By Joe Hodas
Senior Vice President of Brand Communications
As I did my reading of last years predictions, I was reminded of the fact that I can’t say much about social media changing PR, or about the need for relationships, or about traditional media disappearing or about being open to changes and evolution. So, as I sit here, breathing in the smoldering fumes of a year that reminds me of that picture of a nuclear mushroom that flattens everything within sight in a matter of seconds, I scratch my head and wonder how I can possibly sound even remotely clever trying to predict what will happen next year. But, as I am never one to shy away from the opportunity to look like a buffoon, here goes:
First off, I predict that Bedpost will become the hottest new social media tool, replacing the trajectory set by Facebook and then Twitter. However, it will have a tragic and unexpected impact on new social media developments in that the losers who evaluate their “audience” by how many followers or “friends” they have, will suddenly feel exposed by this new tool and will be forced to reckon with the fact that somehow, some way, they must differentiate between relationships and marketing.
Employee communications will continue to lead the next wave of communication investment. More and more it seems that companies are forced (and I chose that word intentionally) to realize that their employees are their brand. Sounds cliché, but, the companies that will achieve marketing/communications success in the coming year(s) will invest in an inside out strategy. Once the employees are on board, understand the message and live/breathe the brand, all else will fall in place. Don’t get me wrong—there’s still a need to tell the story via traditional channels, but, that story wont resonate without employee buy in. And if there are any disconnects between the marketing and employees, it will show itself quickly and damagingly. In other predictions, I predict that I will create several new words in 2010, like damagingly or relationshippery.
Having misinterpreted the expression “any press is good press” the makers of the Zhu-Zhu pet, seeing all the coverage they received from the potential recall due to children licking the fake hamsters, decide to put out a line of edible hamster products. With the tag line, “you can play with them OR eat them” they figure they have all their bases covered until it is discovered that the tasty fur on the edible hamsters doesn’t pass FDA standards and the product is held responsible for the death of a dozen dogs.
The term “PR” will continue to be diluted and absorbed into broader nomenclature such as “communications” or “relationshippery”. It’s inevitable simply because our role as “PR practitioner” is changing so rapidly and our adaptation to those changes is pulling us in new and more non-traditional areas. If all you know how to do is create “messages” and pitch media, you might have a tough time of it. At the end of the day, we were always communicators, weren’t we?
Full disclosure—this is a veiled client plug. But I do think its true. . .This will be the year that “green” becomes more than a movement or a political opinion. Green will move into the consumer mainstream consciousness this year. We’ve already seen it in some of the most simplistic of ways, such as the “green” dishwashing detergent on the same shelf, at nearly the same price, as more “mainstream” detergent. But this year will take us to bigger and better heights. The average consumer will make an easy choice about CFLs vs. traditional bulbs; a simpler decision regarding which is the more energy efficient dishwasher to replace the old one that just broke; or how we can lower our energy bills with simple changes to our insulation or thermostats. I don’t know about you, but I already feel ridiculous about that draft in my house that I cant seem to get rid of. Seriously. I need to take care of that. Maybe in 2010.
Finally—I predict that all those companies that are trying to tap into the “less is more” and “back to basics” messaging because they think it’s so “strategic”, will suddenly realize that by doing so, they are actually reinforcing a message that negatively impacts their bottom line. In a total and complete panic over declining revenues, these same companies (probably in Q4 of next year), will launch massive campaigns to tell us all about the things we must have in order to make us feel fulfilled and happy. And in the reverse reaction, all of those who shunned material goods and commercialism will feel happy once again, understanding their place in the world, rather than feeling like they have to prove to everyone that they were always in the “less is more” camp.