As PRWeek nears its 10-year anniversary, we have had a chance to look back on the industry's history. It has been a great thrill to go through a decade's worth of issues to see how agencies soared and flailed (and, in some cases, failed), as well as merged and acquired, and how the industry has sharpened its focus on sounder metrics and smarter tactics.
Looking back often also means looking forward, which is the subject of our upcoming Next Conference, held in New York on November 19. We will be discussing, with industry experts, the future of content, the in-house PR team, talent, and more.
It can sometimes seem impossible to predict the future when the present is so unstable, but a closer inspection leads to key trends that can and should be debated as the industry contemplates its future.
• Influencers and media will remain. Some are forecasting a chaotic future where there are millions of media, all with a small number of readers. Spheres of influence will always exist in both the general-interest marketplace and industry markets, and many in the publishing world will reestablish 21st century business models for the sector.
The takeaway: PR professionals will still have their target media. They will all just look very different.
• All manner of communications will merge and change at an accelerated pace. How we speak now will seem at least quaint, if not unintelligible in 20 years. Scoff all you want older generations, but the Millennials will be running the show in two decades. They will care not for your antiquated manner of “complete sentences” and “non-abbreviated trains of thought.”
The takeaway: No matter how painful, communicators need to stop bemoaning the decline of writing. The only constant in humanity's languages is that they evolve. Computer-speak will likely be the next evolution.
• PR education departments must adapt or they will fail to provide students with jobs. If the industry truly believes that digital communications will change the future, it must recognize that requires different skill sets. Digital departments are just not hiring a lot of junior staffers with PR degrees, and business leaders now seek communicators with more robust skill sets.
The takeaway: Communications departments need more integration with other areas, including marketing, business, computer science, and political science. Students should be mandated, or at least encouraged, to choose a specialty focus outside of their general communications major.
The industry needs to keep apace with change by studying the trends and adapting – even when it hurts. That's the only way for PR to survive and thrive.
Have a bold prediction for the future of PR? We will publish select 10- to 30-word prognostications in our 10th anniversary issue on November 17. If you'd like your thoughts to be considered, e-mail email@example.com with your name, title, company, and the prediction by Thursday, October 15.