The future of PR & communications: 2020 & beyond

As a creative PR and comms trainer, I’m often asked, ‘What is the future of PR and communications?’

It’s a fun and daunting topic to explore.

  • Will tech advances change the industry completely?
  • Will robots steal our jobs?
  • How can we change to future-proof our careers and our companies?

The truth is: I haven’t got the foggiest.

Because I, and most probably you too, have the predictive skills of a clairvoyant who cancels a show due to unforseen circumstances.

Let’s not dwell on what will change. To prepare for the next era of comms and PR, we need to think about what will stay the same.

What won’t change

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and gazlillionaire, shared an incredibly important principle of innovation:

I almost never get the question, ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’

…You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.

…When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.

So like Amazon, let’s focus on the parts of PR and comms that don’t change.

I believe there are three areas of practice PR professionals can develop into their strategy where the robots will never compete: caring, creativity and courage.

1. Caring: the need for human interaction 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. PR professionals will make the most of this with chatbots, and to make sense of data and to learn more about audience behaviour.  

But talking to a machine will NEVER satisfy our audiences in the way that talking to a human being will.

People have feelings and want to know that someone is genuinely listening and reacting emotionally to what we say.

It’s the reason sex dolls have always been a rather niche area of interest, and why people often swear at their telephone when asked by a recorded voice to ‘press 5 to listen to the options again’.

We need to feel like someone cares. The best brands will always have humans talking, responding and emoting.

2. Creativity: taking an unusual approach

There will be apps and technology that can autogenerate good video, copy and imagery.

Handy time-saving stuff, and that’s the beauty of technology – it create things quickly using pre-programmed commands.

But strategic thinking and creativity can’t be done by a robot.

Creativity is not about efficiency, it’s about the creation of amazing, memorable, clever concepts.

It’s solving a problem, thinking about something a little differently, or surpising your audience.

Some of the best ideas don’t make sense on paper, and could not have been the result of a formula.

When I teach people on my online creative courses, I watch people unleash some of their most unique, original and downright weird ideas.

They use experience, behavioural insights and creative techniques to create content and campaigns that are compelling, unexpected and genius.

All because they have the skills to approach problem-solving like a human, not an algorithm. That’s the future of PR and communications.

3. Courage: the bravest ones rise to the top

I’m always saying this: great comms, takes great courage. Those who make a real mark won’t be the ones who stick the safe methods, or take the easy options.

The best comms and PR is produced by people who put their neck on the line to push a concepts they believe in, who fight for the more unusual projects to be given a try, and work hard get leaders and decision makers to respect their judgement.

These people are celebrated and remembered for the bold moves that succeeded, and their failures get lost in history.

Courage won’t go out of fashion in a hurry.

So to conclude: the future of PR and communications looks pretty good for those of us who can do what technology can’t!

If you want to develop your creative skills, sign up to the Comms Creatives newsletter for inspiration and challenges, and have a look at our courses designed to make you more creative, fearless and proud of your work.

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