We’re closing out another year. We asked our Linhart PR team to look ahead and share what PR, communication and digital marketing strategies they predict continuing, changing or coming to the forefront in 2019. Here are 13 of their top trends to watch or use to your advantage:
Authenticity remains a must: Striving to create an authentic relationship with your audience isn’t a new concept, but it is a requirement. In 2019, brands must communicate with honesty and share the ‘why’ behind decisions and product innovations. Bonus? When brands develop a meaningful and open dialogue, loyal fans do some of the marketing work for them. Think about user-generated content from devout Wayfair consumers who find interior design success, or GoPro junkies who capture jaw-dropping adventure footage. – Emma Garten
Shifting toward qualitative PR measurement: Though it’s human nature to want to quantify value and use the number of unique monthly views, likes, followers, etc. to measure success, media impressions are no longer the only name of the game. Many PR thought leaders, including Michael Smart, are positioning trust as a new metric for media reach, and suggesting impressions should take a back seat. Think of it this way – the number of people in your audience who trust a particular outlet is more important than unique monthly visitors. Plus, trust is a more accurate gauge of your public relations ROI. In 2019, PR pros should make an effort to demonstrate value to clients more qualitatively to help provide a comprehensive and precise view of how media coverage is helping build brand trust, awareness and growth. How can you measure trust? Consider using social media analytics and insights to find out more about your target audience. For instance, what pages they like on Facebook and what outlets they’re reading the most, both of which may correlate with those they trust! Then use those learnings to make sure you’re targeting the appropriate outlets and reporters. – Libby Pinkerton
Merging disciplines, emerging PR/communication opportunities: Just as marketing communication campaigns are more integrated, so are the teams behind them. In fact, 87 percent of PR professionals believe the relationship with marketing will become somewhat or a lot more integrated in the next five years, according to the 2018 Global Communications Report from USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations. That’s a significant jump from the previous year’s report, and these disciplines will only grow closer in work and reporting relationships. While roles and functions may get blurred, the potential upside is increased collaboration, expanded services and greater business impact for organizations (and more opportunities for communication professionals who evolve, too). As the report says: “… the profession will continue to grow as it becomes more aligned with marketing and more vital to business.” – Kelly Womer
Brands taking a stand: Numerous studies in 2018 have shown consumers are making more cause-based choices when deciding which brand to support. More and more, they are looking for transparency when making purchases, from where and how the products are sourced, to how the company is helping society as a whole. As consumers seek societal changes, they will be looking to brands to be the catalyst for that change and determining which companies to support based on the stance they hold on important issues. Like Nike in 2018, we will see more brands in 2019 deciding where they stand on current issues, and determining how best to join the conversation. – Emily Rado
Video continues to be a megatrend: At this point, video isn’t a new aspect to digital marketing, but the stats are astonishing:
• Social video generates 1,200 percent more shares than text and images combined.
• One minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words to your audience.
• Viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10 percent when reading it in text.
• 64 percent of consumers make a purchase after watching branded social videos.
• By 2020, online videos will make up more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic (85 percent in the U.S.).
• 92 percent of mobile video consumers share videos with others.
