How PR Pros Can Become Master Trend Forecasters

trend forecasting arrows
trend forecasting arrows

What is Trend Forecasting? 

Predicting a trend is a matter of understanding the life cycle of cultural movements and knowing where to look before the masses have trained their eyes. For PR pros, identifying a trend by using media monitoring or social listening tools before widespread adoption can determine business decisions and inform industry thought leadership.

PR professionals are always looking to find the most efficient ways to broadcast their messages and there are few better ways than by trend jacking. Think about it: if people are talking about a particular subject, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that interest? It will make messages easier to communicate and share if you’re speaking from the same cultural perspective.

Why is it Important to Stay Ahead of Industry Trends?

When asked this question, our PR pros shared that they thought it was “extremely” important.

“It’s vital that PR pros spot emerging patterns and make meaningful contributions at the right time – as conversations are picking up steam, not once they’ve peaked,” said Emily Mong, senior marketing analyst, Shift Communications.

“Understanding what the next Uber or Airbnb is, is a great way to differentiate yourself as a PR professional,” said Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager, IBM.

Trend Spotting vs Trend Forecasting

Whether you know it or not, you are a trend spotter. Being a trend spotter means you are aware of what’s happening right now. Trendspotting allows you to understand the changing nature of the market and how that appeals to the consumer and the extent to which a trend affects aspects of our daily lives.

Once you’ve spotted something happening in the cultural zeitgeist, you’ll want to use a listening tool — like a media intelligence platform or a social listening tool — to see how influencers and your target demographic are discussing the trend. You will want to check if the sentiment is positive/negative and if the message volume is increasing as a measure of the trend’s strength. It would also be instructive to take note of what words people are using to describe the trend.

With the help of listening tools, you will be able to find the unique twist you’ll give to the trend and what type of influencers will be the best to target.

Because trends evolve, being only a trend spotter can be risky. Imagine if you were working on a trend that’s not relevant anymore; your message would be much less appealing and interesting, lowering your PR effectiveness.

This is where trend forecasting comes into play. By forecasting trends, you can predict and anticipate a trend, which will help you to make the most of the opportunity as it starts to happen.

trend spotting

3 Tips to Effective Trend Forecasting 

In order to become a master trend forecaster, there are three tactics you want to implement.

1. Research Socio-cultural Trends:

By carrying out socio-cultural trend analysis, you are looking at the circumstances that surround your target audience and how those circumstances affect their behavior. This can help you understand more when new trends start to happen and how to get ahead of them.

2. Listen to Your Customers:

You don’t want to define what the trend is or what you think of it. You want to be aware of what your customer has to say about a given trend and how it affects their behavior. Be completely honest with what you hear, even if you don’t like it or agree with it.

3. Know Where to Look for Trends:

Finding trends takes an ambitious and curious attitude towards your audience. You’ll want to look at any site that influences behavior, like Twitter or Buzzfeed. Look beyond what’s being said, and see what people feel. Ask yourself, “what’s the underlying story about this (a given trend)?

Don’t get trapped in your personal curation bubble. For example, if you only look for trends on Twitter, you will miss out on a lot of content from audiences that create, discuss, and share on Instagram or Reddit. Any site where you can learn more about your audience’s behavior is perfect for your trend analysis.

Using Keywords as Guiding Posts

From your reading and conversations, you should be able to formulate a list of keywords you want to monitor more closely. You may choose to have the most important of these pushed to you in the form of alerts. Using Meltwater media monitoring solutions you can also use your keywords to construct the newsfeed your team sees at work. Everyone will become more cognizant of what’s happening in your industry and become trained to look for patterns and early indications of future trends by using keywords as signposts.

Add more conversations to the mix—lots of them, from light and casual to more in-depth—and it won’t be long before your spidey sense tells you that you’re getting the hang of it. Add the findings from your social media listening and soon enough people will be seeking you out for industry forecasts and predictions of the future.

Avoiding Fraudulent Forecasters

While legitimate trend forecasting has been around for years, so have fraudulent “experts.” 

Remember “normcore?” Forecasting firm K-Hole predicted the trend in 2014. It consisted of brandless clothing designed to stand out only by its bland lack of distinguishing features. What many may not have realized at the time or since is that K-Hole was an art collective indulging its passion for creative (i.e., completely made-up) endeavors. Then a weird thing happened: The fake trend became real. While this might be a case study in how to start a trend of your own, it won’t serve you well in finding a trustworthy partner.

How can you tell if you’re talking with a forecaster who lacks the expertise or maybe is even a fraud? Solis says it really comes down to a combination of your own intuition and experience. “It can be very difficult to know because unless you’re keeping a scorecard of what they say and what happens, it’s very difficult to spot them out. It’s really going to be based on what feels right, what sounds right, the process that these individuals go through to work with you.” 

Your own expertise can help you recognize forecasting problems before they become disasters for the company. You can also give them a trial run and then evaluate the value of the information they deliver to your team, Solis suggests, adding that, at least to some extent, “it’s, unfortunately, trial by error, or trial by success.” 

Meltwater’s head of mobile product, Mark Lieberwitz, walks through the tool to help PR pros to validate trends and strategize on the go: Mobile Explore.

Trendspotting, trend jacking, and trend-forecasting are popular strategies savvy communicators use to help their messages gain traction. Here at Meltwater, there’s a simple way to quickly validate those trend-driven narratives using advanced media and social analytics: Meet Meltwater’s Mobile Explore App.

We created Mobile Explore to help PR pros instantly drill into trending topics no matter where ideas happen—whether it’s at the airport gate or on a commuter train. This is rooted in Meltwater’s mobile-first philosophy that communicators should be able to do more than just monitor their brand on the go—they should be able to access critical media intelligence tools wherever their PR management happens. All Meltwater clients can access the Mobile Explore tool for free within our Meltwater Mobile—just update or download from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

From CMOs to PR managers, our clients often tell us about the type of work that occurs on the go. That’s why our Meltwater Mobile app has been rapidly expanding over the last few years to support many of the key functions communicators need when they’re away from their desks, from news alerts to sharing dashboard analytics.

We believe mobile media intelligence should do more than just help PR managers perform tasks when they’re away from their laptops. Strategizing, brainstorming, campaign ideas—they all happen on the go, as well. Mobile Explore goes beyond simply helping to execute to-do items on the road, but supports testing out those ideas as they happen with the ability to search topics and drill into how those trends are performing. It’s a tool that’s unique to our mobile suite. No more scribbling notes with reminders to research a topic later, shallow browser searches, or waiting until you get to your computer to share information. 

Mobile Explore GIF

Mobile Explore serves up the most influential content first, so you don’t have to manually scroll to find what matters to you most. Customize your experience with a number of configurable tools:

  • Sort search results however you like, from relevance to reach
  • Search up to three months of news & social content
  • View news & social search results together or separately (including broadcast content, if you’re a subscriber)
  • Share, tag or translate any article

We’ve heard back from our clients about how they use Mobile Explore—from crisis comms to impromptu brainstorming sessions and more. Curious to see Mobile Explore in action? Contact us for a demo and learn more about Meltwater’s media and social intelligence solutions.

Key Takeaways

Keeping up with trends is one of the most critical aspects of being a PR professional. By being open to what people are saying and getting the gist of what they are trying to communicate, you will be able to take advantage of new trends and spread the reach of your messages, ultimately, growing your community.

With PR, Marketing and Communications becoming increasingly data-driven, trend forecasters are the next step to upping your game. Through research and expertise, they can help you take the lead in shaping your industry as well as consumer perception. 

Read our comprehensive Trend Forecasting eBook now to learn how to tap their full potential.