Consumer PR: Predictions for 2016

Consumer PR professionals expect to see more big-brand mergers, developments in PR measurement and challenges around 'influencer' ownership in the coming year.

Chris Hides, managing director, M&C Saatchi PR

  • More hacks There were plenty of high profile hacks in 2015, from Ashley Madison to Talk Talk, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue into 2016. As well as the immediate financial impact of these attacks, the impact on the brand can be significant, particularly if the hack isn’t handled effectively. Both in-house and agency consultants need to plan ahead and be ready to respond.
  • Mega mergers There are going to be some major mergers next year affecting some of the UK’s biggest consumer brands. There's EE’s merger with BT; Paddy Power and Betfair; and the UK’s biggest ever merger with the coming together of two brewing giants, AB InBev and SABMiller. One way and another these, and the other mergers taking place next year, will affect hundreds of people in the PR industry from financial to in-house, corporate and consumer. 

  • Talent Convergence is of course a prediction that is made every year. One of the biggest impacts of this convergence is on talent as PR, media, marketing and ad agencies all seek to recruit similar candidates. It will therefore be more important than ever for PR agencies and in-house departments to think about how they will attract and retain the finite number of talented comms professionals available in the market. 

  • Shopper marketing Expect to hear more and more about shopper marketing next year as brands will expect PR professionals to better understand how their client’s customers shop and how campaigns, particularly experiential, social and digital, can be made more ‘shoppable’. Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook have all put ‘buy’ buttons on to their channels and Instagram is expected to follow suit.
  • Nothing beats a great idea The undisputable truth and the one constant in a constantly evolving industry. It will and should be the biggest trend every year because in the face of competition from other disciplines and growing pressure to quantify return, every agency and in-house team should put as much energy into the pursuit of great ideas and creativity as they do into any other thing. 

Alicia Mellish, managing director, Stir PR

  • We are already seeing signs of a swing back towards a calling for brand engagement in the real world. We predict that brands will increase their experiential marketing spend, supported and amplified by PR and digital, in 2016. 

  • Wellbeing and ethical considerations will continue to be of importance to consumers. So, where possible, brands should leverage their credentials. Ironically, PR agencies are very good at communicating the sustainability credentials of their clients, yet often spend little time considering their own. 2016 will see agencies start to turn their focus inwards and amend ways of working appropriately. 

  • Clients will be looking, more than ever, to engage with agencies that have a proven ability to develop PR campaigns that complement and accompany other brand marketing plans. With many agencies now employing planners, creatives and content managers, there is every reason to bring PRs to the table for brand planning. 

  • With brands still exercising caution around budget, measurement will continue to be a hot topic in 2016. Although there are no hard and fast metrics as of yet, we think 2016 will see some interesting developments and with the AMEC conference taking place in London for the first time, the UK will be at the heart of the action. 

  • The lay of the media landscape will continue to develop and change. 2015 saw bloggers start to charge money, not just for advertorial style features or competition placement, but also for any engagement with a brand. Bloggers originally fashioned themselves in the image of editorial journalists – 2016 will see bloggers continue to move away from opinion-led commentary and towards curators of commercialised online platforms.

Bruce McLachlan, managing director, Fever PR

  • We’ll have to be ready to defend our (inarguable) right to ‘own’ influencers. In the past year media agencies have become more aggressive in claiming that influencer strategies sit primarily within paid – the 2015 equivalent of proposing editorial be sidelined in favour of advertorial.

  • There will be a renewed focus on ideas built on real world insight. The rush to incorporate science into our world has sometimes come at the expense of the art; understanding data is not the same as understanding insight. It’s still quality creative that wins hearts.

  • The consumer side of our industry will continue to collectively shoot itself in the foot. It will disproportionally eulogise ultra-low-budget campaigns at its award ceremonies, a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • Consumer agencies will need to get much, much better at channel planning. Video and paid are part of the day to day now – so we need to be able to effectively plan paid support and content delivery across multiple channels.

  • Another big thing will be floated down the Thames. PRs will face another existential crisis about originality in their industry; ad agencies, meanwhile, will cut and paste the same ideas into Keynote decks, pitch them to clients as ‘experiential advertising’ and make a bundle in the process.


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