Preview 2018

January 5, 2018

[yagi studio/getty]
[yagi studio/getty]

To kick off the New Year, Strategies & Tactics spoke to communicators throughout the country about the future of public relations. Here are 11 of the responses, to view the full article of predictions for 2018, view the digital flipbook or the print edition.

Here are their responses to the following question:

What trends do you see on the horizon for communicators and for the PR profession in 2018 and beyond?

“The pace of change will never be slower. CCOs and PR execs face a dizzying array of challenges from technology disruption to public mistrust, political uncertainty, communications fragmentation, the transformation of business models and pressures to show a return on investment.

The good news is that the opportunities brought on by these pressures outweigh the risks. It’s easy with the multiplicity of challenges to throw one’s hands to the air or to think that we’ll never easily manage the situation.

The reality is that when our clients actively organize around these changes, they create better opportunities for themselves. The victors are those who aren’t shy. The victors are those who are not cautious. The victors are those who look to embrace change more actively and find the new ways to tell their story. The opportunity may not always be readily apparent, but it’s there.”

-Mike Fernandez, U.S. CEO, Burson-Marsteller, New York

“An increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion — bringing these concepts to life in our corporate cultures, embedding them in our work and embodying them in our responses to challenging, fast-moving events that can impact corporate reputation, brand image, employee engagement, stakeholder trust and marketing outcomes.

With the dramatically changing political, cultural state of play in the United States and 47 percent of millennials believing that CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about important societal issues, it will be more important for companies to articulate their POVs with courage and authenticity.”

-Judith Harrison, Senior VP, Diversity & Inclusion, Weber Shandwick, New York

“Communications and the media are in a state of constant change. I’m focused on how to build the communication team of the future to do our jobs. Leaders need to retain top talent and recruit new skill sets. Demonstrate and embrace a growth mindset and bring the best thinking, ideas and strategies to the table.

PR professionals must be comfortable using new technology, multiple platforms for storytelling and creating news content that engages consumers in a mobile-dominated world. Additionally, journalism and the media are changing constantly, so providing them with what they need is becoming an art and a science.

In health care, 62 percent of consumers use their mobile phones to find health information. One in 20 Google searches are health-related and mobile search is now more popular than desktop search.”

-Eileen Sheil, MPA, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland

“There will be a greater focus on ethics in public relations and the news media. It’s essential that all PR professionals have a strong ethical foundation. Practitioners will need to bring a critical voice into their respective boardrooms to ensure diversity of thought in all decision-making and guarantee that accuracy and truth are at the forefront of all communications with the public. This will help strengthen trust in our profession, safeguard reputations and ensure organizations remain credible with their publics.”

-Isidro Reyna, APR, Senior Communications Specialist, NASA Johnson Space Center Houston

“Crisis communication, specific to events, will become more of a focus for PR practitioners and planners. Even before the horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, we saw an uptick in clients expressing interest in expanded and coordinated communication planning efforts with local and federal law enforcement.

The focus has been communicating with guests and attendees of events as well as digital media integration of owned media sources to provide clear, consistent and transparent information.”

-Tom Garrity, President & CEO, The Garrity Group Albuquerque, N.M.

“Companies will continue to search for solid ground at the confluence of intent and action as it pertains to diversity and inclusion. The business case for diversity and inclusion will increase in significance as issues continue to make headlines.

Companies making positive strides will look past the prima facie focus on inclusion cultivation within their organizations to see the possibilities that can be realized in innovation, engagement and performance. They will embrace diversity as more than race, gender and lifestyle to include all aspects that make their employees and customers unique, opening up the creative process and free exchange of ideas.”

-LaTricia Woods, APR, Founder, Mahogany Xan Comms. Chandler, Ariz.

“Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) will be embedded in everything we do. It ties to retention and recruitment as well as meeting client expectations and a brand’s social purpose.