Live video is also rising in popularity, with a large number of businesses using it for product demos, interviews, and “behind-the-scenes” glimpses of events, life in the office, how products are made, etc. In 2019, video will continue to be a megatrend. No matter what you’re selling and no matter what your company does, it’s imperative to integrate video marketing into your overall strategy. – Miranda King
Seeking stakeholder input is critical: In everything from oil and gas development, to public infrastructure planning, to electric utility decision-making, to land use and real estate development determinations, we are seeing – and supporting – a sharply increased focus on community engagement and real dialogues with affected stakeholders. The role of PR has changed dramatically, for the better. It’s no longer about convincing the community to accept your plan – it’s about facilitating the kind of dialogue that makes your plan better and enables it to earn genuine grassroots support. – Paul Raab
Find ways to engage the new wave of gig workers: The gig economy will continue to grow, even globally, with some analysts predicting more than half of workers will be gig workers in the near future. Plus, as our client Graebel Companies found out in its recent survey of 600 global gig workers, these professional workers are willing to relocate internationally for the right job in the right country. In order to meet fast-growing talent needs and organizational goals, companies should find ways to engage these gig workers. Offering flexibility around an individual’s workplace, schedule and location will set companies apart as an employer of choice and help them recruit and retain top talent. – Shannon Hughes
Reach audiences with the help of graphic design trends: Graphic designers continue to be an integral part of any communications team – infographics, annual reports and highly-visual presentation decks can educate and create meaningful connections with target audiences. Like fashion trends, graphic design evolves and draws inspiration from a range of sources. Tired of using the same design templates? Check out 2019 predictions for design trends for fresh perspective like the use of shape, photography, monotone color and funky margins. – Ashley Campbell
Convenience continues as a dominating force for fast-casual restaurants: Key players in the fast-casual industry are continuing to put more capital behind efforts to make their restaurants as accessible and convenient for consumers as possible. Pick-up windows, delivery partnerships, and ordering kiosks are now must-haves. Customers are relying on mobile delivery more than ever before, and it’s clear that the deciding factor in where a consumer chooses to eat depends more on convenience than cost or selection. Other sectors, like the grocery store industry, are following suit with online ordering and grab-and-go meal kits to accommodate shopper’s busier schedules. In 2019, the dominating brands will be those who are aware of these consumer needs and are able to effectively connect their food with consumers in the most streamlined way possible. – Maddie Taber
Reputation above all: Today, it seems like brand crises are the new norm. When it comes to handling a crisis, it’s all about preparation. Brands need to be building trust and credibility with their audiences from day one. Adapt a PR strategy that focuses on reputation management and constantly trains company leaders and spokespeople on how to successfully and gracefully handle a crisis. Have a crisis communications plan in place and ensure it’s shared and familiar among the appropriate parties and regularly updated. A brand’s reputation is valuable – the more trust consumers have in you on a day-to-day basis, the more they’ll know they can trust you when there is a crisis. And, when it does happen, listen to your audience, be transparent and authentic, and embrace the situation. – Kelly Nash
Get to know Generation Z: Why should brands better understand teens and Generation Z? These consumers are your future brand advocates and biggest spenders. Take time now to get to know them. Piper Jaffray just released its fall teen survey results – it surveys thousands of teens’ brand consumption and shopping habits twice a year. The latest survey showed Instagram is teens’ most-used social platform (85 percent are active there), just barely edging out Snapchat. Teens watch Netflix (it comprises 38 percent of their daily video consumption) and YouTube (came in at 33 percent), but very little cable TV (16 percent). Nike is still on top as teens’ favorite shoe brand – but Vans is making a run for that spot. Thanks to games like Fortnite, playing video games is on the rise and 83 percent of teens say they own a newer console like Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Amazon is teens’ go-to shopping website and their #1 wallet priority is food. – Kelly Janhunen
Connections are crucial: Technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and it’s ever-changing the ways in which we communicate. We all know social engagement matters. But creating meaningful connections with your fans and audience online will become even more of a top priority for brands in 2019. Companies likely have a response strategy for positive feedback, for example, but they should also focus on the not-so-positive feedback to find a way to connect with individuals and hopefully change their perception. No matter what the industry, your most connected and loyal fans hold power – they’re your biggest advocates. – Carly Connor
Agencies are forced to embrace change: In an age where agencies run the gamut, there is increased pressure to stand out while also learning to embrace an integrated approach. We see this through some of the larger holding companies – the WPPs and Omnicoms of the world – as they bring siloed and practice-specific agencies together, creating one larger agency that works across borders and for the greater good of their clients in order to provide the best results. For smaller independent or specialized agencies, it becomes increasingly important to ensure teams are committed to seeing the bigger marketing picture and taking an integrated approach. As a leader in these agencies, it’s important to embrace the change and ensure you’re putting the appropriate teams together with varying specialties in order to give clients a more well-rounded approach. – Tassi Herrick