October 21st is officially Back to the Future day. Yep, October 21, 2015 marks the date that Doc and Marty travel to in “Back to the Future Part II.” The movie, released in 1989 got a lot right about how we live today. It nailed video conferencing, tablet computers, wall mounted big-screen TVs, and even something akin to Google Glass. Who knows? The Cubs might even win the world series this year. Of course, they missed the mark on a few things like flying cars and getting fired via fax. We thought it would be interesting to take this opportunity to speculate a bit about what the future holds for PR. We asked ourselves, what will PR be like in 10 years? Here are our predictions.
Messages will be Out and Conversations will be In
This shift is already starting to happen and we see it accelerating rapidly into the future. Buyers, both business and consumer buyers, have lost their tolerance for being “sold” things. So what’s the alternative? Truly engaging content and experiences that provide value to the buyer. Coke’s personalization campaign is a great example. PR teams will stop asking, “What do we want to tell people,” and start asking, “How can we engage people.”
The Internet of Things Will Change the Game
We are already nearing the point when all of our “stuff” consists of connected computing devices. Running out of ketchup? Don’t worry your fridge will add it to the weekly order it sends to Amazon. Can’t remember if you turned off the oven? Log on and ask it. What does the IoT mean for PR? Data. In the words of Donald Trump, this data will be YUUGE! We will understand when, why and how people do things better than ever before and we’ll be able to better align our stories around buyer behavior. However, we’ll only get access to this data if we can offer something of value in exchange. I’m happy to let Amazon know how often I buy ketchup if it means I never have to think about it.
Segmentation will Accelerate
Partly due to the availability of Big Data, we will continue to see audiences become increasingly fragmented. Mass communication has already started to give way to highly personalized and audience specific messages. Buyers and media contacts alike will be even more overwhelmed by the number of messages they receive every day and the growing list of channels from which they come. Only highly targeted stories and engagement opportunities that resonate will be effective.
Measurement will be Mandatory
Data flows both ways. We’ll be using data to make decisions about how to reach our buyers and our companies or clients will be using data to make decisions about how to invest in PR. Technology exists today that lets us measure the results of our efforts on business drivers like website traffic, leads and revenue. In 10 years, PR professionals and firms that don’t have the tools and know-how to tie activity to the bottom line will be obsolete.
Sadly, we don’t have a tricked out DeLorean so we can’t hurl ourselves into the future and see if we are right, but I bet we’re pretty close. What do you think? What are your predictions for the state of PR in 2025?