2017: The year ahead for PR

13th January 2017

After the brutal buffeting of 2016 – cultural, political and societal shocks starting with Bowie’s death and rolling through Brexit, Trump, fake news, economic and political instability, and ending with terrible carnage in Bowie’s beloved Berlin – where does the communications industry stand for 2017?

Pretty well, actually. What we do is held in even higher regard, and watched even more jealously by other sectors in the media and marketing communications mix.

As companies, organisations and leaders increasingly wonder where the next threat, opportunity or crisis will come from – and it will come fast – we as a profession have never been in a better position to counsel, protect and to help clients engage and navigate the dizzying pace of change in media, politics, demographics (hello Gen K!) and societal expectations.

Social media continues to grow and evolve as a corporate communications, as well as consumer marketing, toolbox. When a brand or corporate or sector reputation can be lost in a single tweet, our “always-on”, engaging approach stands us in good stead to meet the growing challenges and uncertainties facing our clients.

And to help us maintain that strength and leadership we are attracting talent – creative, analytics, strategy, content, integrated media – from a wider and more diverse pool than ever before.

There are challenges for communicators. The fake news/post-truth communications phenomenon will increasingly migrate from politics to the corporate world. We have been used to operating in a fact based, “give business the benefit of the doubt” environment and the rules have all changed.

Although creativity has been elevated in our industry out of all proportion to where it was a decade ago, a cool look at Cannes and eurobest shows that we have still to achieve our full potential for outstandingly bold creative that shakes and changes hearts and minds.

And while we are increasingly attracting talent from advertising, management consultancy etc. into our industry, we still haven’t delivered enough on our commitments to racial and social diversity. I have said it many times: the PR industry can’t claim to understand Britain or the other communities we work in, for example, if it looks nothing like them. The shock of the Brexit vote and the rise of rampant populism across the world is a salutary lesson.

That aside, I think 2017 will be a good year for our industry, if we learn some of the lessons of 2016 and continue to grow and develop our creative and strategic smarts and have real self-confidence in the value we deliver.