Top PR Predictions for 2020


It’s that time of year again and nearly everyone is offering their predictions for the year ahead.  Here are mine for the world of PR:

  • A brand will run (or pull) an ad that offends someone.  As in many crisis communications scenarios, a social media storm will briefly erupt, and a boycott called for.  The issue will have exactly zero negative impact on sales, market share or shareholder value (and may even enhance them, both short- and long-term).  We seem to like controversy – just look at our politics.
  • In a related development, more brands will follow the lead of @Wendy’s, @Oreo and other brands and have their social media presence take on a bit more of an edge and snark.  It may take @Depends a bit longer to catch up to this new approach to corporate public relations.
  • A few large PR firms will continue presenting themselves as advertising agencies, while more ad agencies will continue to dabble in PR.  Despite the continued blurring of paid vs. earned, and some shared successes in digital, none of them will manage the crossover terribly well.  As a result, most brands will continue to engage ad agencies for their ads, and PR agencies for PR.
  • While ad agencies and large PR firms will continue to mostly focus on each other as competitors and in M&A, consultancies both large and small will go beyond buying or building creative or digital shops and make more serious moves into the strategic PR sector given the natural synergies they provide.  Law firms may get in on this too.
  • As media outlets continue to struggle and close, more reporters will find themselves out of work.  On the plus side, this will create a boon for the PR industry as we continue to face a talent shortage and war – and still need to find people who can write.  This works as long as reporters are willing to cross over to the “dark side.” But, if/when they do, will there still be enough journalists left to pitch to?
  • One brave media outlet will buck conventional wisdom and the trends and run a pioneering special section focusing on “50 over 50” individuals in that city or industry worthy of attention and acclaim.
  • In 2019, Business Roundtable members expressed aspirational commitments that their members would not just focus on delivering profits and increasing shareholder value but providing substantial societal benefits as well.  In 2020, a handful of public companies will embrace these commitments by actually tying their CEOs’ compensation to such measures. This practice will take some time to catch on more broadly.
  • Meanwhile, one or more public company CEOs will preside over a series of bad decision making and/or circumstances leading to the following happening in very rapid succession:
  1. Numerous negative media articles/editorials;
  2. Board expresses “unqualified” support for CEO;
  3. Board fires CEO.
  • This is not be confused with the one or more CEOs who will engage in personal misconduct, usually of the office romantic variety, leading to more instantaneous falls from grace and power.  Spoiler alert: online dating and company policies against such relationships are both a thing now and worth checking out.

What are your PR predictions for 2020?  Happy New Year!