The future of public relations: 10 PR trends for 2019
From artificial intelligence (AI) and influencer marketing to ethics and diversity: 2019 is set to be another year of disruption for the communications industry. As we head into the new year, what trends can we expect to dominate the PR sector? Here are my 10 forecasts for the future of public relations:
The AI trend is still a while off
It’s almost impossible to avoid the subject of AI in any industry and the PR sector is no exception. It seems that every PR trends-focused article published during 2018 had some mention of AI and its impact on the communications industry. However, we still lack a clear understanding of exactly how it will impact the future of the profession and, with this in mind, it’s unlikely we’ll see widespread AI-based application adoption this year.
PR professionals will up-skill, re-skill, multi-skill
The line between public relations, marketing and advertising is blurring. In 2019, as many brands review budgets for PR, marketing and advertising, and agencies’ client briefs become more diverse, these three disciplines will become even more tightly intertwined. Today’s PR professionals have become brand ambassadors, social media experts, content marketers, and trend spotters, and we expect this to continue in 2019. We’ll see more PR firms rebrand to integrated agencies, offering services beyond traditional PR.
2019 will be the year of influencer marketing
This year, we’ll see PR meet influencer marketing. The rise of social influencers, particularly on Instagram, means PR professionals will begin integrating this increasingly common tactic into their own programmes. PRs are in a perfect position to build relationships with key influencers on social networks, with the aim of developing partnerships to help directly access a specific target audience.
Trust in media will continue to wane
Diminishing consumer trust in media has cropped up in industry conversations for a while now. But what exactly does this mean for the PR practitioner? As a starting point, we have a role to play in ensuring that stories we provide to journalists are not only robust, accurate and relevant, but also supported by reputable stats, expert opinion and solid facts.
PR will continue to be a trusted partner to media
It’s no secret that the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. Gone are the golden days of print and instead, journalists are under increasing pressure to produce results and get digital content out there at a rapid rate. Public relations professionals will therefore continue to act as valuable content partners for the media, providing assets they can use to develop meaningful stories.
Storytelling will remain a priority
The digital age has brought significant changes to the practice of PR as consumer attention spans shorten and the desire for immediate information threatens the development of longer-form, in-depth narratives. However, at its very core PR remains very much about storytelling. Writing a press release and pushing it out to media for the sake of it doesn’t cut it, with ill-conceived stories unlikely to get much pick-up. In 2019, with declining consumer trust and the fake news frenzy escalating, the storytelling element of PR will be more important than ever.
Furthermore, as new and emerging devices, like VR consoles, go mainstream, the industry will also need to understand how it can develop compelling and persuasive narratives that fit into these new content formats.
Successful PR will balance science and creativity
In 2019, PR and communications professionals will need to become data scientists to truly understand how their target audiences live, work and consume. Analytics will play a huge role in PR going forward and any organisation that does not embrace the power of data will be at a major disadvantage. However, getting bogged down by raw data on its own can be dangerous. Instead, PR practitioners must combine data with creativity, an approach that has long underpinned PR campaigns, to predict future trends, identify new audiences and ensure programmes are engaging and interesting to end-users.
More attention on ethics in PR
2018 was littered with high profile scandals, from Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to Bell Pottinger. These events, coupled with consumers’ increasing expectation for brands to behave ethically, means there will be more attention on ethics in PR in 2019. PR and communications practitioners will need to ensure they are doing more than ever to ensure they prove their own ethical credentials.
Diversity and the gender pay gap
Despite public and press attention, there’s still much to be done to address diversity and inclusion in the PR industry. The overall PR gender pay gap is currently 21 per cent, 2.6 per cent higher than the UK gender pay gap. Reports suggest the PR gender pay gap is narrowing, but not at a satisfactory rate.
Reputation management and crisis communications remain key theme (unsurprisingly)
Reputation and perception management will remain a major theme for 2019. This has remained on PR trend-watching lists year after year but undeniably deserves a place here as reputation remains a fundamental part of public relations today. The immediate nature of social media and the fact that news is disseminated so quickly means that potential scandals can be broadcast across the world in a matter of minutes. With this in mind, we’ll see both trends continue to be a significant element of the practice of PR in the coming year, with agencies continue to upskill staff and develop social and digital crisis communication strategies.
With so much development in the industry, we’re certainly excited to see how developments in 2019 influence the future of public relations.
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