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Before we close the books for the year reached out to a few veterans in the industry to have them share their thoughts on big topics of 2018 that communicators and marketers were talking about. We also wanted to explore what brands need to know as they prepare for 2019. Our second guest contributor is David Brodie, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Citizen Relations.
What has been the most disruptive technology (s) that has impacted brands during 2018? What will it be in 2019?
A. 2018: Although it’s not new, I think the most disruptive technology impacting brands in 2018 has been social media and its influence on how people are consuming and sharing news online. We’ve seen this in the impacts that social media has had on important issues like shifting elections, public perceptions of brands and governments, and virtually everything else. Social media has also made it very easy for a select few to manipulate the news, something we continue to see through the impacts on elections around the world. On a positive note, what we’re now also seeing as a result of this is a shift in the number of people who are engaging in modern politics (e.g. the record setting voter turnout for the 2018 U.S. Midterm Election). Today, people are more divided than ever but, simultaneously, more passionate and more engaged in the public debate. We’re also starting to see this play out in the level of brand involvement in political issues. Whereas, in the past, companies made a point of staying out of public debate, the ease of dissemination of information via social media has created pressure from consumers for brands to take a stand on relevant social and political issues. Now more than ever, it’s becoming harder for brands to sit back and watch from the sidelines.
B. 2019: The technology that I predict to have the most impact on brands in 2019 is voice technology, especially when combined with built-in AI assistants. Between Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePods, and many others, voice technology is the fastest growing tech out on the market today. People can now search the web, do their shopping, book vacations, and so much more, all with just a few simple voice commands. At the same time, few brands have actively considered the impact that this will have on their business, or the potential for integration with their existing operations. My expectation is that this technology will transform the way in which people consume news, find information, and discover and interact with brands, versus the traditional web that’s been primarily designed for text and image searching. Those brands which are ready for the shift will see a definite advantage in the coming year.
Influencer marketing, what change will we see in next year?
While influencer marketing has exploded in popularity over the past few years, this industry has been largely unregulated up until this point. Therefore, I anticipate that 2019 will bring more expectations and demand from brands for influencer campaigns to be clearly measurable and for agencies working with influencers to be more accountable for the influencers they choose to partner with. Right now it’s still a bit of a wild west out there and agencies are doing their best to navigate through this uncharted territory, including partnership agreements, compensation models, and best practice for influencer engagement. As we enter into 2019, I expect we will see more standards developed and followed to ensure consistency across all influencer campaigns, including standardization of pricing and metrics. As brands and agencies alike become far more aware of fake followers, I also anticipate a lot more rigor will be applied when choosing influencer partners. At Citizen, we’ve introduced several new tools to help our clients and teams navigate this over the past year.
Any major changes you see taking place to the public relations industry?
As the medium through which people consume news and information continues to change (i.e. from traditional to digital media), our industry is changing rapidly to keep pace. I think that agencies which currently spend 50 percent or more of their time on traditional media relations, without diversifying into other service offerings, will likely not make it past 2019. Moving forward, it will become increasingly more important for all agencies to have a thorough understanding of both influencer marketing and paid social. This, coupled with the ability to build campaigns driven by a strong creative concept and routed in strategy and market insights, will be a key factor in ensuring success for the future of agencies.
Any thoughts on “new” industries such as cannabis? AI? VR?
VR: Citizen Relations actually executed some of the earliest VR campaigns in the Canadian market about three to four years ago and we had great success with this emerging technology at the time. Since then, I don’t think VR has really lived up to its full potential quite yet. While the technology continues to provide a strong tool for engaging consumers at experiential events and trade shows, it has yet to break through to mass consumer adaptation. This will continue to be the case until we find a way to revolutionize the usability of the hardware, but I think it will come.
B. AI: I think that, in 2019, we will continue to see AI play a larger and larger role across all industries. In terms of its application to PR, I anticipate that we’ll see some of the more repetitive tasks traditionally carried out by account teams (e.g. media list building, coverage tracking, post-campaign measurement, initial media pitches, etc.), become more and more automated. As technology continues to improve, there will be a lot of opportunity in our industry for AI to take over mundane tasks, allowing PR teams to shift their attention to more high level strategy work, like the development of innovative and creative campaign concepts
More insight in this series.