PR predictions: what modern communicators need to know

It’s back to reality for many people this week. Off come the jandals, to be replaced by (actual) shoes, alarms are set back to some ungodly hour instead of the leisurely sleep in and the flood of work emails hits you like a tsunami. So what might the year ahead hold in store for PR practitioners throughout the country? 

January is typically a slower and lighter news month, with many journalists still basking in the holiday sun, having filed stories last December to be run this month. Because of this, you may have come across, like I have, numerous “Best and Worst of 2014” stories as reporters continue to reflect on the year that was.

Peppered alongside these are articles predicting “Top Trends for 2015”, from fashion to food, to social responsibility, even children’s names, coupled with everything in between. I’m more than a little over reading these, with the one exception being those relating to trends in PR, which naturally catch my attention.

At the end of 2014, PR Newswire convened a summit bringing together leading PR executives from around the globe (including Burson Marstellar, Edelman and Ketchum) seeking their views on PR marketing trends for 2015. This prompted a presentation titled “The Modern PR Trends Every Communicator Should Know”.

Insights from the summit included greater transparency between companies and their consumers, PR and marketing working closer together (go figure), a focus on PR being more strategic, the importance of integrity and improvements in PR measurement (this one has also been around for a while).

“I think far too much attention today is being given to communications, and not enough to company behaviour.”  – Harold Burson, chairman of Burson-Marsteller

“PR is so much more strategic than ever. You really need to understand everything from a marketing perspective ranging from measurement, target audiences, objectives to being creative.” – Stacey Cohen, chief executive of Co-Communications

“Every industry and every client has different types of measurement. Sometimes it’s a numbers game but there are other things that you could measure.” – Trace Cohen, President of Launch.it

Coupled with the above, there were a few others that also caught my eye:

Another year for mobile: 2013 was the year of mobile, 2014 was the year of mobile and from what I’ve read, 2015 will also be the year of mobile. Smartphone penetration in New Zealand is increasing, global consulting firm Frost and Sullivan predict that 90 percent of New Zealanders will own a smartphone by 2018 as the barrier to entry decreases with cheaper price points, smartphone ownership is currently sitting around 67 percent for New Zealanders aged 15-64 years of age. It’s important to incorporate this into your comms planning given that more and more people now have access to the internet, on the go, 24/7.

Security will remain an issue: The latest series of hacks (i.e. Sony, Snapchat, iCloud, to name a few) is a firm reminder of how vulnerable businesses can be in a connected world. It’s also not just big companies under threat, security breaches also cost small companies six figure sums every year. Security will continue to be an issue for 2015, one that this industry can no longer ignore, particularly as more information is collected and used through digital channels.

Crowds will continue to be involved: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge certainly made its mark in 2014 and the success of this campaign has been elevated to an almost holy grail status for creating a phenomena of social media buzz and brand awareness. Commentators say that brands will definitely try to replicate this success for 2015 and beyond.

So what can we take away from this? Do these trends provide more questions than answers? More challenges and obstacles in how we work? Take from it what you will, but as we reacquaint ourselves with client briefs and switch back to work mode, the points I’ve referenced will hopefully provide some useful food for thought when you start putting together PR plans for your clients in 2015. 

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