Rowland’s Annual Top 5 Communication and PR Trends 2017

by Melissa Kaplan, Director of Digital and Innovation

Published on
January 17, 2017

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Every year, we monitor trends to stay ahead of the curve and advise our clients on what they should be doing next. Here are our top five predictions for what 2017 will bring in the world of communication, marketing, and public relations.

  • Digital transformation of communication and PR companies

We predict 2017 will be the year that marks the beginning of the end of traditional communication and PR as we know it. If digital transformation is not at the forefront of every communication professional’s mind, it will become increasingly challenging for them to remain relevant now and in the future.

But the transformation must be real. Brian May in his article for PR Daily says that some agencies are updating their core messages but not their business model. These agencies won’t survive long. To keep relevant and offer clients what they need, not just what agencies traditionally do, communication organisations will need to change from the inside out.

  • Data-driven communication

In Xavier Prabhu’s recent article for The Holmes Report, he says that the role of data and analytics is not just for research and campaign measurement, but all the elements in between.

The future of our industry lies in using data for not only measurement, but campaign development and design as well. Rather than evangelising big numbers, next-generation re-targeting technology will give brands precise knowledge of their audience and provide the ability to re-market to them through third party channels.

The ability to harvest data and trends will feed directly back into brands and inform all future dialogue in the online and offline world, from content development and communication strategy, through to future business strategy and overcoming operational and communication obstacles.

Specifically, we see the opportunity in crisis communication, where communicators can understand who the audiences are that really care about the issue, communicate to them in the channels they consume information in, deliver messages that are relevant, and track behaviour based on their responses.

  • Virtual/augmented reality, 360 video and dynamic video

Pokemon Go was one of the fastest growing trends of 2016. While the trend hasn’t lasted, it put augmented reality into the mainstream and showed the world (and communicators) what’s now possible. It also offered digitally-savvy brands such as Woolworths, KFC and Translink the chance to tap into the phenomenon with success.

Handsets providers jumped at the opportunity to promote virtual reality headsets off the back of the game, with Samsung declaring virtual reality a new medium. In Australia, Samsung demonstration kiosks popped up in suburban shopping centres. As the Cannes Lions declared 2016 the year that VR officially came of age, we predict more marketers and brands will experiment with virtual and augmented reality in 2017, in the hope of finding a Pokemon Go that sticks.

While new mediums are always exciting, communicators must resist the trend to follow what’s new at the expense of what’s right for their audience.

One brand doing it right is DRINKiQ, which has created a 360° virtual reality experience that demonstrates the impact of decisions made while drinking. The company is using the technology with the aim of reducing the number of drink drivers.

The benchmark of video usage is Facebook, who this week announced Live 360, a combination of its popular video products. This application will be available to all Pages and users in 2017, which will only increase the popularity of the medium.

  • Long-form content

Facebook would have us believe that video is the future and long-form content is dying. But Ann Handley, one of ForbesWoman’s top 20 female bloggers disputes this, citing that long-form news articles get roughly the same number of mobile visitors as short-form articles, and garner twice as much engaged time.

The rise of Medium as a publishing platform and the success of websites such as The Ringer supports her theory and shows that reading will never go out of fashion. It’s all about finding the right forms of content for the right audience. And with the proliferation of content creation, quality content will always find an audience.

  • Artificial intelligence – Journalism and automated content creation

Artificial intelligence is the sleeping giant of communication technology.

2016 saw the start of what we predict will be a big next year for Chatbots – over 30,000 appeared on Facebook Messenger. AdWeek says Chatbots will become a billion dollar industry in the coming years.

DuoLingo, a language-learning app that TIME Magazine says “may hold the secret to the future of education”, uses Chatbots as a practice tool, demonstrating just one application for communicators and product developers.

Another AI application that will only grow in 2017 is automated content, which according to FutureContent, is on the cusp of the mainstream. Creative industries including writing, journalism and art, are starting to see early applications of the technology. One example is The Next Rembrandt, an advertising campaign where a computer was taught to paint a new piece by studying the works of Rembrandt.

The US election saw the rise of automated systems in news coverage. Whilst predominantly used for short-form messaging in a rapidly-changing event, we predict that bots will be used more and more in everyday situations as the technology continues to advance.

Over the next few months we will take a deep dive into each of these topics and explore them in a bit more depth.