The most important and exciting development for the PR industry in 2020 and beyond will be the increase of access to more accurate and immediate data.  Think of it this way, CISCO estimate that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices and as a result of this increase in connectivity, we will be able to access more accurate real-time data.

This will have a definitive impact on the evolution of the PR industry as data will be available every step of the process, from forming the basis of campaign ideas to tracking real-time results and flagging up problems. According to the IDC, the volume of data stored in the world doubles every two years, pointing to a future in which we will have to develop innovative and inventive new ways to process and use it. 

A lot of this is pendant on the evolution of data processing technology, I expect to see more advanced social media monitoring tools, forecasting tools or reporting tools and more significantly, we may see the impact and integration of AI. 

The rise of data will profoundly influence the way we work.  Current trends pointing towards this scenario include the ways that web traffic and social media monitoring influence decision-making activity through targeted PR action. It will enrich the information we use internally, the formulation and carrying out of campaigns and evaluating results. This effect will also take place in wider society, affecting how our audiences interact with media and shaping new interests, conversations and trends. The industry will use data to build more focused, niche, and creative campaigns to a more specific target audience.

This is very important, I recently read a report by Goldman Sachs   in which they point out that Millennials, which are considered to be one of the largest generations in history, is about to move into its prime spending years. The report demonstrated that millennials show less brand loyalty and are more concerned with the efficacy, cost and adaptability of products and services. This attitude will be enabled by better access to data. For example, the rise of Financial Technology, or Fintech, demonstrates the demand for a growing access to real time data around personal spending habits – encouraging consumers to evaluate the suitability of their bank for their needs rather than making do with off-the-shelf products.

In much the same way, by 2020 the PR industry will be expected to offer personalized services and this will be reflected in the methods used to create and carry out PR work. A personalized service will be to increase the number of smaller, more selectively audience-focused campaigns.  As a result, the role of digital in PR campaigns will evolve in 2020 and beyond by better targeting towards segmented audiences, with the millennial generation acting as the catalyst to push this change through.

Critical in this is content. One of the most important trends I’m seeing within public relations is the value the industry is placing on our strategic role within a larger marketing campaign, rather than just being valued for the end results. Earned media is only as good as the campaign itself—or the story it tells. This is the strength of PR, the ability to write a story, and so, PR will take on a more strategic role at the beginning of the process rather than being relegated to execution. 

I think PR professionals and marketeers working together and sharing knowledge is the new trend. Audiences are becoming increasingly wary of the content they are presented. For that reason, all content should be authentic and transparent to a level that was not seen before. Audiences want quality content that provides something they didn’t have before.  Going forward, PR strategy must be driven by emotion and have that human element in order to be more meaningful and lead to results.

There is more content online today than ever before. Not surprisingly, there is now a rising consumer trend towards digital detox and decluttering. The question for PR pros is how to emerge in today’s world of hyper connectivity and digital addiction. Reporters and customers need to be able to trust PR pros not just to present them with content that is relevant to them, but to not waste their time with an overdose of info or irrelevant messaging. More than ever, agencies will have to demonstrate a deep understanding of their clients’ business and leverage creativity and production to support PR strategies.

Overall, the PR industry in 2020 and beyond will be fast moving. We will lead the way in embracing new technologies and big data, incorporating the information into key decision- making processes. As data enables us to accurately learn how our industry works, we will be motivated to innovate, create and think bigger and better than ever. Our results, which can be so intangible at times, will be easier to recognize and understand, showing off the enormous value of the PR industry.