2020 trends in PR, marketing, AI, reputation management, and more

Trends 2020

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

Gen Z is the new millennial

Diane Bégin, Director, Communications, Toronto
Generation millennial is so over. And by over, I mean ‘over the hill.’ Trend articles about millennials and everything including avocado toast are done.

PR marketing and artificial intelligence

Don’t get me wrong, millennials still have meaningful lives ahead of them, as do other generations like traditionalists, Boomers and my own – the Original Generation that served as the generation that started the whole alphabet-based naming convention – the gen Xers.

The younger generation Z though (born between 1995 and 2015 and aged four to 22 years) has taken over as the trendsetters. That’s because we’re very close to reaching peak-millennial, as the eldest among the gen Z cohort is now in the workplace with us, and have been for the last couple years or so.

Gen Z are trendsetting in very meaningful ways too. Activist Malala Yousafzai was among the first of the gen Zs that I remember really making a difference on an international scale (a runner-up Time Magazine Person of the year in 2012). She’s the eldest within her generation.

Environmental activist Great Thunberg is just 16 years of age and was named 2019 Time Magazine Person of the Year.

Gen Z and TikTok

And it’s not just specific individuals with a major international contribution, but rather how the masses of the generation are behaving – and who’s paying attention. The growth of emerging social media platform TikTok that Mark Zukerberg tried to buy is fueled by gen Zs.

Time for star-making

TikTok itself is helping to make stars the way that MySpace, Vine and YouTube has for previous generations. Amelia Gething, a 20 year-old comedian from the UK, was signed to a deal with the BBC from her Tik Tok popularity.

And while Tik Tok advertising is not available in Canada yet for most advertisers (as of a few weeks ago when I chatted with someone there) – it will be here soon enough. So your time is now gen Z. Enjoy the spotlight, until the alphas take your spot.

Aim for message authenticity to combat an audience’s sense of overwhelm

Fiona Fenwick, author and reputation management expert at fifteenminutes.co.nz, Marlborough Region, New Zealand
I feel there is a real desire – more than ever before – for simplicity and authenticity in messaging ( and life in general).

There appears to be a greater public sense of being overwhelmed by the seemingly constant bombardment of messaging from multiple sources. I feel this will increasingly be a challenge for communicators as they strive to get their message heard above the noise and clutter in information streams.

reputation management prince andrew

Don’t overwhelm your audience – they’ll switch off

When we get overwhelmed, we switch off. Recapturing an audience once lost can be a massive challenge,

Finding the appropriate and possibly innovative connection will be critical to success. Have a happy and successful 2020 everyone!

New decade, new trends for PR and marketing

Emma Leech, CIPR President 2019, Director of Marketing and Communications at Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, U.K.

Brand stability in a volatile world

A few trends have been emerging for a while now:

  • The need for purpose to permeate how brands and organisations present themselves in an increasingly volatile and rapidly changing world
  • The rise and rise of AI and how that is changing the way we do business (and market and communicate our business)
  • The need for us to balance the best of AI with a deeper understanding of people and human nature, and
  • The tech versus mental health agenda will continue to grow and we’ll see increasing generational divides as people from different walks of life with different experiences struggle to understand the world through multiple lenses.

2019 was undoubtedly the year of fact checking and this is something that PR and marketing colleagues alike need to get ahead of. The world moves quickly, information is readily available and the truth will out – 80s/90s style “spin” won’t cut it in a savvy, cynical, increasingly politicised and digitally sophisticated world.

Renewed interest in reputation management

We’ve seen some catastrophic own goals in terms of reputation this year and I think 2020 will see renewed interest in reputation management at the highest level.

Don’t risk ignoring authenticity, truth, or purpose

Authenticity, truth, and purpose are issues that have now moved beyond buzzword to the mainstream. Ignore them at your peril.

The opportunities for those who dare to bake equality, inclusion and diversity issues into their business model – with a genuine focus on social justice rather than soundbites – are substantial.

Growth of internal influencers

Internal influencers will grow in significance as organisations increasingly realise the artificial divide between internal and external comms and make use of advocates in new and exciting ways.

Keep your eye on AI and natural language generation

Martin Waxman, MCM, APR, writer, instructor, digital communications strategist ,and AI researcher, Toronto, Canada

I believe PR, communications, and marketing professionals should pay close attention to natural language generation, which is the ability of an AI to write text and content after being given a prompt like a phrase or other data.

Right now, we’re still in the early stages. But if you want to see it in action, there’s a great feature story in the New Yorker, where one writer got the GPT-2 natural language processor to finish the end of each section he wrote. While the machine-generated text is a bit wonky in places, the AI got the New Yorker tone to a T.

AI set to create good copy and headlines

It won’t be long before AI agents will be able to create good headlines and copy and provide marketers and communicators with lots more options to choose from. And then a human can review and edit these, test them, revise, and add our creativity.

Of course, the flip side of this is that machines will get so good, humans will no longer be needed to write. I hope that’s not the case!

Human connection is the challenge facing marketing

Josh Steimle, Executive Coach, Speaker, Author, and Influencer, Boston, USA
Human connection. This is the opportunity and the challenge of marketing in 2020. It’s an opportunity because with so much that’s automated and targeting the lowest common denominator, consumers feel disconnected from brands. There’s no loyalty anymore, it’s all “What have you done for me lately?”

Can connecting consumers with real people help cure loneliness?

In addition, a recent study by Dr. Dilip Jeste, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience with the University of California, San Diego, showed that three out of four Americans report struggling with loneliness.

What can help cure loneliness and create brand loyalty? Connecting consumers with real people. At the simplest level it’s using real people in your marketing, like American Apparel did with its ads several years ago. It’s putting your executive team out there, warts and all, to talk about what they do, like Apple does.

But marketing isn’t enough, you need to follow this all the way through to customer service. Sure, you can use bots and phone trees, you can outsource overseas where labor is cheaper, but you know what you miss out on? The experience I had when I needed support from the payments processor Braintree, and I called the number, and someone answered and said: “This is Amber at Braintree, how can I help you?”

An encounter with a real person!

“Um…” I didn’t know what to say. I was expecting five minutes of navigating a phone tree to find the right person to chat with. It took me a few seconds and then I finally asked, “Is this a live person?”

Amber laughed and reassured me she was a real person.

“That’s just so weird,” I said. “I’m not used to calling a company and getting a live person immediately like that.”

“Yeah,” she said, “It throws a lot of people off and they pause just like you did. So how can I help?”

Does your customer service earn you PR?

I asked her my question, she knew the answer off the top of her head, and that was it. It not only saved me who knows how much time, but Amber was nice, a real person I could relate to, and I felt just a small bit of human to human connection that was unique enough that here I am, talking about it.

Is your customer service earning you this kind of PR? Maybe your customer service is your marketing. Maybe you should invest more in making sure your customers feel a human connection when they call in, if you want to tap into that desire out there and gain market share.

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