Cultural inclusion in the workplace will be a high priority for agencies and clients. We will see more agencies creating new service offerings based on their clients’ needs to communicate to their stakeholders — primarily, to their employees — on issues relating to D&I in the present political climate.

We will see more collaboration on addressing Diversity & Inclusion between industry and academia, and agency and client. This includes defining, measuring, communicating and living D&I. We will realize that D&I involves all of us — not some of us — and that it’s good for business.”

-Angela K. Chitkara, PR Track Director & CUNY Mellon Fellow, The City College of New York, New York

“As client demands continue to evolve and agencies have to step up to the plate armed with more than media capabilities, we are expecting more of the PR professional.To succeed in communications, you must not only be a stellar writer with a top-notch network of trusted media and industry contacts, but also have a deep understanding of the digital landscape. Public relations isn’t only about press releases any more. Clients expect innovation. Audiences expect authenticity. Communicators have to be equipped to provide counsel, execution and results across the board.”

-Christina Stokes, VP, Director of Talent Acquisition, Rubenstein, New York

“We’re in the midst of a time of massive disruption in our profession, and it’s shifting the fundamentals — the structure of agencies and teams, the workings of agency-client partnerships and the ways we employ and deploy talent. I expect we’ll see the following in 2018:

  • Integration acceleration: It’s now a must that strategic planning, creative, analytics and digital are fully integrated in client teams. We’re moving on to deeper integration — resulting in a more consistent customer journey and improved ROI.
  • Generalists on the outs: If you’re a PR generalist in today’s integrated world, then your days may be numbered. Replacing you is the in-demand specialist — the creative, the strategic planner, the content specialist, the business strategist.
  • PR goes gig: For talent, gigging means they work on what they want, when they want. For agencies and companies, this model allows them to flex their workforce in response to fast-changing needs. The gig economy brings an opportunity for companies to bring in talent and modernize our models to work more efficiently.
  • Measure and win: We’re under more pressure to prove public relations’ value through measurement. This will intensify in 2018; he or she who masters measurement, wins.”  

-Karen van Bergen, CEO, Omnicom Public Relations Group, New York

“2018 trends:

  • Data — prove it or lose it
  • Mobile surpasses desktop
  • Personalized, real-time, on-the-go content — micro-moments
  • Greater focus on social commerce — insta-shopping, content to commerce, offline to online
  • Facebook domination will continue, especially for social news — 85 percent of traffic to news publishers comes from Facebook and, if you add in Twitter, that’s a total of 98 percent
  • The rise of the bot — as a way of brands gaining trust of users for new types of interactions
  • Voice search becoming mainstream — Alexa, Siri, Cortana applications become broader and more mainstream.”

-Gary Rudnick, CEO + Operations, Golin, Chicago

“The number of Americans expecting corporate leaders to weigh in on social issues is surging.

We counsel CEOs leading companies who have been flummoxed by investors, customers and their own employees, demanding to know ‘where the company stands’ on immigration reform, gender-neutral public restrooms, destruction of historic monuments and other hot-button issues. Though the vast majority of corporate executives would rather not play into such emotionally charged games, they know retreat can be bad business.

Most consumers are willing to drive farther and pay more to shop at a store whose brand they perceive as socially responsible, according to a recent survey released by Aflac. But this impact goes beyond retail sales. Professional investors see socially responsible corporate behavior not as a ‘wasted’ spend of monies that could be devoted to paying higher dividends, but as a cultural marker.

The corporate world is not conveniently divided into companies that have values and companies that do not. The admonition to ‘do the right thing’ is inadequate. Educated people with generous hearts and good intentions can, and do, hold opposing values. Therefore, every statement of ‘where the company stands’ risks alienating some percentage of prospective customers, investors and employees. Helping our clients walk this ever-thinning tightrope will keep our corporate counselors occupied in this coming, contentious year.”

-Paul Dusseault, APR, Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard, Atlanta


Christina Stokes says:

Thanks for sharing my thoughts!

Jan. 10, 2018

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