As we reluctantly pack away our thongs and bathers, don our city clothes and head back to the office after a well-earned summer break, our gaze inevitably turns to the horizon.

What will be the top communications and public relations trends for 2019 and how we can stay ahead of the curve?

What does the upcoming year hold and what should we be doing to get the best possible results from our PR?

After talking to several key communications futurists and taking a look at what some of our industry gurus have to say about the next 12 months, here are some of the conclusions I have reached:

Trend 1 – Bigger focus on original, high quality content

Continuing on from the past few years, public relations will continue to embrace the full gamut of communications channels and platforms for sharing and distributing content – social media, blogs, podcasts, info-graphics, video, authoritative content, white papers and e-books and business books.

These new communications channels will also continue to open up opportunities for companies to pitch their story ideas to non-traditional story tellers such as podcasters, removing some of the former reliance on more traditional media outlets.

However the real big change on the content front will be the trend to novel, high quality content.

Regurgitation of other people’s ideas and insights will no longer cut the mustard and we will see many more experts and thought leaders adding new and original thinking and ideas to the body of knowledge in their respective fields.

Increasingly high quality content will:

  • Sell ideas and deep thinking, not products or services.
  • Address genuine knowledge gaps and provide real answers to real problems
  • Keep consumers abreast of the latest issues and trends
  • Provide information that goes beyond current thinking
  • Include data and research which will ensure what you say has been validated and is evidence-based.
  • Embrace your human side and allow people to identify with you at a personal level.

Trend 2 – Personal branding/thought leadership will continue to gain pace

Your personal brand is what defines you in your industry or field and is the starting point for all thought leadership communication and activity.

While those looking to position themselves as thought leaders and the go-to experts in their fields will predominantly be CEOs, community leaders, academics, entrepreneurs and change-makers, we will increasingly see key executives across the board looking to improve their branding.

And rather than balk at the idea, companies should embrace this trend.

An executive’s strong personal brand can be very successfully leveraged to the benefit an enterprise as a whole in a number of ways:

  • If a high-level executive has a trustworthy, credible and believable personal brand, this can produce a positive spill-over effect on the company which in turn will be seen as trustworthy, credible and believable.
  • A strong personal brand will also make the PR and promotional effort easier and more effective. If that executive, for example, has been in the media or has been interviewed by top publications, securing more coverage will be considerably easier moving forward.

 Trend 3 – Media coverage remains as important as ever

Despite dire predictions about the end of media, leading PR pundits predict that in the absence of trusted, validated information there will be a big demand for credible publicity and media coverage this year.

Unlike paid media, owned media and shared media (which are the communications’ tools you have control over) media coverage brings with it that much valued third party endorsement and carries much greater weight.

So unsurprisingly, securing publicity in a key mainstream or specialist masthead or scoring an interview on prime-time television or drive-time radio, will continue to be more powerful than writing a blog, doing a video interview, creating a whitepaper or posting on social media.

It will also help to drive much greater organic traffic to your website!

Trend 4 – Storytelling will be big again this year

Story telling will continue to personalise your content in 2019. Expect to see storytelling used in media releases as well content more generally – articles, blogs, social media, backgrounders, videos, case studies and annual reports.

Storytelling allows a brand to take its audience on a journey that evokes a reaction and allows brands to more readily connect with their audience.

Story-telling in PR content and materials will likely include:

  • Case studies or stories about real people
  • The use of statistics and evidence-based research
  • The use of hard-hitting headlines that capture attention and make people want to read more
  • The creation of a story arc and the elements of a good story – the classic crisis, climax, and resolution. This is especially good in case studies. Present a crisis – a problem that needs to be resolved. Then show how your product or service solves this problem, and the key features that make it superior.

Trend 5 – More communications in area of corporate social responsibility

The big focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) will be driven by society’s demand that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.

To prosper long term, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also benefit all stakeholders –shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.

What this means is that we can expect to see much greater PR focus on the promotion of positive initiatives on the social, political as well as environmental front.

Trend 6 – Public relations will become more political

According to our futurists, the days of companies remaining tight-lipped on political, social and ethical issues will become a thing of the past with consumers increasingly basing their buying decisions on a brand’s publicly stated beliefs.

A “no comment” from companies on this front will no longer do.

However my advice to companies or organisations looking to weigh in on an issue is that they do their homework and better understand what resonates with their audiences (customers, partners, employees, stakeholders and more) then respond accordingly.

Are you looking to lift your company’s profile and reputation or become the thought leader and go-to person for your ideas, opinions and knowledge:

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