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Not another PR trends piece…

Posted by Alex Warren on 6th August 2018

A couple of weeks ago, the Wildfire team went along to the latest meet-up from creative marketing magazine Contagious. At the event, marketers, advertisers and PR professionals analysed the most award-winning campaigns from Cannes Lions 2018, and put forward their predictions for the top trends that are set to shape creative marketing in 2019.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Not another PR trends piece banging on about big data, brand purpose and mixed reality marketing.”

I get it. As PR professionals — especially tech PR professionals — we’re all tired of talking, and hearing, about these buzzwords. And we’re not alone.

Speaking at the event, Contagious’s team of creative experts presented their list of the top trends that “nobody cares about in 2018”, and guess what made the list?

Artificial intelligence, VR, big data, brand purpose, and of course, Blockchain.

As far as the world’s creative professionals are concerned, these trends are as dead as disco. They don’t make your campaign stand out, they don’t differentiate your client, and they certainly don’t cement your company’s role as a creative ‘innovator’.

So, if those trends aren’t going to make your PR campaign stand out amongst the crowd, exactly what will?

By combining the expertise of hundreds of CMOs, CEOs, adverting professionals and creative analysts, Contagious put forward its suggestions for what marketers and creative teams should focus on in 2019. And guess what, they’re really simple:

1) Agile campaigns

The days of coming up with 12-month marketing plans are dead. The best campaigns may come from strategic planning, but they also come from the ability to react and adapt to your audience. In an era defined by constant change, deciding your messaging in January and expecting it to still resonate in July simply isn’t realistic. Instead, both agencies and in-house marketers need to ditch the one-year plan in favour of more creative and reactive three-month campaign structures. Yes, it’s important to have an overall goal, but if your execution is taking more than three months, then you’re probably already falling behind the curve.

2) Streamlined permissions

We’ve all been in the situation. A great news-jacking opportunity comes along, the creative team write an ideal response, then it goes to management for review, then it goes to the spokesperson for sign off, then it goes to the comms lead to make sure it’s on message, then it heads to the legal team… and then it’s three weeks later and your amazing, timely opportunity is nothing more than a distant memory.

Overly complicated permissions systems are the death knell for creativity and effective, reactive PR. In 2019, marketers and PR teams need to focus their efforts on streamlining their processes, cutting down on unnecessary admin and minimising layers of permission. Have someone to do the creative work, and someone to review the creative work. Every additional layer on top of that is slowing you down.

3) Stop barking at passing cars

Speaking at the event, Alex Jenkins, editorial director at Contagious, used a phrase that needs to be remembered across the PR (and tech) industry: “Stop barking at passing cars”. By this, he meant for marketing professionals to stop getting distracted by the latest shiny trends — to stop running after big data, chatbots, NFC, QR codes, VR ads, and every other innovative technology that is destined to “redefine the future of marketing”.

At the end of the day, marketing and PR really hasn’t changed that much in the last 20 years. For all the new technologies available, the original objectives of awareness, communication and mutual understanding still apply. These three trends exemplify this fact, reminding us that the best PR doesn’t come from jumping on the latest fads, but from thinking strategically, being proactive and providing creativity with the room to thrive.

Alex Warren

Alex Warren is an expert in AI and marketing technologies. He has published two books, Spin Machines, and Technoutopia and is regularly quoted in PR, marketing and technology media. In his role as a Senior Account Director at Wildfire he helps tech brands build creative strategies that deliver results and cut through the marketing BS.