As we click our brains into work mode after the Christmas and New Year break, it’s the ideal time to look ahead to what 2019 will have in store. A lot has happened in the last 12 months, and while Brexit has hijacked the news agenda here in the UK, it feels like the world is currently grappling with an unprecedented number of political, social and technological shifts. This rapid, frequent change shows no signs of letting up, bringing a whole new set of challenges and opportunities for marketing and PR professionals in the 12 months to come.
But before we jump head first into our PR crystal ball, it’s worth taking a quick look back at the predictions we made this time last year and to what extent these played out in real life.
- Fighting fake news: Amid declining trust in the media, we predicted that more outlets would focus on deeper, more thoroughly researched features and news. And it certainly appears that some media are moving in this direction, with the introduction of so-called ‘slow news’ platforms such as Tortoise and The Correspondent, based around curation and expertise rather than clickbait – ones to watch for 2019. There’s also evidence that consumers are wising up to fake news, with figures showing less engagement with fake stories on Facebook.
- Greater convergence between PR and marketing: As predicted, the crossover between PR and marketing has accelerated this year. We’re seeing PR teams within content agencies, SEO teams collaborating with PRs, PRs driving the content agenda. It’s turning into one big melting pot, suggesting that the integrated campaign budgets are there for the taking in 2019.
- Next generation video: In line with our prediction, brand videos – both in paid and owned content – became increasingly popular across all major social media platforms (YouTube aside) in 2018. The launch of Instagram’s IGTV in June was a huge milestone, giving users the opportunity to upload and watch long-form videos via the popular social platform. Then hot on its heels was the worldwide launch of Facebook Watch in August, followed by Snap Originals in October, confirming that video streaming is going from strength to strength.
- GDPR slowdown: Despite widespread panic in the run up to May 25th, it’s become clear that GDPR compliance is a marathon rather than a sprint. Figures show that many businesses are still getting their heads around the regulations, with 37% claiming they still weren’t compliant three months after introduction. And with no fines as a result of the new legislation – yet – the regulators are biding their time. Another one to watch for 2019.
- Purpose-driven marketing: And finally, as predicted, 2018 saw a whole host of brands try their hands at purpose driven marketing, by aligning themselves with the issues that their customers care about. Stand out examples include Nike’s collaboration with the controversial American football player, Colin Kaerpernick, and Iceland’s recent pledge to remove all plastic from its packaging by 2023.
So that was last year. Now, what can we expect from the newly minted 2019?
- Less but higher quality content: Thanks to the introduction of ‘screen time tracking’ by Apple, Facebook and others, not to mention numerous media reports on the subject, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact of the time they spend online and on social media. In the year to come, this awareness is going to become more acute, with campaigns to get people away from their screens, and more people making the effort to reduce their screen time. The upshot of this will be that consumers will become more discerning in the content they consume and, for marketing and PR professionals, that means focusing on quality over quantity, with less, but more highly targeted, personalised content.
- Next generation data awareness: The UK’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, famously called the GDPR “evolution, not a revolution”, and we now know that May 25th 2018 was just the beginning of the journey. To date, most brands have really only done the bare minimum in terms of becoming more transparent and responsible with consumer data but, with consumer awareness rising, we’re going to see more businesses follow the lead of Apple, which has just launched a privacy portal where customers can view all the data the company holds on them, all in one place. No longer a tick-box exercise, data privacy and transparency will become a new point of differentiation for brands across all industries.
- Digitally driven PR: PR professionals have always struggled to justify themselves and show the value of their work, compared to more metric and easily trackable disciplines, such as direct marketing and SEO. However, as digital marketers are increasingly seeing the value of PR for driving link-building, online search rankings and social engagement, PR professionals are cottoning on to the potential for demonstrating their impact using their all-important digital metrics. This trend is going to accelerate in the year to come, with PRs increasingly tapping into digital tools to both inform and measure their campaigns, enabling them to command larger budgets and enter new realms of influence in the marketing mix.
- Real action on urgent issues: Consumer awareness of the impact of business and consumerism on society and the world is rising exponentially. 2018 saw numerous urgent issues under the spotlight including the plastic problem, waste (most notably in the fashion industry with reports that Burberry destroyed £28m worth of clothes last year), and public health issues around sugar and junk food. The public is horrified by the realities of these darker sides of business, and brands are being forced to take urgent, real action, before it’s too late – for both their reputation and for the planet. For PR and marketing professionals this will mean an increase in both crisis communication and reputation management around critical issues, and proactive campaigns to demonstrate how clients are responding to these urgent challenges.
- Faster moving PR means more fluidity and flexibility: Rapid, frequent change in both the business landscape (Brexit, we’re looking at you), competition, and in the technology and tools available to marketers, means businesses need to be more fluid than ever, when planning and delivering campaigns. As a result, the demand for flexible support in the shape of freelancers and contractors will continue to increase as brands draw on a wider pool of specialist skills and experience, as and when they need it. And as this more fluid model becomes more established, links between organisations and the freelance community, and between freelancers themselves, will strengthen, enabling fast, responsive, yet highly integrated campaigns.
Lots to think about then, as PR and marketing professionals get stuck into 2019. And, as always, there are sure to be plenty of surprises along the way too, to keep us all on our toes!
In a world with so much change and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to have specialist talent on your team, so as to respond to issues and maximise opportunities as quickly and effectively as possible. That’s where freelancers are so valuable, giving you access to highly talented, specialist professionals on a flexible and/or short-term basis. Just register here to get started! Or feel free to give us a call on 0203 828 8440.