The 20-teens will be remembered as a decade of contrasts. Companies strove to be seen as authentic in a fake news world. Consumers fought corporations for their privacy rights while simultaneously sharing every detail of their lives on social media.
While the 2000s taught us to write in 140-character tweets, this past decade took us from the Instagram filter to the six-second Vine to the Snapchat story.
So, what’s next on the communication front? Here’s a look at our predictions for the 2020s and their effects on PR, marketing and communications over the next 10 years.
Sustainability will be front and center
For many years, only certain brands have owned the sustainability message. In the coming decade, all companies will need to jump on board to address the global effects of climate change. Consumers, who are accustomed to voting with their wallets when it comes to political and social issues they care about, will force companies to adopt more environmentally-conscious policies.
Communicators will be challenged to share their organizations’ corporate social responsibility efforts in ways that appear authentic without pandering, educate customers without being preachy, and highlight their good work without bragging.
As consumers become more conscious of how their own actions affect the environment, we’ll continue to see a move away from the throw-away culture. Single-use items and fast fashion will fall out of style and companies will shift toward developing products that last longer and waste less. Communicators may be called on to educate, raise awareness and encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable habits.
Robots will come for our jobs — or help us do them better
We’ve long known that job automation is in our future. For many industries, it’s already here, forcing businesses to transform their operations and workers to adapt to monumental changes in their careers.
Creatives and communicators are not immune to the robot revolution. AI can compile, analyze and optimize market research and certain digital marketing tasks far quicker than even the most efficient marketer. AI can create content, develop Google ads and even write newspaper articles. What does this mean for the future of communications?
While some marketing, communication and design tasks may fall to AI in the coming decade, it will only change the way we do our jobs, not eliminate them for good. On the contrary, those who embrace automation will have more time and energy to devote to the more creative aspects of our roles — like developing an award-winning content campaign or creative that inspires and moves audiences.
“Change in our industry is inevitable as we move into the 2020s, but the power of human connection will be more important than ever.”
PR will move to the board room
Throughout the last decade, experts mourned the death of traditional media outlets and expected PR to follow suit. But PR didn’t die — it evolved, and in many ways, it has become even more valuable. Corporations facing massive crises are realizing the importance of crisis management and protecting corporate reputation, all of which are driven by PR.
As industry expert John Onoda said, “Public relations is all about aligning behaviors and messaging to achieve a desired outcome. Inside corporations, it is increasingly about shaping the culture and helping people change.” In order to create change within organizations, PR practitioners will need to have the CEO’s ear and sit at the table with the board of directors, listening to crucial conversations and providing an often-overlooked perspective on how proposed actions affect a company’s reputation.
However, PR practitioners can only be effective if they have earned the trust and respect of the board and senior management, neither of which are given freely. They will have to step up to the plate to demonstrate the inherent strategic value of communications and how it affects all aspects of a company, from stakeholder engagement to long-term growth.
Good PR pros have always been a voice of credibility and truth within their organization, advocating for transparency and even calling out bad decisions that could negatively impact public perception. In the next decade, PR practitioners who take initiative to elevate their role to the C-suite and board level can guide their organizations to make smarter, more ethical decisions and avert crises before they happen.
Human connection still matters
Change in our industry is inevitable as we move into the 2020s, but the power of human connection will be more important than ever. As the digital world becomes more immersive and isolating, consumers will seek out stories that define the human experience and make them feel connected to each other. Communicators with a unique voice and vision will be up for the challenge of reaching people through new media and defining the decade to come.