Four PR Trend Predictions for 2010

December 17, 2009 · 19 comments

2010What does 2010 hold for PR pros?

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a crystal ball – for that matter, I don’t even have a Magic 8 Ball – but there are a few trends I think we’ll see unfold over the next 12 months.

So to kick up some lively conversation about the immediate, short-term future of PR, here are four trends I think we’ll spot in 2010.

1. PR Pros Will Learn that Social Media isn’t a Three-Trick Pony. Okay, we get it. Corporate blogs and Facebook and Twitter. There’s nothing wrong with using them, but if you don’t think those three platforms are the beginning and end of many social media proposals these days, you’re kidding yourself.

PR people will begin getting past the shiny object syndrome of these three and realize that it’s a big digital world out there. They’ll start to better understand technology and the possibilities it unlocks online – or hire and/or partner with people who do.


Other than being a smart business decision, the next best reason is that many advertising and digital agencies DO understand technology and platforms, and how to leverage them to develop creative content and efforts online for clients. If PR people don’t get smarter about this in 2010 and look beyond “Tweeting 101” as a prominent example of the social media value they bring to the table, advertising shops are going to eat their lunch.

2. The lines between PR and advertising will blur more rapidly. The number of ways to get in front of and connect with customers is expanding fast. And we’re seeing blurring lines between which disciplines “own” which pieces.

I believe more PR pros will recognize this, loosen their definitions of what PR “is,” and instead focus on making smart communications recommendations that make sense for their clients’ businesses. Even if it doesn’t fall under the realm of media relations or experiential events or one of the other traditional pillars of the PR business.

Why not recommend a great idea using mobile marketing to help drive customers in-store during your event? Or a sponsorship and online display banners for a message board that is part of your social media marketing efforts? Even if you don’t execute the idea, you get credit for the idea – and for thinking more holistically about how customers interact with the brand.

3. More Brands Will Learn that Social Media is Not the Handsome Prince. The great news is that more companies began seeing that social media does provide value for their brands in 2009 and that trend is still growing strong. In 2010, though, more than a few of them will realize that a kiss from Prince Social Media won’t immediately and magically revive their Snow White of a brand.

Social Media isn’t the second coming of you know who. It is a smart channel to integrate strategically into a well-rounded marketing plan, but it alone won’t be a marketing cure-all for most companies. In the coming months, many will learn that first hand.

4. PR People will Become Smarter Business People. One skill that many PR people possess is the ability to get up-to-speed on a brand and its category quickly. Many times, though, that quick study leads to a superficial understanding of the client’s business. And if you want to truly impact a brand’s success, you should start with a deep dive into their business and their industry.

Where does the market research show the greatest opportunities for growth? How can you geo-target your efforts to line up with that? How can you support the sales team and open doors for them to expand distribution? Understanding the business more intimately will lead you to strategies and tactics that stand a far better chance of actually impacting the bottom line.

Your turn. What are your thoughts on these? What trends do you see popping up in 2010?

*Image from thesocialnomad.

{ 4 trackbacks }

2010 Social Media Trend Insight « Social Media Snippets
December 18, 2009 at 10:17 am
Todd’s 2010 Predictions « Fresh Ground Communications
December 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm
What are Your PRedictions for 2010? Everything Old Is New Again | The PRagmatist
December 31, 2009 at 10:40 am
Predicting the Media’s Future « Travel into a PR World
January 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Colby Gergen December 17, 2009 at 2:18 am

I like this post for two reasons. The first one, completely self-serving, is that these points talk about what I’m studying (so hopefully I’d be set… in 2 years). I’m working towards customizing my education to understand PR, advertising, marketing, and business (the latter being the laggard for now).

Also, it’s a very enlightened post. There are so many other tools out there to be discovered. Even within the scope of the three tools you discussed in #1, there will be fresh ideas about how to use them.


2 David December 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Good luck in your final years of school. Great idea to customize your education across all those disciplines. If they aren’t already, schools should be doing the same within their program, in my opinion.


