A new decade dawns for PR

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Who would have thought at the beginning of the last decade we’d be bound for Brexit, contemplating veganism and Time Magazine’s person of the year would be a 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist activist. And that’s just scratching the surface of a decade that brought us austerity, Alexa, #MeToo, 5G, WikiLeaks, the phone hacking trial, fake news, memes and much more.
As ever, there’s very little time for reflection as the new decade dawns. It’s certainly no time for standing still in the PR world. While we wish we had a crystal ball to predict the future, we can only really speculate on the issues that will influence consumers and businesses over the next 10 years.
However, some major themes are firmly on our radar for the 2020s:
The environment
This is the biggie. Not to put too fine a point on it, experts say we’re heading for a climate crisis in the not too distant future. While this issue was somewhat overshadowed at the recent UK general election by Brexit, it’s likely to be a strong focus for the Government going forward and will impact businesses and consumers alike. While sustainability has moved in and out of focus over the last decade, momentum has been building and so too a real sense that action is required before it’s too late. We’re sure to see major movement on this in the near future, not just from the world’s Governments but from big businesses too. Consumers are starting to vote with their feet and move towards more ethical brands, and we’re sure this trend will only increase.
Social media
10 years is a long time in social media. What was popular in one decade will often be forgotten by the next, with a few notable exceptions. So trying to predict social media trends is difficult. Influencers are likely to rise in popularity as income potential soars; but whether this can be sustained is questionable, as the more people who vie for the title of influencer, the more that influence becomes diluted. Certainly the power of social media to spread news, reach huge audiences and give businesses a direct channel to their customers is stronger than ever. However, as social media continues to become more advertising focussed and is repeatedly called out for its negative influences on mental health, will we see a move away from its popularity? Our guess is not quite yet.
The 2010s was another huge decade for the rise of ‘celebrity’, as a plethora of new reality stars appeared on our screens and a Twitter-mad reality persona became the new President of the USA. It seems the blurring of lines between Joe Bloggs, celebrity and politician is the new norm. We honestly don’t know what will happen in the next 10 years, but our guess is we’ll see more celebrities trying their hand at politics, and more politicians embracing celebrity status in order to succeed. We’re also starting to see a new breed of ‘media celebrity’ in the form of environmentalist activists like Greta Thunberg and others who look to make a global change. We predict this trend will increase as the media look for their next ‘Greta’ to shine a spotlight on.
Amidst all of the above, we’re seeing a strong focus on communities and rebuilding those that were perhaps divided in the last decade by political issues. With a strong focus on bringing people together in person rather than online, and combatting social exclusion and loneliness, we would love to see businesses and communities unite further to make tangible improvements in the areas in which they operate. We’re very lucky to work with clients with a strong community focus and are looking forward to a new decade of building on their good work.
Lifestyle changes
As always, lifestyle changes and trends will have a big impact on consumers and businesses and thus the world of PR. While not everything can be predicted, we can look at recent changes to see where we may be heading. Populations are rising and the proportion of older people in the UK is increasing so we must make changes to accommodate. Space is at a premium so we may be looking to live in more closely connected communities with shared spaces. The general population is likely to become even more conscious of green living and how they consume products and services, as shown by the recent rise of veganism. Whether this will be enough to make businesses change, particularly those who rely on a strong culture of consumerism for their success, who knows, but we think those who harness ethical trading earlier will ultimately thrive long-term.
Smart technology has come a long way in the 2010s, particularly in our homes with the rise of smart speakers, screens and apps to control home appliances. As everything in our life becomes linked, often through our phones and tablets, use of this technology is likely to expand to an even wider consumer base.
A real positive to come from the 2010s is that we’ve become much more open about talking about our mental health. Businesses are now getting on board and embracing mental health strategies for their employees and further changes could be afoot over the coming decade.
So on that note, we wish all of our clients, colleagues and confidants a very happy and healthy new decade, and we look forward to seeing what the next 10 years brings.