On 11.1.11 (or 1.11.11 depending on your dating preference) I wrote my 11 PR predictions for 2011. I’ve added some thoughts on the past 12 months, and a new prediction for what 2012 will bring.
1. The mid-to-late-majority enter social media – we’ve definitely seen continued growth in social media usage, with what I claimed would be “lots of money spent on initiatives that no-one will notice or care about”. Being on Twitter, having a Facebook page, using LinkedIn and so forth have become common practice. One issue however, is that it is becoming harder to filter out what is interesting owing to the trend towards retweeting, “junk” commenting and general nonsense. Where once you could search via Twitter for updates on a situation, today you’ll struggle to find the news among the spam and irreverent comments.
2012 Thoughts: Peak presence is on the horizon with an increasing number of people abandoning or at least reigning back on their engagement in social media. The challenge for PR campaigns will be to gain attention in an overloaded SM world.
2. Social media demands pay to play – again, I think I was reasonably accurate with my observation that “money will replace ‘conversation’ as the core currency”. Although it is still free to engage with much social media, we have definitely seen increased marketisation of social media presence.
2012 Thoughts: We are likely to see increased acceptance of payment for privileged social media services, which may exclude advertising, offer enhanced access or greater privacy.
3. Journalists find a slower revolving door - okay, the door into PR is still open for hacks, but I’ve noticed fewer such appointments headlining in PR Week. Mind you, criticism of PR graduates as failing to understand mainstream media needs continues which indicates ongoing focus on the traditional journo skills.
2012 Thoughts: Much of mainstream media will continue to be under pressure, and with the increased number of PR practitioners (particularly ex-public sector) in the marketplace, journalists will not find a move into PR an easy option.
4. Opportunity of too few good PR people – I was spot on with the statement that “demand for intelligent, capable PR practitioners will continue to exceed supply”. The ongoing economic situation hasn’t eased this situation as I know through the MIPAA JobSearch service that demand is outpacing supply.
2012 Thoughts: The demand for intelligent, experienced PR practitioners will escalate despite the influx of job seekers. I do envisage that many organizations will save money by cutting top PR jobs, as the need to advocate the value of PR at the most senior level has not been won.
5. PR disasters hit record levels – I think it has been an interesting year for the “PR disaster” market. My take is that the crisis cycle has shortened to a matter of hours or days, with many disappearing as quickly as they appeared. We’ve definitely continued to see online commentary on situations, but there avalanche of corporate and celebrity crises has accelerated to such a pace that many are hard to recall. In the UK for example, the Nurofen tampering crisis lasted barely a weekend. Others such as News International’s phone hacking scandal are ongoing, but it’s hard to feel the public has as much interest as the mainstream media on that one.
2012 Thoughts: Next year will see this short-crisis cycle continue which could have a mixed-impact. It could mean that how an organization handles a crisis becomes less important – they simply have to survive the initial attention before the heat moves elsewhere. Alternatively, crisis management will get smarter and recognise the need for a more flexible and higher value approach that identifies risk and manages issues before the bubble of a high profile crisis occurs.
6. PR goes 24/7 - I feel that life-work integration has been an ongoing trend with the UK PR Census reporting an increasingly longer working week. But I’m not sure 2011 was the tipping point that I predicted. In fact, an interesting end of year story is that of VW which has introduced out of hour Blackberry restrictions for its German workers. I doubt this applies to those in PR, but work-life tensions
2012 Thoughts: Working in PR will get tougher – with redundancies and increased expectations from clients and employers. We’ve benefited in the past three years as marketing spend was shifted towards PR, but 2012 will see demand for proof that PR is delivering. Rather than demonstrating value added, I believe we’ll see the industry respond by trying to deliver more for less – which will mean increased expectations on the PR function to respond around the clock.
7. Weather will worsen - my point here was to advocate “a new flexibility in leading their organizations in managing risk, issues, relationships and reputation”. I’m not sure that PR has responded in this way. My feeling is that the industry has looked for easier money by ramping up the promotional side of PR rather than look for more strategic influence.
2012 Thoughts: Sadly as with point 6, I feel PR will continue to devalue its services. There will be more of those made redundant working as freelancers and needing to deliver whatever is required to pay the mortgage.
8. Everyone’s a celebrity – give me 10 out of 10 for this one. I wrote: “those who have already had their time in the spotlight will act in ever more extreme ways to get attention”. I think that Charlie Sheen and Frankie Cocozza (UK X-Factor reject) make my case.
2012 Thoughts: There will be more attention paid to nonentities in 2012, but I think the pioneering approach of Lady Gaga will see more celebrities try to follow suit in building a profitable fan base, particularly though social media and links to big brands. The attention and loyalty that celebrities today can achieve offers a new channel which is irresistible to consumer brands.
9. Privy to privacy - my prediction was that “secrets will make a comeback”. On the one hand, people have been ever more prepared to say it all online. We’ve also had social media successfully outplay court injunctions. But, we have seen the backlash start – not least as a result of the News International exposure of media hacking of mobile phones.
2012 Thoughts: I still maintain that privacy must be valued and that at some point the public will recognise that they need to protect their data and profile online.
10. Slow is the new fast - I thought we’d see PR practitioners take more time “to develop relationships, manage a reputation, build good narratives, and respond professionally”. The tortoise will win the race, but the hare appears to be ahead at the end of 2011.
2012 Thoughts: PR practitioners are missing out on real results by focusing on the short-term immediate needs of mainstream and online media. I’m not sure this will be recognised in 2012 however.
11. Bad practices are not dead - my view was that “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”. I know this is still the case, but some significant moves away from AVE at least have been made. I also noted “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.” I think that some initiatives by the UK professional bodies have, on the face of it, undermined the arguments for better educated PR practitioners – but I’m open minded on their impact.
2012 Thoughts: Taking part in the CIPR’s 2020 Project I envisaged a schism between those focusing on tactical delivery and more strategic practitioners. My feeling is that this is closer in 2012 – fed in part by all the above points.
12. PR won’t be a lot of fun - I’ve been researching PR in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s and something that emerges is that PR used to be more fun! I don’t think we will see a return to those days anytime soon and perhaps calling for increased respect, intelligence and strategic thinking is part of the death of fun in PR. But if fun means focusing on organising events, schmoozing journalists and using social media without any real purpose or benefits, PR doesn’t need to be a barrel of laughs everyday. What I would like to see is a high level of professional satisfaction from working in a PR field that is increasingly recognised for its capabilities rather than its frivolous reputation.
As ever, I believe que sera sera – but look forward to your thoughts on what 2011 brought and 2012 will bring.