The communications industry has changed drastically over the last decade. The 2010s brought rapid tech evolution and then combined it with social change to create new norms, opportunities and pitfalls for agencies and brands.
Practitioners had to adapt tactically, getting to grips with ascendent platforms, behaviours and styles. The new decade promises plenty more of the same, so we asked the team to share their predictions for the communications industry in 2020.
In 2019 many brands ran socially aware campaigns, often lauding their moral credentials. But being woke for the sake of it led to a predictable backlash when it wasn’t authentic.
This could be the year more brands realise actions speak louder than words. To paraphrase Daniel Cleaver instead of ‘fannying about with press releases’, communications teams can make the case for investing in genuine positive change to give brand purpose a real backbone. This means long-term investment in tackling issues that matter to customers.
These efforts can only be sustained over the long-term if brands can find a way to gain a commercial advantage above and beyond general goodwill, so let’s hope we’ll see some interesting business model innovations.
Rising niche media
This year we’ll see brands prioritise exposure on niche sites instead of traditional top-tier media placements. As blogs and self-publishing platforms gain popularity and more micro-influencers arrive, those in PR are seeing a shift in how brands compete for attention. When choosing which media to pitch to, don’t focus on who has the biggest audience. Instead, target those who truly cater for your most important audiences.
Instagram announced last year that it plans to hide post ‘like’ counts to help users to re-focus on the content they are sharing. This caused a bit of a stir in the industry, with many worried about how best to measure their activity moving forward with the loss of such a standard and visible metric.
With other social channels contemplating similar changes, brands will be forced to engage with their audience more deeply with interesting, engaging and authentic content. This will also affect the way brands interact with influencers – prioritising those with which they share genuine alignment, to ensure a relevant and engaged audience.
A focus on the feel-good
Last year felt like end of a rollercoaster decade, with swirling political and environmental issues at the forefront of the news – fuelling ever-greater polarisation and polemic debate. By the end of 2019, the journalists we speak to were often searching for stories that could act as light relief to balance out the seemingly endless doom and gloom the news agenda was providing.
In 2020 we hope to see more brands and agencies championing that feel good factor, moving away from ‘shock factor’ stories towards those that can put a smile on our faces, and help restore some faith in the world again.
Broadened agency services
The days of exclusive PR, digital and social media agencies are at best numbered, and more likely already over. However, marketers still need a good story with which to engage their audience, and they still need to gain earned media placements and social media shares to amplify the message.
We expect to see further merging of marketing talent and cross-disciplinary services within agencies who will step beyond their traditional remit in the year ahead.
At this time of year there’s always a flurry of useful predictions, and naturally many are centred around what’s new (and trendy). Of course, it’s vital to stay informed on the opportunities promised by new platforms, technologies or tactics – but keep them in perspective in relation to your fundamentals. Test them and see if they will work for your campaigns, but don’t get overly distracted.