Reputation will require radical transparency
2017 was the year of the scandal for Ryanair, Uber, Dove, United Airlines and even Hollywood itself. The vocal backlash that brands received for a spectrum of bad behaviour; from unfair treatment of customers, to violence, misogyny and racism, proves that in today’s culture of accountability, there is nowhere to hide. Brands and businesses will increasingly have to prove that they are adhering to their values to retain fans and followers. More companies will require assistance to ensure that their values and communications strategies are aligned.
Sexual inequality scores still to be settled
The sexual harassment scandal that started with Weinstein and spread like wildfire through the film and television industries, politics and the media, exploded in 2017. The fallout from this is likely to continue into 2018, where attention will be focused on those guilty of sexual harassment. New rules requiring companies of certain sizes to publish their gender pay gap information that came into effect in 2017 will continue to have ramifications for those who are lagging behind. I predict that this, as well as wider gender issues such as advancing women’s careers, will continue to occupy the media spotlight and encourage businesses and PRs alike to examine their policies and the messaging behind it.
Crackdown on social media abuse
Since the general election, social media abuse has been the hot topic that is not going away. Starting with a debate in Parliament soon after the general election, MPs have continued to call for significant change from social media providers. There has already been some movement on this from platforms such as Twitter who have banned accounts that they felt were propagating hate speech. However, many believe this hasn’t gone far enough and the saga looks set to continue into 2018.
GDPR – be prepared for the fallout
As General Data Protection Regulation comes into play in May 2018, we will be forced to address how we handle and process data related to existing clients, new business, and internal processes; not to mention our own agency staff. Stringent rules mean that businesses who do not comply will be liable for 4% of global turnover or €20m fine, whichever is greater. Without adequate preparation, there is more scope for data breaches within and without the industry. This marks both an opportunity for those managing crisis comms but also a sobering threat for us all to consider mitigating ahead of the deadline.
A need for new talent and cross industry collaboration
As competition stiffens every year for much-coveted industry awards, PRs are under more and more pressure to bring together communications into strong, ideas-led campaigns with their own identity, hashtag and multichannel applications. Strong creative is necessary more than ever. Whilst PRs are under pressure to deliver copy, headlines, strategic counsel and react to the media agenda, there is space emerging for new talent to be bought into agencies, either on a project basis or full time, to complement their skills with other traditional storytelling talent. We may start to see agencies borrowing disciplines from advertising, such as appointing traditional Executive Creative Directors, or specialists in new technologies or experiential applications. This year may also hail co-productions between advertising agencies and PR agencies as disciplines increasingly interact, with each industry looking to the other for strong ideas that translate across both traditional media buying and PR.
Demonstrable purpose will win out
2017 saw innumerable brands jump on various cause-related bandwagons, from Absolut Vodka to Skittles showing support for the LGBTQ movement during Pride 2017. But good CSR is about more than turning your brand colours rainbow for one day. Without a solid strategy to back up claims, corporate efforts can feel empty and hollow. Those brands who can actually turn their declarations of support into genuine policies will resonate more in 2018.
2017 was a year that broke down barriers, perhaps most well illustrated in the #metoo campaign that followed the breaking of the Weinstein allegations, marking a paradigm shift where it became OK to speak out. This was echoed in TIME Magazine’s decision to feature the ‘Silence Breakers’ as their person of the year. This was a huge acknowledgment that the most effective and poignant communicators embraced authenticity. Those who follow suit and speak fearlessly from the heart will also succeed.
Understanding the millennial perspective
It’s that word again. But must we continue speaking about millennials as though they’re a different breed? I predict not. Moving ahead, Gen Xers and above will hopefully get over their mistrust / desperation to court the millennial and instead embrace working more collaboratively. Forward thinking players may take a ‘bottom up’ perspective, placing millennials front and centre of the planning phase of campaigns.