As the 2019 rapidly draws to a close it may be worthwhile to spare a thought for the New Year and what it holds on the communications and public relations front.

Here are some of my predictions. However, rather than just peer into my own crystal ball; I did a whip-around of the PR gurus I admire in Australia and overseas to check out what their thinking is for the year ahead.

Happily, their prognostications (I love that word!) dovetailed with mine, enabling me to provide what I believe is a pretty accurate picture of what awaits us in 2020.

Thought leadership will continue to be on the up and up

While big in the US and UK, thought leadership positioning and communications has been slow to catch on in Australia. However, the tide is rapidly turning and will continue to turn as more and more businesses and individuals seek to become the recognised authority or go-to in their industry or field.

According to some of the PR gurus I spoke with, the key driver for the trend (particularly for businesses) is the need to build trust, particularly in the B2B industry where purchasing decisions are a complex process and where trust is an essential ingredient. Being the recognised expert and the one constantly out there providing valuable information and advice, is one of the best ways of winning this trust.  A LinkedIn study showed that 69% of decision makers said being the recognised thought leader demonstrated the calibre of thinking of the organisation, 58% said it led to them awarding business to that organisation and 55% indicated that they use thought leadership as an important way of vetting organisations.

Given that content is a primary component of thought leadership, we will likely see an explosion in blog posts, ebooks, business books, videos, infographics and podcasts that help thought leaders connect with their audience, showcase their expertise and provide their audiences with valuable insights and information.

Equally we will see more and more CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders building their personal brands and emerging from behind the anonymity of their brands to increasingly become the “human face” of their organisations. They will be the ones communicating directly with their customers and shareholders, creating and sharing content … even raising awareness on issues, calling out poor behaviour and actively influencing public debate and thinking.

2020 will also be the year when we see growing numbers of academics and researchers emerge from behind the walls of academia and begin communicating their thinking, big ideas and critical thought to the world. Rather than focus on how many Twitter followers they can muster, their thought leadership will be based on making themselves and their work more relevant to the outside world and by animating their content with evidence and solid research.

Story telling will be bigger than ever

In 2020 we will see storytelling going well beyond TED Talks and increasingly being woven into business presentations, financial year-end reports, media stories and articles, social media, video and podcasts.

Storytelling will likely include the use of the narrative arc (taking the audience on a journey) or mini narratives highlighting people, specific initiatives and success stories. It will also see an uptick in the use of figurative and emotive language, painting pictures we are less likely to forget.

Bottom line it will help people feel a personal connection with you and your brand, drive engagement and help push forward purchasing decisions.

Ultimately it will be the thing people remember most about your brand.

A shift to niche media

While once upon a time coverage in top-tier publications (the Australian Financial Review, The Age, mainstream TV and radio) was the holy grail of PR success, increasingly we’re seeing a shift to niche media.

This trend is being driven by the rise in specialist industry publications, newsletters and podcasts, online blogs, influencers, and self-publishing platforms which are increasingly giving mainstream publications a run for their money.

This is especially exciting for smaller brands which often find placement in major mastheads and outlets well out of their reach.

So the big takeaway when pitching your story to a media outlet: don’t focus on who has the biggest audience or the best name recognition. Instead, focus on the outlets that your audience uses or that are popular within your industry.

Leverage live streaming

Although live streaming has been around for a few years now, it is enjoying a big surge in popularity and could become bigger than traditional video.

The key reason for this is that it enables a more authentic interaction with audiences and is likely to garner more comments than regular video.

So, how can you use live video in your public relations strategy? Look at streaming live interviews, discussions, panels, and live events. Even look at live streaming an announcement or product launch.

According to the PR gurus out there, in 2020 we are going to witness more brands shunning the well-rehearsed, scripted videos and opting instead for more relaxed, natural-looking live streaming videos.

Hope you found my crystal-ball gazing useful and that 2020 proves to be a productive year on the communication front!

Have a wonderful Xmas and New Year!