2018 predictions for PR…

By Gemma Norris, and M-People… 

2017 was nothing if not turbulent. What with Trump, Brexit, and the La La Land Oscars debacle, we’ve experienced (yet another) unpredictable year.

For PR, things have been no less turbulent. The Bell Pottinger scandal brought the industry into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Just as the Harvey Weinstein scandal prompted the film industry to look inwards and question the treatment of women in the industry, so too did Bell Pottinger’s hasty demise prompt PRs around the world to evaluate the public perception of our profession. Ironically, as reputation managers, PRs don’t necessarily have a great rep. Bell Pottinger’s passing should be a wake-up call for those agencies whose approaches are, let’s say, morally ambiguous.

So to kick off 2018 the M People decided to get their Nostradamus-on, and predict what trends and events will shape the PR landscape this year…

1. Fake news

Account director Jo attended the ICCO Summit in Helsinki last year, and one of the key takeaways was the decline in credibility of major news organisations. 2017 was the year ‘fake news’ came into our vocabularies. However, what’s been described as ‘info-tribalism’, and the loss of respect for national media ‘experts’, as well as public perceptions of national media being chained to certain political affiliations as opposed to being completely unbiased, has caused irreparable damage. In 2018, credibility of the media will have to be reestablished.

2. Proving PR’s worth

In the wake of Bell Pottinger, more than ever we’ll have to sell the value of earned media to our clients. Since digital marketing has come to the fore, it’s easy for companies to lean towards ‘quick win’ techniques such as paid-for advertising. These certainly have their place, however, the only way of really telling a brand’s story is via the nuts and bolts of traditional PR.

  1. Face value

We learnt last year that 47% of millennials expect the CEO to comment on topical issues (compared to 25% of baby boomers). Clearly, there’s an expectation for greater levels of engagement from the c-suite now. It’s been proven time and again, that people trust a face they see regularly; and the benefits of holding trust between managerial, senior and junior staff is something that should never be overlooked.

4. The rise of AI

AI is fast becoming a reality – apparently Chatbots will account for 85% of all online customer service by 2020. Certain day-to-day tasks such as media monitoring is already partially done by AI and that will only increase. As an industry, we will need to focus on what AI can’t do – such as out-of-the-box creative thinking and building relationships with clients and the media. This will elevate the profession and help us recruit and retain the best talent.

5. Influencing the B2B market

Influencer marketing is set to continue its exponential growth next year. PR will be more about names, and characters, than ever before. We see influencer PR leveraged a great deal in the B2C market, however, there is still a lot of untapped potential in B2B. Of course, this only works if you find the right influencer, and often in our line of work that person will most likely be very niche in their market. But as we’re entering a time where brand trust is essentially a universal currency, influencer marketing will only continue grow in prominence.

6. Tech and content

Apparently by 2020, 80 per cent of all online internet traffic will be video, and we’re already working on far more interactive content with our clients. Clients are also realising the potential of augmented and virtual reality to sell a service or product, and we’re beginning to work on creating content for this type of platform, which is really exciting!

Will these trends and predictions come to fruition in 2018? As with Nostradamus, only time will tell…

Ben Keeley