3 Keith Trivitt December 17, 2009 at 11:20 am

David – Great predictions all around in this post. I’ll add my own:

In 2010, PR and marketing pros will realize once again that relationships in this business DO matter. Just because you can instantly reach someone with a great pithy 140-character pitch doesn’t mean you should give up on continuing to build and expand all of the strong relationships you have developed with the media, key influencers, brand advocates and your clients’ target audiences. I think more than ever before, relationships in this business are becoming unbelievably important as the number of reporters – and even bloggers – continues to shrink, which means you better have really strong relationships with some key influencers – and respect those people’s time and knowledge – if you want to continue to find ways to enhance your clients’ work and brands.

Sadly, one negative trend I see in 2010 is the beginning of major abuse of the good that inherently comes with social media. I am already starting to see it with some fringe online companies that are looking to make a very quick publicity and attention splash via social media and SEO, and are abusing the goodwill that has arisen from mass adoption of social media for their own personal gains. It’s sad to see some businesses doing it, but inevitably, a fact of the business of marketing and PR that some will take advantage of the good that many try to create.



4 Audrey Reed-Granger December 17, 2009 at 11:27 am


I am so proud of you personally and professionally. Your thinking is exactly what Gus and I discuss everyday within the lens of IMC. All of your points are great. Your first point is meaningful to me as I tell clients not every company needs a Facebook page but they hear about it from others as part of the holy trilogy of social media. Also, your fourth point means the world to us because we preach true immersion. However, the client has to let you in the tent. Awesome all around, David.


5 David December 17, 2009 at 12:58 pm

You are so kind. Thanks for making my day. I’m just trying to follow in the footsteps of your awesomeness. :)


6 David Horne December 17, 2009 at 11:31 am

Great observations David. It is more about the mindset and philosophy of connecting to the right people with a relevant and valuable message than the tools or buzzwords. The tools we use to interact will certainly change but the thought process and renewing our minds is valuable.

I think in 2010 we will certainly see more mobile and augmented reality strategies (FourSquare and Motherapp come to mind)


7 Richie Escovedo December 17, 2009 at 11:52 am


Ok, I’ll admit that I was a little down on all of the various ‘predictions’ posts floating around. But this one, thankfully, caught my attention not so much in a projecting into the PR industry as a whole, but more of in a ‘get a clue PR people’ way. And that’s a great thing. I appreciate how you’ve summed up big target areas and needs that must be filled by practitioners who want to move forward.

I am particularly interested in #2 in how the lines are blurring more rapidly. I think this notion of being able to provide that strategic communication counsel is vital to the overall credibility and usefulness of a practitioner.

I’m glad you stayed up late last night to finish this and share :)

– @vedo


8 Arik Hanson December 17, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I love #2, David. And, as a solo consultant who’s constantly trying to add value (no matter what the discipline), I’ve been giving that one a lot more thought lately.

I might add the potential explosion of mobile marketing in 2010 as a trend. With geo-tagging about to take off (FourSquare among many trying to cash in), I think PR pros would be wise to keep their finger on the pulse of mobile. As more folks upgrade to smart phones, this trend will only grow in importance for our industry.



9 Allan Schoenberg December 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Good thoughts as usual but I will disagree with you on #2. I think social media will actually make the lines between PR and advertising even more clear. For instance, I know when someone in advertising is on Twitter — I get no answers to questions, they don’t follow people back, the only talk about themselves. I can tell when someone in PR or customer service is on Twitter because they engage with me and talk about me. Where I think the blurring happens is when we get into PR and marketing. I think PR people certainly have to get better at how to use these tools to market the brand, and sometimes that means selling. And vice versa marketers have to get better at listening and engaging (things PR people do naturally in media relations). Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I see a distinction between PR, marketing and advertising.



10 David December 18, 2009 at 10:50 am

Thanks, Allan. Always appreciate your take on things.

