I would like to thank Doyle Albee, Chris Arnold, Sydney Ayers, Brad Bawmann, Jen Elving, Joe Fuentes, Dylan Frusciano, Larry Holdren, Melissa Hourigan, Andrew Hudson, GG Johnston, Laura Love, Rob McNealy, Jon Pushkin, Paul Raab, Elaine Schoch, Steven Silvers, Pete Webb and Dan Welch for contributing to the Denver PR Blog’s 2009 PR Predictions list. Their predictions ranged from the funny to the serious, and the likely to the seemingly impossible. But they all shared one thing: they were contributed by people who weren’t afraid to stand up and publicly predict what the future may hold.
You can download the 2009 Denver PR Predictions here (be patient; it may take 15-30 seconds to download).
By Doyle Albee
President & New Media Practice Director, Metzger Associates
2009 becomes the year when “everything old is new again,” and the shake-out to the public relations industry will be significant.
PR started as a one-to-one industry: PR pros forged relationships with reporters and pitched stories to members of their network (often over a three-martini lunch, but that’s another blog post!). PR people would expand their network as necessary in order to get the right story to the right reporter, often through a personal introduction. Press releases and other more mass communications were usually more targeted simply because of the distribution effort required — who in their right mind would snail mail a release to every reporter in America?
Then two things happened: a job in the media, like most, stopped being a “job for life.” People moved every few years, making it more difficult to nurture and maintain relationships. And then technology came into the picture. Suddenly, a press release really could be sent to just about every reporter in America with the push of a button — whether it made any sense or not.
Case in point: TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington authored this piece last month. While I felt a bit sorry for Ms. Whitman, I am also irritated with her. Nothing makes my job more difficult that trying to convince someone like Arrington that not all PR people are this ignorant.
Just as the media was once local and as two-way as the technology could allow (anyone else remember calling a disk jockey and requesting a song?), the “one-to-many” model we’ve come to over-embrace in the last few years will accelerate it’s transition back to a more personalized model. While technology’s role will increase rather than diminish, the best among us will learn to use it more wisely.
Since we can now all publish our own news to mass outlets, we will need to understand that media outlets will have less interest in mass-packaged stories — the New York Times has no desire or need to compete with Google News to cover the same story in the same way. Instead, outlets like the Times must strive to provide a unique angle and insight to every story they choose to cover, and we must help with that process in a personalized way. Reporters will continue to brand themselves even as they work for branded media outlets, and the pitches that will resonate will help reporters develop those personal brands. We must learn to harness social media tools for the old school personal touch — because everything old will be new again.
With a little luck, 2009 will be the year the “Lois Whitman” approach finally goes completely away.
By Jen Elving
Senior PR & Communications Manager, Visit Denver
Consumer prediction: Most consumers like to trust the system – it helps them conserve mental and emotional resources, so we can apply those to more intimate, personal decisions. But right now consumers feel betrayed, and it’s making communication with them more difficult. Companies with rich brand character and a quality product will maintain their open dialogues; however, new companies or those without a solid communication channel will need, more than ever, to offer transparency, accuracy and sincerity in their messages. Hope is on the horizon, but consumers need to feel they can trust a company before they will invest in it.
Public relations prediction: Many companies look at recession and think of slashing communication budgets – it’s the first thing to go, according to several CEOs. And at first glance, it would appear the fiscally responsible decision to make, so you won’t see as many big mobile tours, branded guerilla tactics or in-market stunting. Those of us in the communication business know, however, that recession is the time when open communication needs to be enhanced. With tighter budgets and less interest in consuming – especially in travel, luxury, and certain consumer goods – public relations efforts need to be more targeted and more in-tune with the value-add for consumers in order to be effective.
By Jon Pushkin
President, Pushkin PR
Public relations will play an important role in Colorado and nationally in 2009. PR pros will craft and communicate important messages promoting commitment, teamwork, sacrifice and tolerance to all Americans.
Wartime propaganda and partisan bickering will fade away and be replaced by a new spirit of hope, innovation and confidence that will spur economic recovery and restore America’s reputation in the world community.
By Rob McNealy
Principal, Contrived Media
I predict a tidal wave of traditional media outlets failing worldwide. So what’s the effect on PR? The PR industry will need to work a little harder. PR pros will now need to shift how they do business. As the mainstream media continues to lose audience to independent new media producers, PR folks will need to learn how to identify who the niche micro celebrity influence leaders are, as well as how to engage them. PR will no longer be as simple as picking up a trade journal and pitching the editor, it will involve having to pitch many more people to get the same reach.
By Larry Holdren
Principal, Pure Brand
2009 will be filled with challenges for the PR industry, just like it will be filled with challenges for nearly any kind of business. But unlike other down economies, in which PR budgets were often the first on the chopping block, I’m incredibly optimistic that that this time around will be different for our industry. The role of public relations has always been to build and maintain relationships with people who can affect an organization’s success or failure. That hasn’t changed, regardless of the state of the economy or constantly increasing number of vehicles available to communicators.
The difference now is that, thanks to the technological advances of the last several years, those relationships are in the balance nearly ever second of everyday. A company’s reputation – and bottom line – can be damaged or enhanced quicker than ever. So, it’s critical that smart organizations dedicate the resources to maintaining existing relationships and developing new ones. Good public relations people are doing that now and will continue to do it in 2009 and beyond.
Along the same lines, PR people/firms/departments that are focused on enhancing relationships with their clients’ key audiences and, importantly, proving the value of those relationships to the success of their clients’ businesses, will see success in 2009. Those who are unable to connect what they do to the bottom line will struggle.
Additionally, the lines – if there really are lines anymore – between what’s PR and what’s marketing and what’s interactive and what’s advertising will continue to blur. Organizations will continue to care less about whose budget something comes from, while caring more about maximizing tight budgets to establish meaningful relationships with their customers and stakeholders.
Lastly, I predict that I will continue to push deadlines to their absolute max and that Denver PR Blog will continue to be the undisputed leader in delivering news about Denver’s ever-interesting PR industry.
By Melissa Hourigan
Partner, Digital Idea Media
1. More and more journalists will take a liking to the idea of a pitch in 140 characters or less regardless if they are on Twitter.
2. Budget practices will have to be redone as more social media tactics are introduced to the PR program.
3. Smaller agencies will win the mindshare in social media due to the time it takes to understand communities and the tools available.
4. Phrases like “above the fold” and “embargo” will be used less and less.
5. PR firms that practice “PR as usual” and don’t diversify their offerings will see a dip in retainers.
6. Audio and video will become more important with each PR campaign.
7. Vendor accounts will be created for sharing sites such as FlickR, SlideShare.net, YouTube, iTunes, TubeMogule.
8. Viral and word-of-mouth marketing will be one of the top areas of interest, primarily for consumer brands.
9. Blogging as we know it will evolve as more microblogging tools and concepts are unveiled.
10. PR measurement will have to evolve (thankfully) and include web-based analytics vs. advertising equivalents.