The most interesting part about predictions is they are an intersection of analysis and aspiration. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say our own predictions are influenced by where things are today – and where we’d like things to go.
I genuinely enjoy the process of making predictions – and I find it intellectually stimulating to read those offered by other smart people. It is a window into their assessment of current trends and their aspirations.
Fittingly, I asked a whole bunch of folks for predictions to include in a blog post here (if you want to be invited next year, you can sign up here). Eighteen people responded with some solid predictions that I’m very pleased to present.
I’ve added two of my own that are included at the bottom of this post and rounded up a whole bunch of other predictions posts too. Here we go…20 insightful PR and marketing predictions for 2018 follows below.
1) Pay to play gains prominence.
“Pay to play will become more prominent as more companies automate and increase messaging volumes.”
2) AI competencies come into focus.
“My prediction for 2018 is continued investment in both AI tools and competencies and, in parallel, the data needed to leverage them.”
3) Brevity is back in style.
“‘Convenience’ (more of it) and ‘friction’ (less of it) are going to be critical terms for brand messaging in 2018, whether through marketing or PR efforts. People are inundated with information like never before. To stand out, you’ll need to explain – succinctly – how your product or service saves time and increases convenience. And your buying and service processes need to reflect that by being designed to minimize friction. Doing that effectively will result in positive word of mouth – the real, authentic kind that people still trust, not paid ‘influencers.’”
4) It’s about the experience.
“In 2018 it will become even more about the customer experience. Today’s buyers (whether an organization or consumer) are more informed and choosy about who they decide to do business. And maybe more importantly who they choose to continue to do business with. People want to buy from brands that they can trust and feel that share the same values. In order to survive in this newer era, organizations will need to become more customer-centric and engage with their audiences in an authentic and personalized way.”
5) Rise of the real influencers.
“A lot of what is hot right now is going to continue to be the hot thing in marketing and PR; what is going to happen, though, is that the current hot trends are going to continue but with more focus.
Meaning that while influencer relations are big, and everyone is focusing on influencers and micro-influencers, there’s going to be a push for real engagement, real influence. Right now, influencer relations is almost 100% transactional – it’s paid for, but there’s no real connection.
And with the FTC cracking down, with the realization that too much of what is out there is paid and that’s it – no real affinity or love – there’s going to be a shift for real connections, real influencers that will be smaller footprints but have a real affinity and connection.
As an aside, it’s why I ended up working with Gatsby as they are a marketing technology startup that’s focusing on that issue. Ecommerce brands use their app to offer discounts, free shipping, etc. via logging in with a social platform and then see which of those customers is a potential micro-influencer (who already likes the brand enough to try it out or buy).”
6) Finding a content marketing niche.
“Continued drive toward niche content and blogs, such as cybersecurity for the hospitality industry, or regulatory law for marijuana growers. These net more devoted readers, more qualified leads, higher conversion rates and the greater possibility of content-driven conversations.”
7) Hyper-targeting drives engagement.
“Similar to what is currently going on as a result of the 2016 election in social media, I feel there will be an increased and possibly dramatic focus on message attribution across all channels. That transparency will mean that marketers and PR professionals will possibly have to work much harder to customize their messages to ensure they are hyper-targeted and unique to media outlet to gain traction and engagement.”
8) The fragmentation of influence.
“I think the PR industry will finally wake up to the fragmentation of influence. This will give rise to the ‘micro influencer,’ a dynamic that PR will struggle to address next year because a) clients/companies don’t value the “micro influencer” and b) it requires a hand-crafted approach that’s difficult to scale. Yet, one could make an argument particularly for B2B companies that someone with deep influence over 100 people has more value than someone with superficial influence over 10,000 people. This one will be unfolding for the coming years.”
– Lou Hoffman | The Hoffman Agency
9) Crisis management grows exponentially.
“The market for crisis management PR services will continue to grow exponentially, particularly in the area of crisis preparedness/planning/training.”
10) Redeploying older but still relevant content gems.
“I’m not normally a huge fan of ‘prediction’ pieces. Perhaps because they always seem to be vapid rehashes of the previous few years.
I mean no disrespect, I just find more value in the ‘observation’ as opposed to the ‘prediction.’
All that said – here’s what I’m experiencing and plan to focus more in 2018: more time spent on how to extract value from my subscribed audience. Whether that means current customers, opt’d in newsletter subscribers, former friendly customers, or simple contacts that engaged with my company in some respect but never went anywhere.
