While I’m not one for making grand, ‘mystic meg’ type predictions on the future of our industry, it’s safe to say a number of prominent themes have shaped the PR industry this year, and there are a handful which we will see continue to see becoming more important in 2018.
1. Using data to glean insights that shape clients’ businesses will be increasingly important. While using data isn’t new (rather the scale of data available to us, as well as the ability to analyse it further), there is an expectation from clients that sound, evidence-based insights should be used to develop strategies and inform decisions. We’ll see more data analysts coming on board within agencies, as well as the up-skilling of agency employees with specific data analysis skillsets.
2. Integrated communications will become mainstream. With communications disciplines converging and lines being blurred between practice areas, thinking with the mindset of a traditional public relations or public affairs agency won’t work anymore. With the advent of more media platforms and a greater number of media stakeholders (journalists, bloggers, influencers), clients’ wants and needs are also changing. PR professionals need to have a much broader skillset than the ability to write a press release and pitch effectively.
3. While the issues of fake news and ethics have continued to dominate headlines in 2017, and with large internet companies struggling to find ways to stop the spread of misinformation, businesses will increasingly be exposed to allegations based on misinformation. The need for intensive social media monitoring, rapid rebuttal and strong communications will continue to grow. Companies (and supporting PR agencies) will have to work harder to maintain their ethics.
4. Similarly, crisis communications and crisis handling skills will be in higher demand in today’s hyper-connected world. The rise of social media has had a profound impact on the speed and extent over which information is disseminated, meaning that crisis preparation – and having crisis response plans in place within organisations, is more important than ever.
5. Diversity and inclusion will become a bigger issue within the industry. There is an accepted premise that the people who work within PR should broadly represent the diversity of the world around us. The work undertaken by the Taylor Bennett Foundation is just one example of the attempts underway to ensure an equal representation of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and socio-economic background of PR practitioners.