Despite their overabundance this time of year, I’m a fan of lists. They impose structure and order on what is actually messy, imperfect, and disorderly. But, because I missed the 2009 list window I’ve taken a crack at identifying the major trends affecting our business and what they’ll mean in 2010 and beyond.
1. Social and traditional media will merge. Or, the distinctions will become meaningless. I know, duh. But, for most of us, 2010 will finally see the death of the one-way communications channel. As traditional press has begun to be disintermediated, we’ll be “relating” directly to our publics as often as not. Social media will be so integrated through our programs that the very term will be anachronistic – it’s all media. And, we need to be knowledgeable not only about online media, but about the emerging social trends – social gaming, social shopping, and new forms of viral content.
2. Content will be king – if it’s relevant, compelling, and searchable. In a sense, traditional journalists and PR professionals have been trading roles. As more journalists cross over into PR, we PR professionals are broadening our conventional job description to the point where we can be an online and offline content resource to complement – or even rival – “old” media. The trick is to ratchet up our output to make fresh, relevant, compelling content a daily creative product.
3. Quality will become scarcer. With the explosion of blogs and user-generated content, it’s awfully hard to find the good stuff. That means communications professionals must step into the void as the quality content resource, at every level. Every member of the account team is producing, posting, updating, high-quality material. It also means that old-fashioned research and reporting skills and adherence to journalistic rigor (e.g., fact-checking) will be prized.
4. Consumer expectations are higher than ever. They’re in control, the’re using social media as a megaphone, and they expect brands and companies to deliver on their promises. Increasingly, customers also expect brands to stand for something beyond their own attributes. According to Brandingstrategyinsider.com, “smart marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations.”
5. Everything must be targeted – or targetable. Micro-targeting is the watchword for 2010. News, content, and entertainment are increasingly personalized. And, with original content needing to be as mashable, adapable, and “spreadable” as possible for users, mapping back to brand strategy is critical. So is in-depth knowledge of our increasingly fragmented audiences.
6. Reputation is more fragile than ever. With the rise of Social Media, previously tangential areas like customer service, retail environment, and word-of-mouth are a huge part of the brand conversation – and its reputation. Couple that with the speed of real-time search, and it amounts to a very high bar for strategic smarts, crisis preparedness, and rapid mobilization.
7. Everything will be measurable. Increasingly, PR professionals must be familiar with current analytics and measurement tools if we’re to justify our budgets and collaborate with marketers. We’ll also work more with SEO experts as brand and corporate reputation looms larger on the social Web. In fact, Daryl Tay of Blue Interactive feels that sentiment analysis will become more important to future marketers, which means we need to move beyond strictly automated metrics that don’t capture nuances of language or a reputational threat.
8. But, how we measure up will take many forms. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, marketing results will be evaluated not just in recommendations, but in “eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Check-ins on foursquare and check-outs on Amazon.”
9. News and content will be increasingly mobile. More and more news, content, and entertainment will be accessed via smartphones and other mobile devices. This has implications not only for the quality and length of what we produce, but for how we reach and engage with consumers and media. And the rise of geolocation services offers opportunities for marketing and PR professionals, not only for enhancing the relevance of our content, but for event marketing and PR-driven promotions.
10. Influencers will have more influence. Influencer marketing will be bigger than ever in 2010. The vaunted relationship component of what we do will be more complex and more interesting, particularly if more online communities and social networks go behind walls to behave like exclusive clubs. So, we not only have to find the influencers for every category, we need to be them.