1. The mid-to-late-majority enter social media – by the end of the year only laggards will not include social media in their communication plans. There will be good and bad examples, too many copycat campaigns and lots of money spent on initiatives that no-one will notice or care about. They will all seek publicity for their social media debuts – as will the so-called gurus guiding them (much as the launch of a website once was seen as warranting a press release).
2. Social media demands pay to play – with more organizations entering the social media landscape, money will replace ‘conversation’ as the core currency. There will be a price to pay – which may be the cost of advertising, commercial deals for corporate presence or legal restrictions on using social media for marketing purposes.
3. Journalists find a slower revolving door – the flight from earning a living as a paid journalist will be hampered as it is increasingly recognised that they don’t have a key to the PR door. First, years of cutting and pasting press releases means many former hacks will lack the skills required to write the damnable things. Secondly, organizations want more than media coverage these days – and too few journalists offer a rounded CV that can compete with experienced PR folk.
4. Opportunity of too few good PR people – demand for intelligent, capable PR practitioners will continue to exceed supply. I see this as an opportunity rather than a crisis for the occupation – as the gap between those who can meet the expectations of delivering valuable strategic counsel and those who can only churn out press releases will become too wide to bridge by bluster alone.
5. PR disasters hit record levels – well actually, I predict a record number of claims that organizations having routine customer relations or operational problems are experiencing a ‘PR disaster’. The critics (journalists and ‘PR experts’) will argue that apologies were not sufficiently abject, responses too slow and social media not used enough.
6. PR goes 24/7 – those of us who work for ourselves know the world doesn’t stop at 5.30 or at weekends. We tend to think that everyone working in consultancies and in-house has a smartphone just like us. That hasn’t been the case for the majority – but 2011 will be the tipping point when it all changes. Situations like the recent snow-go travel crisis revealed those who cannot engage with customers, media or other publics 24/7 lose the opportunity to communicate a positive message.
7. Weather will worsen – it will be hot, cold, wet, dry… with every conceivable weather condition having the potential to impact organizations. The need to adapt to whatever occurs means that PR practitioners need to adopt a new flexibility in leading their organizations in managing risk, issues, relationships and reputation.
8. Everyone’s a celebrity – they will rise and fall at every increasing speed, with more and more nonentities held up for global media attention at least for a couple of minutes. This means those who have already had their time in the spotlight will act in ever more extreme ways to get attention. They will Tweet their most private matters (with photos and video to prove it) – with so many ‘celebrity’ babies due this year, that means literally being in at the birth. Their publicists will firstly fuel the attention, then tear their hair out at the problems created and get out the cheque-books to cover up or deny what’s already in the public domain.
9. Privy to privacy – secrets will make a comeback. The reaction to Wikileaks, expose-all ‘celebrities’ and commercialisation of our social media lives means protecting privacy will be high on the agenda. For PR practitioners, this means our clients will want our help in ensuring they are able to communicate when they want, that sensitive materials are kept secure and any faux-pas is not exaggerated into the crisis of the century.
10. Slow is the new fast – with the world spinning every faster, I predict a return to slow PR. That means taking time to develop relationships, manage a reputation, build good narratives, and respond professionally. Like a good cheese or wine, mature PR will be reflect quality over the fast and furious.
11. Bad practices are not dead – despite greater recognition of the need to demonstrate value and measure PR by more than advertising value equivalent (AVE), poor practices are not yet ready to lay down and die. Press releases will continue to be spammed, coverage sought on the basis of puff and nonsense, marketing will still masquerade as public relations, communications will lack relevance to recipients and anyone will be able to call themselves a PR professional despite lacking any evidence that they have either experience or a qualification (or ideally both) to prove their capabilities.
In reality, what will be, will be – but it is fun to think of where we could be heading. How accurate my predictions are of course, only time will tell.