16 for ’16: Key Trends PRs Should Know About

Last week’s PRCA trends briefing saw sixteen recommendations for great communications in 2016 from some of the PRCA’s senior members. My initial response, thank goodness it’s not 2025 or decades later because 16 trends in itself is quite something to digest but digging into the detail there are four key trends which I feel most strongly apply to the consumer PR sector this year.

1. Look at your audience and move beyond traditional stereotypes – we should keeping challenging ourselves and our clients to do this. The future is about interrogating the target audience and truly challenging the mindset of ‘Millennials’, ‘Empty Nesters’, ‘Families’ or whoever they might be. Nothing new, but think post-demographics, beyond the obsession of putting people into neat boxes, and instead engaging with them based on shared interest or human emotions. Cultural relevance has never been, well frankly, more relevant –as leading brands continue to adopt lifestyle narratives to build emotional connections.

2. Less of a new trend, more of a continued industry debate as the integration challenge deepens and the need for agencies to adapt their offer to consider tighter integration of paid, owned, shared and earned continues. With the PR Census revealing an industry worth £7.5 billion , increasingly our place at the ‘top table’ is secured and the onus now falls on senior professionals to inspire a shift from single discipline thinking to broader consideration of the marketing mix taking programmatic, influencers, algorithms and paid amplification into account. Understanding the role of PR within the mix continues to be of fundamental importance as defending this with confidence is what’s going to secure bigger budgets and in turn, bigger campaigns.

3. Needless to say, the ‘always-on’ nature of today’s media and communications landscape means creativity at speed. Again, not a new concept – but this year’s development is about spotting the right opportunities to respond to real-time events and using them intelligently on social media to resonate with a target audience in a matter of seconds/minutes. Think about how to cut-through the noise (with relevance) vs. just making noise. Not sure L’Oreal Paris quite got it right in this instance…

4. Savouring the best until last, my final trend out-take started to build momentum last year, in fact our MD, Ruth Allchurch, Chairman of the PRCA’s Consumer Group, hosted an event – From Storytelling to Storydoing, Should PR Have A Higher Purpose? – on the subject of social purpose. Social purpose will continue to dominate conversation and like any trend there is always the danger of latching-on; the challenge is for brands to consider if they have a right. Knowing your brand’s true social purpose will be the only way to present a reliable positive image based on human truths to avoid accusations of inconsistency and prevent the say/do gap.

A terrific example of this is Western Union’s – ‘How Football Helped Educate the World’ campaign. Driven by the insight global poverty is reduced by billions when children become educated, Western Union, a company in the business of passing money around the world launched its ‘PASS’ initiative; turning every successful pass made during the Group and Knock Out Stages of the 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 UEFA Europa League into funding that supports secondary education for young people in key markets. With the goal of supporting the delivery of one million days of education by the end of 2015, Western Union committed to a $1.8 million, three-year grant through the Western Union Foundation to support UNICEF’s secondary education programs for youth in 10 countries. What gave the brand authority was the realisation that most of its customers used the service to send money home to help put family members through school.
So whatever brand challenges your clients present this year, chances are you’ll encounter overlap with one if not all the above. You’ll find the full list of 16 for ’16 PRCA trends below:

Amaya Alvarez
Associate Director

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