You've heard it said that the future is now. That's much closer to the truth than it was even a half-decade ago. I contend that the future is still next, but as PR professionals, we all need to be able to bring the future to the present, to spot what's next in order to get our clients ahead of the curve, create news for and by them, then partner with the media to spread this news. I've made a career out of turning trends into headline news, and I believe trendspotting and newscrafting are the most important tools in our proverbial toolbox today.
So what's on the horizon? In the past half-decade, two irresistible forces have been shaping our lives: technology and the economy. Virtually every trend, movement, or fad is influenced — whether directly or not — by the economic climate and the developing technology of the time.
Recently, it's gotten easier to spot the power of these culture drivers. In 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and took the tech revolution to a new level in the form of the app economy. By sheer coincidence, only a few months later the global economy suffered a series of heart attacks and was rushed onto life support.
We're still feeling some irregular heartbeats. Technology continues to move at the speed of light, while major economies continue to limp along. The result is a radical reshaping of “normal.” Technological ideas that were flights of fancy in 2007 are now available to, and being used by, the masses. On the other hand, the feeble global economy has forced consumers, corporations, and governments to change their expectations of many things we used to take for granted as every day.
The trends I've seen emerging for 2013 are mostly shaped by people's responses to the big question that faces us all: How do we live with an economy without confidence?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it will begin with a movement toward solutions instead of problems. Alternative ways of thinking — what we consider imperfect when we have lighter pockets, for instance, and innovation in a vast array of technologies — will be encouraged. At our global parent company, Havas, our own rethinking led to a global rebrand just two weeks ago. The new name means a fresh set of challenges and the right to reinvent the future.
We will also see people finding alternative ways to make the best use of time, our most limited of nonrenewable resources. As has often happened throughout history when dark clouds appear, cooperation has already begun to replace individualism (see co-parenting, co-creation, collaborative consumption). The reality of our new environment will be about cutting back and changing focus. Place making and supercities will emerge on our trend maps.
Ultimately, 2013 is going to be about the shift in our mentality, behavior, and geographic orientation. We will need to wake up to the changes in every aspect of our current lives, open our eyes to what's next, and craft the news about what that future has in store.
Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America.