I recently completed an award submission that asked applicants to imagine what PR trends we’ll be talking about in the industry in 2025. Given how fast our profession evolves due to technology innovation, media consolidation, client needs, economic headwinds and consumer sentiments, it can be difficult to look beyond the end of any given calendar year, much less three years from now.
Sure, it’s entertaining to dream about where the Metaverse will take us in a few years or how artificial intelligence will write press releases and other content for us, but it remains to be seen how these will actually impact the way we approach our jobs in a meaningful way anytime soon. While we may or may not be wearing VR headsets to meet with our clients’ avatars or asking Alexa to churn out a blog post for us, here are a few trends that I think we are likely to see in the next few years:
- Content takes center stage: This first one may scare some PR pros. I anticipate that in the very near future, driving meaningful media coverage alone will not be enough. Unfortunately, given the current state of journalism, I don’t see anyone forecasting an increase in the size of newsroom staff. As such, reporters and editors will continue to be stretched thin, creating even more opportunities for clients to contribute bylined content. But that’s just the tip of the spear. Clients will seek to have storytelling applied to other areas of the business as well, like marketing and sales.
I expect we’ll see this become a more formal part of PR programs as agencies are asked to create content marketing campaigns and empower sales teams, expanding scopes into areas like persona work, collateral, lead playbooks and more. We’re already seeing digital marketing agencies more closely align with PR agencies because they need the content specialists to layer on top of their work. This could be a jolt to agencies that primarily focus on block and tackle PR activities and will likely result in agencies creating specialized teams to focus on custom content programs for clients.
- Newsjacking specialty: It was five years ago that the term “newsjacking” made Oxford Dictionaries’ shortlist for 2017 Word of the Year (their top choice, “youthquake,” is far less memorable). I even wrote about the importance of including newsjacking in any PR program a few years ago. While much of what I wrote then still holds true today, I see newsjacking entering a new phase in the future. So much so, in fact, that I anticipate we’ll see the emergence of agencies – or separate departments within agencies – that specialize in running dedicated newsjacking programs.
Because success here requires best-in-class digital tools (or custom-built proprietary solutions) and a dedicated churn and burn team, newsjacking programs will demand a premium well above typical retainer fees and hourly rates. And because acting fast is so critical to success, newsjacking teams will be highly aligned and deeply engrained with internal comms departments, company executives and relevant subject matter experts. Which is a perfect segue to…
- PR Pro = Business Advisor: Looking ahead, I anticipate PR will become an increasing focus of attention among senior leaders outside the marcom silo. In fact, this trend is already underway. Back in 2000, Ragan Communications surveyed PR pros and found that the biggest impact the pandemic was having on our profession was increased collaboration with the C-suite. This is largely due to the way PR advisors helped businesses navigate unprecedented challenges, starting with COVID. Today, as the actions and statements of business leaders draw attention and scrutiny from media and the public alike, PR advisors stand to gain an even more prominent seat at the table with top brass.…
Whether it’s (mis)handling mass layoffs or commenting on hot-button public policy proposals, PR pros will be called on to tell more than just the usual product or innovation stories, they’ll be asked to define the brand’s purpose, bolster (or rebuild) their reputation, advise on business strategy and more. While this might traditionally entail crisis, internal or corporate social responsibility communications experts, the PR pro’s ability to build trust and gain expertise in areas like HR, operations and finance will lead to also helping leaders navigate challenges around change management, business transformation, geopolitical matters and more. The most successful PR pros in a few years may well resemble management consultants just as much as media consultants.
These are a few PR trends I see on the horizon for the industry. In many ways, the writing is on the wall based on disruptions and changes already occurring in our business. Like it or not, our industry is constantly evolving. Those agencies that can anticipate, plan for and offer the services and capabilities that clients don’t even realize they need yet are most likely to survive and thrive.
It will be interesting to look back in a few years and see how these predictions pan out. Or maybe I’ll have access to a time machine by then and can travel back to rewrite this post (perhaps I already have!). Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic: what are some other predictions for the future of PR that you would add to the list?