2020 Vision: PR Trends to Watch in the New Decade

We can all acknowledge that the role of the PR practitioner has changed significantly in the past 10, five and even two years. The 24/7 news cycle, continued proliferation of social media, discrediting of journalists, appetite for immediate gratification and general malaise of the population have all contributed to a very challenging and always-on state of business. So, what does the new decade portend for us and how can we infuse new thinking into our day-to-day jobs? Here’s a quick overview of what 2020 (and beyond) might bring in the line of PR trends.

Live Streaming: You’ve no doubt seen a lot of live streaming via Facebook Live, Instagram Stories or IGTV. Brands are now using it to announce news, to bring viewers into an experience in ways that are completely transparent and allow them to feel like they’re there and interacting themselves. For example, take Disney Parks’ live stream on the opening day of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge or fashion week being covered via Instagram for WWD by Eva Chen, who is director of fashion partnerships for the social platform. Just make sure you’re prepared in case something goes wrong while you’re live.

Niche Influencers: Brands who go niche are seeing bigger rewards than when partnering with mega-influencers, who are starting to see backlash for their portrayal of unreachable perfection. Micro-influencers are smaller-scale personalities with between 1,000 to 10,000 followers and up to 22.2 times more conversations than typical users, according to Experticity. If you’re considering influencer relations for your brand, read more about our thoughts here.

Images Over Words: Audience attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, lasting only about 10 seconds. So, how on earth do you tell your story in 10 seconds? A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video is worth even more. Think about how you can integrate more visual story telling for PR through your social channels or pressrooms, like we did for our client SCANA Energy below.

SCANA Energy 5-star Friday

Authentic Brand Advocacy: More brands are shunning well-rehearsed, highly produced and scripted videos and opting for more relaxed, natural-looking live streaming videos. Customers want authenticity all the way. They don’t want to hear from a corporate suit – they want to hear from their peers who are in the trenches. Communications professionals should guide their associates in navigating the new demographic, while consciously highlighting aspects of their brand that emphasize their authenticity, diversity and social responsibility. (See: Patagonia, Dove, Zappos)

Voice Search Optimization: Voice-activated devices like Google Home and Alexa are becoming part and parcel of our daily lives. Instead of typing keywords into a search engine, users are increasingly likely to speak to their voice assistants. Consider ways of producing content that is semantic in nature, can be discovered by voice activation and create an auditory experience (like podcasts, verbal recipes, long-form audio storytelling).

24/7 Crisis Preparedness: In today’s world of social media, any issue or crisis impacting your brand can be shared with the public – often well before you are even aware of it. We must be prepared for any situation at any time, have a plan in place for response in advance, as well as a threshold of escalation commensurate with the severity of the issue. (See: Starbucks, Crock-Pot)

Crock-Pot PR Trend Tweet

Changing Role of the PR practitioner: Today’s PR professionals have also become brand ambassadors, social media experts, content marketers and trend spotters, and we expect this to continue well into the new decade. The press release, case study and bylined article will only be published if they’re short, highly tailored and speak to a credible audience need – so they’re being replaced by videos, infographics, social content or even “internal” memos.

Citizen Journalism: The rise of citizen journalism and brand publishing is already bringing an end to the oligarchy that is our current-day mainstream media. In 2020, your audiences will digest content (and news) from multiple sources through aggregators delivered to mobile devices when, where and how they want it. Great content, regardless of its source, will rise to the top. So, you must grasp content marketing and excel at it.

As we enter the new decade and get right back into the business of delivering great work, make sure to take time to pause and watch what others are doing, to continually educate yourself on what’s new and even ask for some “reverse mentoring” so you don’t get left behind the curve. I’ve been in the PR biz a long time, and in 2020, I’m making sure this old dog learns at least a few new tricks.


Kim Hardcastle is a member of our Trend Watching Team, which keeps an eye on the issues and current PR trends that impact our clients’ businesses. For more information on our Trend Watching Team or a forecast for your business, contact us at [email protected]

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