After all, we’ve built a treasure trove of content the past few years, right? And there are some real gems in that certain whitepaper from 2016. How do I re-deploy it to 2018’s subscribed audience?
We’ve done a good job at creating content, messaging, multi-touch campaigns, and big picture programs. Heck, we’ve even spent oodles on all this ‘martech stuff.’
But where I’m focusing is that valuable asset, sitting in some nearby CRM system just waiting to be sold to.”
11) Sales and marketing alignment.
“Sales is driven and measured by one metric, closed business – revenue. Salary is driven by commission and those that consistently do not perform are released. Simple.
Marketing develops the messages to drive engagement and executes a strategy of tactics to deliver opportunities to drive toward a closed business projection.
Marketing budgets are dwindling as the only penalty for missing the mark with increased expectations of opportunity delivery.
My prediction for the future of sales and marketing alignment is a marketing organization funded by a commission and thus rewarded for delivering against a plan and grows as the business grows.
Accountability with rewards will drive alignment and growth of the business.”
12) The first anti-trust traced to Web 2.0?
“Following the temporary shutdown of President Trump’s Twitter account, there will be additional scandals regarding the influence and editorial power of the leading social platforms. The DOJ will finally begin examining the monopoly status of Google, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, a victim of terror or their family will sue Facebook for aiding and abetting terrorism due to laxity in removing jihadist content.”
13) Data says it’s fit to print.
“Two polar opposite directions. An increase in the data driven arms race and for many to return to analog or print options to cut through the digital noise.”
14) Tips for social media differentiation.
“I predict that with the extension of characters on Twitter, the hashtag will get used more and become an essential tool for companies to get noticed by people on Twitter.”
15) Further blending of paid and earned media.
“Watch for paid and earned media to get a little closer together. As sponsored content becomes more popular, the role of the PR pro will continue to evolve. While public relations was once about only earned media, we now see the lines blurring. Some PR practitioners may view this as a negative, but it should be embraced as it opens up more opportunities to amplify clients’ content. Paid placements also provide more control over the content and the timing of the message.”
16) Personalization is paramount.
“With the capabilities of A/B testing, personalized web experience, and algorithmic signals, companies will start to consolidate data to close the gap between targeting and engaging customers. Assembling and interpreting behavioral data will lead to the industrialization of content as companies need to produce not just more but better content.”
17) AI augments marketing.
“Marketing, in all of its forms, will be significantly augmented by AI. Data-driven decision-making has finally started to get its due attention. Capturing data has become far less an issue in favor of now making sense of it all. There has been an explosion in tools that mash-up and create dashboards out of multiple data sources. This has made way for a crop of new tools that chew on the data and help provide actionable guidance on what to do next. Add a dash of artificial intelligence (currently in its infancy) and you now have tools that can speed up or tackle repetitive tasks and analysis. Creating content, social post scheduling, optimizing advertising, designing web pages, and deciding what images to use in your next campaign are just some of the things that these new AI-powered tools are there to help with. Agencies and professionals that adopt some of these new tools will get the competitive edge.”
– Adam Helweh | Secret Sushi, Inc.
18) The merger of performance marketing.
“Marketing and PR continue to merge with performance marketing. ‘Branding’ has already become attributable, tracing a pathway to purchase (inter)actions to physical world touches and quantifiable branding KPIs.
Soon it won’t be enough to foster brand without a great understanding of the entire conversion (leads & sales) system. The charge of PR will generate move brand keyword searches for SEO optimizers and performance marketers to pounce upon.”
19) Audience building as a distinct marketing skill.
“The competition for attention in content will continue to climb. Experience in building an audience, like digital, will become a sought-after skill. The next year will show which organizations are truly committed to content marketing and which ones are dabbling. The former will be more likely to report satisfaction with the results, while the latter will be more likely to say content marketing doesn’t work.”
20) A new focus on marketing efficiency.
Businesses are producing more and more content, but haven’t added resources and yet still follow bureaucratic marketing processes. Something has to give as the content race heats up and business vie to produce better quality content – and do it faster. This means re-engineering the marketing organization to build systems for content marketing, empowering employees to produce content, and streamlining the process from creation to distribution. The alternative ways to scale marketing are to add headcount or spend more on advertising.