Here are some things I think are likely to happen in the near future, 2019 may be too soon, but these are trends based on what we’re already seeing in the marketplace so are quite likely to come to pass at some point. Perhaps there is a little wishful thinking thrown in for good measure, too – after all, it is Christmas.
PR Trend: A New Approach to Measurement
The desire to measure everything will continue, but the measurements will be less myopic. Powered by interesting developments at the International association for the measurement and evaluation of communications (AMEC), I expect to see leading firms adopt measurements based on business outcomes, rather than communications metrics. This will require that client firms invest the time and energy to understand what drives their business, and how agencies can help move the relevant metrics. I’m expecting measurement budgets as a proportion of overall communications spend to creep up.
PR Trend: Digital Crisis Communications
The ‘data leak’ crisis is the most clear and present threat to firms – especially consumer firms in the wake of GDPR, and most are woefully equipped to handle it. There are two issues here; how to handle the crisis when it happens, and how to recover trust afterwards. Some of the earlier rules, such as ‘get out early’, ‘be as transparent as possible’, ‘admit what you know and what you don’t’, and ‘show empathy’ have failed Carphone Warehouse utterly and actively damaged their share price. Firms like ours will increasingly run integrated crisis communications training with lawyers, operations people and senior business leaders to ensure the relevant information is assembled quickly, parsed correctly and communicated effectively. This is a challenge which is not going away any time soon.
Media trend: The inexorable rise of Podcasting
Podcasting is already big, but it’s only in its infancy, it’s going to be massive. I love podcasts – content that I want to hear when I want to hear it. I can listen while doing other things, and suddenly the washing up becomes a personal engagement with a world leader and the most interesting time of the day. I expect to see more brands getting in on the act, but today the best podcasts are from passionate individuals and radio stations.
When brands cotton on to the value of building and running their own podcasts like media outlets, they will build invaluable brand affinity. Imagine P&G or Amazon running a weekly show of the best lifestyle content, or Red Bull going deep into Extreme Sports. I think we’ll see action taken against mainstream advertising from sports betting companies. By owning their output outright they can have a greater say over the editorial content, feature their sponsored stars, and add ‘bonus content’ for subscribers and users of their products.
Mega trend: Truthing
I’m hoping there will be a reaction to the ‘echo chambers’ that have paved the way for militarized propaganda in 2018. Consumers will actively seek out new ways of being assured they are reading the truth. Already The Guardian has increased resources for investigative journalism, and is being rewarded by users who are prepared to pay for it online. Unlike previous eras, this will be focused on more than just ’public’ issues like crime and healthcare, and will incorporate the activities of private companies with colossal influence. We will see news platforms adopting some of the validation techniques seen in browsers and social media platforms. Brands, influencers and others will step up their drive for authenticity.
Mega trend: Domestication of military communications
The ‘sleeper’ bots that propagandists use to disseminate discord through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were a revelation in 2017, and the platforms have been working against this kind of usage – but it still exists. Here, fake accounts become part of relevant communities by tweeting and repurposing content from elsewhere and building a followership – innocently at first, and then deliberately introducing concepts or fanning flames as required to achieve specific objectives. Brands will do this to build an appetite for a solution they have, and maybe even sow negative information about their competitors.
Mega trend: Radical centrism
The click-bait complex has driven users to the extremes – I expect in our politics, and following that, in the language of brand communications, we will see the emergence of aggressive centrism. The roots of this trend can be found in the stoic reasonableness of most Brits – who I suspect are increasingly irritated by the extremism of people throughout the political and national landscape. I’m expecting to see a sharp elbowed centrism with people dismissing radical views and communicating in the same way as the people on the edges; hyperbole, diminution of opposing arguments, marches etc. We’re seeing it with the ‘People’s march’ movement – expect to see more of it as middle-England gets mad.