The PR trends to watch in 2017

From a communications perspective, the past year was truly a turning point in communications for reasons I have covered in this blog over the past few months. Today I want to look forward and outline my thoughts on the three key communications trends I see emerging in response to all this change.

Fake news is a real phenomenon with no clear solution. Fake news is the topic du jour, and for good reason. While propaganda, conspiracy and outright falsehoods are nothing new in the world of communications, the speed and ferocity with which fake news can spread and become ‘fact’ has changed the game entirely. Outside of the world of politics, brands such as New Balance and Pepsi have faced threats of boycott when executive comments were blatantly falsified. It is tempting to think that such concerns are the purview of high profile brands and politically-motivated trolls, but the fact is fake news is a potential threat to every business, brand or their public-facing representative. A recent blog by Bob Ambrogi highlighted his own experience with a number of fake lawyer blogs and Twitter accounts. In the world of social media, it is all too easy to spread fake news with speed – and while some may do so innocently, a disgruntled past employee or business rival could just as easily use this means to wreak havoc. How to battle the fake news phenomenon will be the north star for PR professionals in the year ahead – thankfully it appears that media giants such as Facebook and Google are stepping up their efforts also. In the meantime, all brands should take heed and prepare – while there is no panacea to fake news just yet, having a crisis communications plan in place is vital.

Social media is here to stay, but brands need to be more controlled in how they use it. The recent Dropbox PR flub points to how easy it is to get social media wrong. To read more about how companies need to approach social media, read my LinkedIn post here.

Far from painting a gloomy picture of the year ahead, I believe PR and communications professionals will play a vital role in helping brands identify vulnerabilities in these areas and work on ways to avoid them. But most of all, this year will be a tipping point in our industry, with the battle against fake news taking center stage.