2019 is just around the corner. And if the new year is anything like this one, we know that change will continue to transform the PR industry. 

As our expert panel of PR influencers weighs in on what it sees trending in the new year, how do those predictions compare to last year’s?

  • AI will continue to be a theme in the new year, as we get a clearer idea of the role it will play and how it can help enhance what PR pros do.
  • Data is on the minds of our expert panel, as it was heading into 2018. Learning to measure and interpret data is a skill that public relations practitioners will need to embrace if they haven’t already.
  • Once again, influencer marketing seems to be a theme, with some seeing an increase in importance while others feel it’s beginning to take a hit as some clients show skepticism. Per last year’s prediction, working with influencers is a skill that sits squarely in PR’s wheelhouse.
  • The shift in our profession to move away from being considered only purveyors of media relations remains a constant, per both last year’s and this year’s experts. To stay relevant, public relations pros need to step up their game, embracing strategies like thought leadership, content creation/marketing and influencer marketing.

Here’s what 10 PR influencers think 2019 will bring, including trends we should be wary of and innovation we should embrace.

PR Influencers Talk PR Predictions

David Meerman Scott
Bestselling Author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR
“2019 is the year that PR pros finally realize that public relations and media relations are different activities. Public relations simply means communicating with your constituents, and there are so many amazing ways to do that directly by creating great content. Media relations, working with journalists to tell a story, is a subset of public relations but is what most PR people focus on.”

Lou Hoffman
CEO, The Hoffman Agency
“I’m thinking that 2019 will be the year that the micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR, particularly for those who toil in the B2B sphere. This isn’t about the internet, social media and mobile applications making it easier for anyone to reach a gazillion followers. Instead, this centers on the individuals who exist in every market segment and who have cultivated meaningful relationships with their followers. Quality over quantity.”

Martin Waxman
President, Martin Waxman Communications
“My trend is more of a challenge. In 2019, I believe communications professionals should make a commitment to go beyond the buzzwords and learn about what artificial intelligence is and does, the various data types, what constitutes data bias, and the difference between narrow AI, which is single purpose and what will affect us most in the short-term, and artificial general intelligence, which is an important, but longer-term consideration. This won’t be easy as it involves learning to define and grasp the concepts. We’ll have to overcome our fear of math to gain a basic understanding of statistical predictions, how AI finds patterns in data, and how to spot spurious correlations and results. Only then, will we be able to start making informed contributions, by asking questions around ethics, privacy and workplace disruption, when our organizations consider adopting AI.”

Stephen Waddington
Visiting Professor, Newcastle University and Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum
“Technology and tools will continue to drive PR practice forward enabling us to work more efficiently and demonstrate our value. We’re using tools to identify publics and listen to conversations from social media listening, insight and measurement to identifying stakeholders; and from natural language analysis to content creation and management. We’re starting to begin to feel the impact of artificial intelligence on PR. The potential is incredibly exciting.”

Karen Freberg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in Strategic Communication at the University of Louisville
“Public relations continues to be on a rapid pace for constant change and innovation. We have to embrace not only the role as a creator and strategist but a maker. As Adobe has defined in their work, a maker focuses on not only understanding a problem but how to produce solutions in a digital and automated world. PR professionals, educators and students need to embrace digital literacy and fluency. This will be the expectation for all entering 2019.”

Peter Himler
Founding Principal, Flatiron Communications
“Looking to 2019, I believe that corporate America will be forced to take the lead in setting America’s moral compass, a role traditionally played by the government and the U.S. President. As Andrew Ross Sorkin observed in The New York Times: ‘Over the past two years, executives have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to speak out on matters of right and wrong.’

These consequential decisions will increasingly and invariably entail public relations professionals advising their ‘clients’ in the C-Suite. Should Nike cut ties with Colin Kaepernick? Should JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon jettison the ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference? Should brands pull their TV spots from the repugnant Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News? Fortunately, this is exactly what top communications pros have been trained to know and do.”

Dorothy Crenshaw
CEO, Crenshaw Communications
“I think 2019 will bring continued opportunity for independent agencies, particularly those that offer deep specialist expertise. The generalist agency has disappeared. We’re also seeing some skepticism when it comes to influencer marketing; clients are applying more rigor and tightening standards after a period of hype around it. And I don’t know that it ever went away, but we’re noticing a swing back to earned media. At least among our clients, many tell us their agencies are pushing too many other services that they can get elsewhere and they’re doubling down on earned media, especially in the B2B tech space.”

Frank Strong
Founder & President, Sword and the Script Media
“From a B2B technology perspective, next year PR can expect media relations will be more challenging. Fewer reporters combined with greater noise means bona fide coverage will continue to be difficult to attract outside of FANG. Similarly, bloggers and non-traditional influencers, striving for a path to monetization, will favor paid relationships over those that are earned.

Smart PR pros will focus on relationships and use content marketing (not marketing content – not the same thing) to build an audience, corporate credibility and public relationships – using social proof as a step ladder to coveted third-party coverage.

Nicole Rodrigues
CEO and Founder, NRPR
“2019 will be the year more PR practitioners will incorporate more data into their reporting because more clients will demand clear evidence of value. I know this firsthand because my clients see the benefits of including data and analytics in reports we provide.

How I see it, the more great tools that are created to gather this data, and the easier it is to incorporate it into reporting, alongside solid explanations, the more clients and companies will demand it in the future because insights are incredibly powerful for future planning. Not to mention that data comes in handy for executives when they must explain PR/marketing value to board members and investors, or simply help them feel more comfortable with their investment in PR.”

Christoph Trappe
Chief Content Engagement Director, Stamats Business Media
“2019 will be the year of the details. Public relations officials cannot differentiate by using the same generic answers. The way to stand out is by being clear, specific and relevant. It sounds like common sense, I know, but I still see a lot of public relations practitioners who don’t follow this advice yet.”

As we welcome 2019, we’ll be watching right along with all of you to stay on top of the latest trends and technology in the industry.