No one in the industry has a crystal ball. In fact, PR Week polled 22 industry pros the week of the presidential election, and not a single one of them predicted Donald Trump’s victory.
But perhaps the closest thing we have to an industry soothsayer is Havas PR CEO and author Marian Salzman, whose annual Trendspotting reports provide clairvoyant peeks into business, cultural and social shifts.
With that in mind, we asked the Maven of Madison Avenue what will shape the biz in the coming year.
“The long-held definitions of PR have been uprooted,” Salzman told us. “While I don’t buy into the idea that media relations is a dinosaur, the job of a great PR leader now incorporates so much more: strategic branding, content marketing, channel agnosticism, even native advertising. And media relations itself now means ‘place it and then boost it.’ ”
Here’s Salzman’s PR “Trendspotting” for 2017, written exclusively for the Observer. Remember, you heard it here first:
- Celebrities aren’t just spokespeople anymore. They’re their own brands. Think Jessica Alba’s Honest Company. So when a brand chooses a celeb, they aren’t just hiring the person as a short-term shill—but blending the celeb’s brand with their own. And what happens when journalists become celebrities in their own right?
- Taboos will go mainstream. Today, everything and anything is fair game; why else would The New York Times feature stories on how women runners relieve themselves? Death, menstruation, urine—all now appropriate for print and ready to be hijacked by savvy newscrafters. PR pros can push boundaries a little further than we used to in telling stories.
- Audiences will want more life hacks and simple pleasures. Watch those one-minute cooking videos sprouting in your Facebook feed. In the year after BuzzFeed launched Tasty, it amassed more than 53 million Facebook followers and become Facebook’s most-watched video publisher. Simple publishing concepts tap into trends that are also shaping the future of PR: people’s desire for simple pleasures like food porn and for the collective interest in life hacks. It helps that they run on auto-play, another trend for marketers to note: Make things as easy as possible.
- Brand journalism’s about to become a much bigger deal. That means hiring former journalists for their storytelling abilities and expecting them to stay positive but also encouraging them to actually think like journalists. Brand journalism isn’t just telling good stories but also identifying and researching those stories—and that means giving brand journalists full access to clients so that they can use their skills to home in on positive news that can reinforce a brand and negative news.
- Media will thrive. Because media is everyone. Or rather, everyone is the media, now that we live in an age when a tweet can catch fire and anyone can become a YouTube star.