Traditional public relations (PR) has been evolving for the last ten years, but in 2020, I believe we are really going to see traditional PR experts forced to become all round PR strategist if they are going both survive and to be able to service the needs of their clients. Where we will focus not only on PR but social media, branding, marketing, copywriting, diversity in campaigns, sustainability and technology, where technology will be playing a bigger role than previously thought.
This need to become all round PR strategists will be pushed by the brands who recognize that they have to up their game, which in turn will be driven by consumers who will demand that brands do better and get it right. This isn’t something that marketing or digital professionals will be able to deliver on, but instead by communication experts who will have an overview and a real understanding of the brands they are working with and representing.
For instance, we have seen many of the luxury brands starting to drive diversity in 2019 by employing ‘diversity chiefs’ after many culturally insensitive campaigns. Chanel hired its first ‘Head of Diversity and Inclusion’, Fiona Pargeter, this year, as a way to reportedly “beef up the resources” devoted to creating diverse and inclusive environments. While, Prada launched its ‘Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council’ earlier this year in February. This was after, the brand came under scrutiny when some of its products (black monkey figurines with oversized red lips) displayed in a New York, US, store were thought to resemble blackface imagery.
Other luxury fashion houses, including Burberry, are also hiring for similar roles. Renée Tirado was named as Gucci’s first global head of diversity, equity and inclusion and followed its out-of-touch autumn/winter 2018 collection featuring a balaclava polo neck jumper with large red lips – a product accused of portraying blackface. The Italian fashion company apologized, stating it would turn the incident into “a powerful learning moment”.
These hires are not clever publicity moves, but a must have for companies worldwide who recognize that they need to embrace diversity, as there is no longer the excuse to get it wrong. Consumers are demanding better and for brands to be inclusive and sensitive.
Sustainability will be seen as a bigger core brand value and news item than any PR or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professional could have imagined. With climate change, plastic pollution and reducing waste continuing to dominate global headlines, companies will need to ensure that their CSR initiatives are not just used as marketing tools, as they will face a consumer and media backlash, but are instead integral to their core brand values, which is then sincerely filtered through to all their internal and external communications, operations and delivery.
Thirteen years ago, companies would start CSR projects to show their stakeholders how good they were, which was window dressing. Fast-forward to 2019, businesses need to prove how good they are!
This means creating a human connection between a brand and its audiences will be pivotal in 2020. Where the PR strategy will need to be driven by emotion and have the human element in order to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers. Everything will be drilled down, as consumers suffer from constant information overload and expect to engage with businesses on their own terms. It’s so important to create campaigns that provoke emotions that are relevant and memorable, and therefore, PR experts will need to consider all aspects of a client’s social and digital footprint.
The best campaigns will focus on creating not just customers – but true fans who are passionate about the brand, who proactively search for information and become active advocates for the business.
Simultaneously, it will be important and a challenge consider how to reach consumers undergoing digital detoxes. How is your brand providing value to an audience overwhelmed by hypo connectivity? As interactive content and video are no longer enough; no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solutions. The challenge is real –creating campaigns that tap into human truths and acknowledge human potential will be key.
I am definitely looking forward to 2020…as Serendipity PR is more than ready.