I wasn’t talking about how PR or advertising people actually use the tools. I was talking about PR people thinking beyond media relations and events and social media to consider “non-PR” ways to support their efforts. That’s why the example was recommending the use of mobile marketing to drive traffic in-store. It wasn’t about what you tweet, but instead about putting more tools in your toolbox.

That said, I’ve seen plenty of PR people who use Twitter to push their own agendas. And plenty of corporate PR accounts probably run by PR people that just serve as alternative RSS feed for corporate news releases. So I think PR would be as guilty as advertising in many cases on that.

Thanks again, Allan. Hope 2010 is incredibly kind to you!


11 Heather Whaling December 18, 2009 at 6:11 am

Adding on to your thoughts for #1 — PR pros learning that social media is more than the 3 obvious tools — I hope we’ll start to see business owners/management learning that it’s not all about those three tools as well. Obviously, a small business owner doesn’t need to know all the ins and outs of social media, but they do need to know how to hire the right person/people for the job. I spoke Thursday to a group of savvy business people, and when I asked them to name what social networks they were familiar with, they came up with FB, Twitter and LinkedIn. No one knew of Yelp, Flickr, Foursquare, Ning, etc.

Much has been made about the need to separate communication consultants — whatever their discipline — from people pretending to be social media experts (who are really just looking to cash in). I hope 2010 brings us more educated business owners who realize that not all consultants/agencies are equal — and that it’s worth investing a bit of time to research the person/team who can deliver valuable results … not just someone who can talk a good game. Small businesses especially don’t have the resources to invest — waste — in the wrong consultant. A little due diligence will save them money and generate better results in the long run.

Great post, David!


12 Steve "@PodcastSteve" Lubetkin December 18, 2009 at 7:59 am

As I’ve said before many seminar audiences, social media tools merely provide a new set of communications channels, not a panacea.

It’s no longer a headline to say “Oprah Winfrey used the telephone today.” Soon, it’s not going to matter that “Oprah Winfrey used Twitter today” either. What’s going to matter is the content of the communication, and whether it moved the needle on the behavior of the people to whom that communication was directed. That’s at the heart of public relations best practices, not who has the best Facebook page or pithy Tweet.

And — selfishly — let me say a positive word for the role of audio and video podcast content in a social media outreach strategy. There are huge audiences of commuters and business travellers desperate for well-produced rich media content that is portable, not requiring them to be tethered to a computer to read posts.

Ad people and PR people can learn from each other, and as their markets contract further in 2010, they had better try!

Steve Lubetkin, APR, Fellow, PRSA
Past Member, PRSA National Board of Directors 2003-2005
Senior Fellow, Society for New Communications Research (
@PodcastSteve on Twitter


13 Kris Kozamchak December 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Even though it was listed as #4, I believe that the most important prediction you made was “PR People will Become Smarter Business People.” It is imperative that PR people be invited (or push their way) into the executive suite and sit at the table. Understanding the business is crucial not only to the success of the company, but to you as a PR professional. Until you understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, you can foolishly try social media and other channels which do not add value (as defined by the BOD). Thanks for a great article and I agree with all your predictions.


14 The man with a plan December 19, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Hi David,

Great post. I think you actually underplay #2. It feels to me like a landgrab right now with PR, marketing & web specialists fighting to put stakes down in the new digital world.

I think 2010 is a crucial year for PROs. Our identity is increasingly unclear and we are in danger of becoming ‘just a subset of marketing’ as my friend likes to say.

So I’d like to suggest that a trend will be for PROs to get better at measurement. PR is great at listening, understanding and increasing conversation both online and offline. But it needs to be conversation that benefits the business (your trend #4!).

James Farley Chief Marketing Officer of Ford reportedly said: “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other” That’s a challenge ideally suited to PROs.


15 Giles (Webconomist) March 29, 2010 at 8:39 am

I think PR agencies will also become better story tellers and realize it’s all about “integration” and might ad that research on social media conversations will become a key element now.


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