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Can you predict the future in PR?

Whenever a new year comes around, you can expect to see ‘New year predictions’ and ‘What to expect this year’ blog posts dropping into your inboxes and scattered around on LinkedIn. Well, I can assure you this is not one of those. In fact, it’s the opposite.

This is a review of those predictions that the wise and the revered in the PR industry made in January 2019 for the year ahead and finds out whether they actually came true. Hold on to your hats as I take you through some of the biggest predictions of the year.

Prediction 1 – Social media platforms will lose their shine

As we headed into the final year of the decade, a key component of society was expected to be shunned (to a certain extent) – social media. With an estimated 2.2 billion people using at least one of the Facebook family of services every day on average, this was a bold claim. However, this prediction was overwhelmingly made in light of the Facebook privacy scandal that sparked concern over data security.

Despite security concerns, the number of social media users rose by 9% to 3.48 billion last year, showing the pulling power that the industry has. This is why it remains such a vital PR tool for companies to share news with their consumers.

Yes, there were some bumps along the way – including the Conservative Party changing its Twitter handle to FactCheckUK sparking legitimacy concerns in the lead up to the General Election and the Great Social Media Blackout of 2019 – which I’m sure will be taught in all history lessons in years to come…

But, in the main, these platforms continued to reign supreme. They are a simple, efficient and effective way to get a message right into the palm of your target audience – and done right, it can have amazing consequences, just ask Greggs.

Prediction 2 – Trust in the media will decline

The term ‘Fake News’ coined by President Trump has firmly made its way across the pond and has somewhat created a dichotomy between what is deemed ‘fake’ and ‘real’ news in today’s press.

The BBC was in the main line of fire, with accusation of bias coming from either ends of the political spectrum during the General Election campaign. This led to a thought provoking post from veteran presenter Huw Edwards reminding the British public of the importance of the institution in a stern and heartfelt defence of the Corporation’s values.

Whilst the same arguments crop up time and time again, especially towards the BBC, it is imperative that journalistic integrity remains sacrosanct, in order to maintain proper accountability and scrutiny across all professions. And ultimately, I believe the British public still respect the news they read on a daily basis.

Prediction 3 – Green noise

In a continuation from 2018, there was again a focus on the values of corporations. From ESG criteria to plastic reduction initiatives, consumers increased the attention that they paid to the ethics of business and this was accelerated by the rise of the Extinction Rebellion protests over the course of last year, which firmly put the spotlight on climate change and the need for a greener society.

All successful campaigns need a clear focal point and the green movement was, of course, spearheaded by Greta Thunberg. With carefully selected discourse and a tone that resonated with families, individuals and companies, her messaged was played on TV screens globally – creating a constant noise which meant that she, and the movement, were unavoidable and the message clear for all to hear.

So, there you have it – it is impossible for all predictions to come true, but many gurus and pundits were along the right lines with their punts. As we head into a new year and a new decade, there will be new themes, new trends and new predictions that arise, but as always, anything is possible.

Written by Callum Attew, senior account executive at communications agency Engine MHP

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