There is no doubt that 2016 was in many respects a pretty remarkable year. The politics of the world went topsy-turvy. A whole host of very special people passed away. Awful wars continued to be fought. Economies stuttered to a halt. And Leicester won the Premier League. Despite this, I think it was actually not a bad year for the PR business. All the colleagues I have spent time with seem to have worked as hard as ever but have also enjoyed a year of rapid change for our industry – and had some fun at the same time.
So what does 2017 hold for us? I think we will see more of the things we have all seen hugely changing our industry in the last few years – digital, the growth in measurement, content being front and centre – all coupled with an urgent need for creativity. And technology will continue to have a strong impact, including around virtual reality, mobile and data. But for me I think there are a couple of additional things I will be focusing on in the next 12 months:
Consolidation and co-operation: there is no doubt that our clients are looking for consolidation of their marketing and communications spend across the board. As agencies we need to be very responsive to this need whilst simultaneously not damaging our business, our creativity and our licence to operate. Those of us within large marketing groups are going to have to work closer and closer with our sister companies in different disciplines to provide integrated solutions. All of us are going to have to understand that there will be some grey areas where many agencies could perform the same role – and be comfortable with that.
Post-truth communications – a new form of authenticity: perhaps the biggest single communications output of the mad year in politics that was 2016 is the questions raised about truth. Many people are asking if the Trump era of campaigning signals a sea change in the way anyone or any organization communicates. I am not so sure. What I see is an increased need for authenticity in the commercial space – communications with a heart and a personality. The era of spokespeople being message deliverers is clearly over and the need for great storytellers is stronger than ever. It will be harder to get to your audiences than ever before, but the rewards will make it worthwhile. And great communicators will be more in demand than ever before.
So roll on 2017 – let’s see what it brings.