The top 10 public relations trends of 2011

January 4, 2011

What a time to be in public relations! The world keeps evolving faster and faster for those of us who revel in the media, and love technology and all that it unlocks. So with the start of 2011, it’s always a good time to look ahead at the trends that will change our industry in the year to come.

1. Integration will be everything. No longer will traditional public relations and social media exist on islands. The two will meld together as part of a bigger, broader whole simply defined as public relations. We call this transformation the great move from “public relations to public relationships.” And it’s encompassing every aspect of corporate communications, including media buying and advertising, to lift the impact of entire communications campaigns. Essentially, integrated PR becomes a force multiplier for the universe of marketing.

2. Metrics will rule the world. As integration takes hold, metrics and measurements will become the norm for proving the case for public relations. The ability to measure, validate, and confirm ROIs will be the driving force behind client satisfaction. That’s great news for the industry, helping us all to shine a light on the value of the PR investment.

3. Media will live. All will not fall in the great digital revolution. Rather, the iconic names — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press — will continue to shape and make the news. And newer entrants, such as Mashable and Gizmodo, will continue the tradition of reporting and news capturing. According to Pew, TV and the Internet are the top two ways people get their news, so expect traditional media to stick around, supported by new, digital news sources.

4. Video will be omnipotent. As storytelling goes viral, corporations will become broadcasters and PR people will be transformed into on-air talent. By 2012, every PR firm will need to be a podcaster/broadcaster, or watch helplessly as others claim that business.

5. WikiLeaks will catalyze free speech advocates, be they conservative or liberal. A backlash has begun as more of the media and free speechers realize that any publisher, no matter how combative and irresponsible, can take shelter in the First Amendment. And corporations need to take heed. Their dirty laundry is fair game for a new generation of wikis focused on corporate misconduct.

6. Tablets will inherit the Earth. And let’s not forget smartphones are tablets too. Eight out of 10 companies now say they are going to tablets. Two percent of Internet bandwidth demand will come from the iPad by the end of 2011. PR professionals will need to rework content to fit mobile lifestyles where information can be found, shared, and consumed anywhere, anytime as the news increasingly moves to the tablet form factor.

7. Analytics will become the next big public relations bonanza. Firms that can monitor, interpret, and capitalize on public sentiment, and educate their clients to it will conceive and develop a broad new range of public relations services.

8. The end of cable bills as we know them. No one under age 25 subscribes to cable. It’s a dirty little secret. They all know how to time- and place-shift their viewing online using laptops and iPads. YouTube, Hulu, and VUDU-like services will allow us to view what we want, when we want.

9. Internet TV will finally arrive. Not as a stand-alone box, but integrated right into your TV. It’s already happening insidiously with simple apps and widgets. But 2011 will be the year that full integration takes place, allowing us to watch TV as we check e-mail, tweet, update our fantasy football teams, and read The New York Times, at once from the sofa.

10. Facebook will jump the shark. No one in the firm wanted me to make this prediction, but let’s put it out there. Sometime this year, Facebook will fatique as young people realize that it’s just not cool to be on the same social network as Aunt Millie. Already, I had a long sit-down with my 21-year-old son who confessed that the thrill is gone. A cumbersome user interface, a number of irritating flaws, more and more corporate come-ons, and a waning interest in his friends’ choice of restaurants and T-shirts has him Facebooking less and less. Can others be far behind?

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