It was General Eisenhower who said: "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." The same is typically true for the corporate world; so as we cross the 2014 finish line it is safe to assume a lot of the corporate activity in the first quarter of 2015 is well advanced in planning terms, but as we have seen all too often, plans are at the mercy of markets.
We know there are a dozen big European IPOs on the blocks waiting for market sentiment to change in their favour and we know a number of US corporates have their eyes on a handful of prized European targets. All it needs is for one to go public and it can trigger many more. It happened in big pharma this year (although both deals later collapsed) and the next sector ripe for consolidation is technology, media and telecoms; a play for a broadcaster such as ITV could set in train a pan-European race for convergence between mobile, content, satellite and internet providers. That’s the easy bit and it bodes well for our industry.
From March, the UK will be gripped by election fever and anything not well in train by that point will be delayed until after May as we await the outcome.
This will be the first UK election where the date was set five years in advance and as a result there has been none of the usual pre-election guessing game, which has given greater certainty to business.
But any benefit will quickly be eclipsed by uncertainty over the outcome. It is quite possible there could be a snap election straight after the first. Boards are going to want political intelligence to navigate their way through this. So the upside is that there will be a boom in public affairs and regulatory advice as it moves to the top of boardroom agendas.
As for trends in the PR industry, I suspect there will be ever more focus on how to ensure digital and video spends are effective and good value. This requires all of us to become more fluent in content marketing. In 1996, Bill Gates coined the phrase "content is king". Almost two decades on and most people really do understand that in the noisy online world having creative, engaging, well-produced content is critical.
Many companies are discovering that they are producing great content that is only being read and watched by a small number. We will focus efforts and resources as much on content distribution as content creation. You can’t have one without the other. But it will be the unknown events that shape our year. If everything was predictable, who would need PR?
Predictions for 2015
1. The FTSE to close at 7215 by the end of 2015
2. A pan-European race for convergence between mobile, content, satellite and internet triggered by the takeover of ITV.
3. Conservatives to win the election by a small margin.
John Waples is senior MD and UK head of strategic comms at FTI Consulting