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PRCA 50: The future of PR will be dramatically different

This is part of a series of blog posts celebrating our 50th anniversary, all of which address the question: What does the future of the PR and communications industry look like?

For all of us in communications, the future will be dramatically different from what we see today.

The blurring of disciplines and in-housing will continue, with demands for savvier spending and more client-side control. Check out the consultancies and ad agencies winning big in in the PR category at Cannes Lions as a good illustration of this.

As a result, work is likely to become more project-heavy, as clients take the fundamental basics that make up some core retainers in-house. Indeed, the majority of agencies in the PRWeek Top 150 said that the proportion of project work they serviced had increased in 2018.

This means that the demand for our industry to become braver, bolder and push beyond our own boundaries has never been greater. Quality, business-focused strategy and discipline-transcending creative is what will make us win in an increasingly competitive and homogenous landscape. The fact that 84% of clients cited creative thinking as the agency service they value the most, is a testament to this.

But, to truly achieve that and connect to our audience creatively we need diversity; it’s a no-brainer that different minds and different perspectives lead to different thinking. We are but a collection of our own experiences and these are the experiences we draw on in the creative process.

We need location diversity, so that we’re not restricting talent purely to London living costs and geography. We need more socio-economic and racial diversity so that we’re introducing different experiences into our creative process. And we need neuro-diversity so that we don’t end up simply reflecting our clients’ selves back at them.

Diversity has been discussed for quite some time, but I suspect it’ll move from a point-scoring exercise in ‘agency of the year’ award categories and into something much more intrinsic and much more valued by agency heads everywhere. Beyond individual agency efforts and schemes, I suspect a complementary, industry-wide effort that targets students pre-university will be the most impactful way of effecting real change.

So, rather than worrying about a competitive future, I take an optimistic view. These shifts in spend and landscape will ultimately result in more creative work and focus on the people that get us there.