I think that one of the greatest changes we’ll see in public relations in 2010 is the weakened and reinventing economy. That might sound a bit odd, but most of the trends we’ll see in PR this year are just a continuation of what we saw in 2009, 2008 and so on. Yes, there’ll be more emphasis on social media and that any PR person worth their salt will figure out how to work with the Facebook and Twitter communities and how to create an engaging and beneficial blog, but that’s not a prediction. That’s easy stuff, just as it’s easy to say “we’ll see print media continue to struggle.” D’oh, yeah.
What I’m thinking is more about how the economic problems of 2009 didn’t so much reflect a weak economy but rather one that is reinventing itself to match the modern era. In some sectors unemployment is alarmingly high, but in other sectors – like tech – business is booming. Smart programmers are writing iPhone apps and making a good living, while the clueless are wondering what happened to their cushy DoD contracts.
This will push PR in new directions because consumers (the “public” in public relations) are going to become both more skeptical and more demanding of the relationship that they have with vendors. As the dollar becomes scarce, the urge to be thoughtful in spending it will increase. PR won’t have the leeway to be clumsy any more and I predict that some fairly big companies will flame out spectacularly due to major PR missteps.
Public Relations professionals are going to have to really learn how to listen to the customer and to the public, not just try and manipulate the marketplace for the benefit of their clients. And that might make this a great year for PR in the long run.
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