WEDNESDAY 31 JAN 2018 3:13 PM


Last week, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) hosted its ‘2018: The Year Of’ event at Smith Square, in the heart of London. Discussing and analysing the 18 trends PR and communications professionals feel will resonate most with the industry over 2018, the morning’s conference investigated the future – while referring to valuable lessons from the past.

Beginning with a talk on ‘Trends for 2018’ by Trevor Hardy, CEO of London-based business management consultancy the Future Laboratory, a forward-facing tone ensued. Examining how the world’s people, rather than its industries, will be the forbears of future trends, Hardy says, ‘The single word that will drive the future is emotion. Companies and brands must think more about feelings than about statistics.’

And, with trends such as the 'urban mindset' seeing two-thirds of the world’s population living in cities, the changing nature of mobility and interconnectedness, and traditional demographic linearities disappearing, companies must begin to understand that now, communication relies on trust. Increasingly, brands are moving beyond CSR to embrace purpose – the role of the social safety net is being filled by companies.

This rhetoric was echoed by Ali Gee, deputy CEO of public relations firm FleishmanHillard Fishburn, and Rikki Butler, director at communications network Grayling, in a panel discussion covering the importance of harnessing emotion and the effective use of data to garner better insight. For Gee, understanding ‘what people do, and why they really do it’ forms the basis of any current campaign and will continue to be a blueprint for the future. And, happily, the notion of ‘Integrated communication’ leads the PRCA’s 18 recommendations for 2018 which along with ‘Radical transparency’ and ‘Story time’ suggest an increased appetite for authenticity among communications practitioners.

With the final session exploring so-called Gen Z particularly pertinent given that 2018 heralds the arrival of the first ‘Millennium babies,’ writer and commentator Chloe Combi espoused the needs for companies and brands to embrace diversity. For the first time, workplaces can expect to welcome employees of all demographic backgrounds – from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, traits such as ‘Radical transparency’ and ‘Sexual inequality’ will become more profound, with a wider range of ages demanding a wider set of solutions to ongoing professional issues.

Given the variety of recommendations made by PRCA members, 2018 has the potential to welcome the most seismic changes yet. With changes such as Brexit, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and sensory immersion all on the horizon, it seems where 2017 was a precursor to the action, 2018 is where the action begins. For the PR and comms industry, however, it is perhaps the trends not on the list that require the most thought – confidence in the ability of comms, authenticity in strategy and a drive towards recruitment were all suggested by panellists as the event drew to a close.

For the full list of recommendations, visit the PRCA website.

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