income profile.

Consumer spending from non-digital to digital media shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. The focus is now on mobile and the importance of user experience. This poses huge challenges for businesses and advertisers. Consumers may choose not to want to advertise along with their desired content unless it is an essential part of lifting their satisfaction level. Digital has redefined personal choice to another level altogether and copywriters have to step up to the challenge.

Marvin Bisanga- Head of Digital
The Ugandan digital consumption behaviour landscape is nuanced as conversations on the value of influencer relations and engagements took center stage in 2018 for most brand and agency activities. Platforms like Twitter have finally grown into a space that accommodates hard conversations on every issue, from politics, advocacy, customer care and brand service delivery. This platform value is indeed being leveraged.

Influencer marketing faced a challenge on what value it brings to PR and Marketing activities. I see more deliberate efforts this year, as PR and Communication agencies and Brands explore partnerships with influencers that have grown their niche within the Business, Finance, Entertainment and Media categories. I also see more investment in content development. Digital marketers are exploring the wonderful world of video and how to curate conversations that best serve their target market. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube will continue to grow in usage. Content formats like audio (podcasts), is also growing i.e. Deja’s curating playlists for their markets, the advocacy conversations on gender & women issues, entertainment & gossip etc.

In conclusion, I believe the PR & Communications media in Uganda, is starting to invest value that social media brings to the fore i.e. feedback from the audiences to better understand their audiences and the current narrative and conversation on issues.

Faith Birungi- Account Executive

Changes in the media industry particularly during the past couple of years have hit Public Relations (PR) practitioners the hardest and we should expect more knocks in 2019. Against a backdrop of the internet, journalists and the public want accurate, in-depth information now, in ‘real time’ which heaps even more pressure on PR people to provide it. The press release can come later!

But this trend has also meant quickly adopting new methods of delivery which keeps us on our toes and helps inspire us to become innovative and imaginative in our job.
Content creation is now increasingly a viable means of measuring PR value. Clients find it much easier to judge how much and how well you represent their interests. Being laid back will not cut it in 2019!

Not only does it require more interaction with clients to gain inspiration, but also allows for a better mix of representation for the clients’ brand, be it via videos, feature articles or op-ed pieces.

In other words, to best manage the challenges ahead, learn to adapt to the changing technology and not panic!

Elizabeth Kabahenda- Account Executive

In recent years, we have seen companies use PR together with advertising to push their agendas such as selling products and services as opposed to a solution. The quantity of content or share of voice as we call it has taken the front seat as we often have forgotten to whom we communicate and how much of what is put out there can be absorbed.

In 2019, as we see companies take a backward approach to produce quality products and services to address a need, so shall this subsequently affect the way in which we communicate. To this same effect, we shall then begin to see a shift from not only attaching a social aspect when communicating about CSR but with every content produced. Creativity in the digital space as well shall play a huge role in shaping online PR. Forget about the copy and paste, despite all these growing numbers of online PR websites, only quality content shall have a platform.

Sharon Kakai- Chief Operations Officer

The volatile pace of digital media and the popularity of the internet has forced media houses to rethink the disbursement of news. Media houses have had to turn to in-depth reporting on breaking stories to match relevance to information consumption among the public. Because the public is consuming real-time news, media houses have been forced to create products to justify their relevance while attracting masses and consequently advertisers to make revenues. As a result, clients or corporations have witnessed a significant decrease in PR space articles. PR practitioners have been forced to strategically and creatively position their clients.

Media Houses will continue creating avenues for revenue possibly leaning more towards video and voice content to match up
Content development will continue as centre stage this year with the focus on repurposing the content for strategic placement.
Thought leadership as a tool will continue to lead not in just print but also lean towards video and voice online as companies seek to communicate diversely.
PR practitioners will lean more towards digital PR to tap into audiences that amass content online.

Jonathan Adengo- Account Manager

PR firms will need to work harder not only to get clients but also retain them. We have seen more companies build internal expertise to be able to do jobs that would otherwise require a PR firm.

The media landscape is also changing today and we shall see many media houses increasingly embrace more analytical approach in the delivery of their news. This “Day two” kind of story will leave little room for press release stories.

Chris Burke- Managing Director

With 50 over per cent of Uganda’s population under the age of 18 population and doubling every 16 years, engaging youth should be prioritized. Uganda’s economy is registering growth rates in excess of 6 per cent, however expendable income is apparently contracting. Disparities are growing while the increasing access to smartphones, social media and digital technology continues to flatten communications and facilitate the exchange of information across geographic, social, economic and political differences. Refining creative ways to more effectively channel and influence the mass of information are crucial. The identification of techniques to leverage the commercial implications of the marriage of all these factors will become increasingly salient through the coming year.

Immaculate Namanda- Account Manager

2019 will bring into focus the divide between ethical and non-ethical PR practices. More practical methods of executing strategies will override theory. Trade disputes amongst the world’s biggest economies and Uganda’s growing public debt will dominate the conversation. Leaders will be held more accountable in regards to public spending. Customer experience will be central in PR messaging as organizations seek to underscore customer care and community engagement. There will be more collaboration between the PR, marketing and digital functions, as market segments become interlinked through content development and brand visibility. There will be growth in thought leadership and more practitioners will invest in this area. Personal PR will also rise as people become aware of themselves as brands rather than just individuals behind a brand. Artificial Intelligence could rise in the measurement and evaluation of real PR impact.

Silvia Nyambura- Editorial Content Developer

The relationship between PR and the media is one that must keep being cultivated and nurtured in order for this industry to flourish. However, this relationship has often been conflicted with Journalists perceiving PR Practitioners more as gatekeepers rather than communicators. PR Practitioners, on the other hand, need the media to communicate efficiently.

This year, content will be key in driving communications should the two industries learn to lay strategic ways of working together for their mutual benefit.

PR Practitioners, by right of working directly with Corporates, amass vast knowledge of different sectors of the economy that are newsworthy. This is the knowledge that Journalists can tap into and I believe in 2019, PR Practitioners need to position themselves in this light so that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

In addition, product placement will continue to define the sector as PR continues to identify topical issues to plug into while communicating.

Primrose Kiberu- Executive Director

PR is a gatekeeper of information i.e how much of it should be disseminated; how is it tailored to avoid miscommunication; who is it directed to; etc. With technology, the “gatekeeper” or the “gates” are overwhelmed and there has to a deliberate adaptation to the trends and status quo, which is not to manage so much the external factors but manage tighter the internal.

Case in point is the recent Minister of Finance addressing a media briefing about the economy that he labelled rising. In his capacity as a government department leader words shouldn’t have failed, otherwise, it was comical worse still on social media! The gatekeepers, in this case, are expected to brief and rehearse him prior to the occasion.

Prediction for this year is the profession will have to intentionally and intensely look inward emphasizing things like media training; public speaking, policy guidelines for media interviewing persons, etc.

About the Author: Silvia Nyambura

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