Towards the close of 2019 came the news of Deccan Chronicle shutting down its Bangalore edition close on the heels of DNA shutting down its print version and turning fully digital. The writing on the wall of the accelerated pace of change PR industry will witness in 2020 and beyond could not be clearer than this sign among others. In the coming paragraphs let me attempt to predict the key changes the industry will witness in the year ahead.
- Custom mandates will be the norm
Gone are the days of largely standard mandates. This was amply clear to me when was interacting with the Owner of one of India’s leading crockery brands recently. He did not just ask for PRHUB’s capability in influencer engagement but specifically asked how good and confident are you with nano-influencers. There are prospects I interact with considering BD is a hat I wear internally, have seen some clients seek primarily online visibility, some seeking traditional print visibility and some a mix of all of it (print, online and digital). Interestingly have also come across instances where it has been one focus for a certain period moving to a different one in the next phase. What it really means is as practitioners we need to be dynamic and highly flexible to be able to quickly adapt, change and deliver.
- Owned media – time for a reality check
Remember the trinity of owned, earned and paid media that quickly gained limelight with it being splattered across presentations at most industry events. Here is what we are learning delivering specialist social and digital mandates for clients across sectors in the last couple of years. Owned is like the ideal love depicted in Bollywood. Reality is far away and far different. What the big social media platforms and changing user behavior besides regulation have done is to make it a really hard, long haul investment that needs careful nurturing. Not the prevalent paid spends guzzling irrelevant user acquisition that seems the order of the day. And really defeating the purpose.
- Storytelling has come to stay but won’t be easy
Like everything else, storytelling looks easy on the outside but those who have invested in it and learnt it right will tell you it is lots of hard work and it does have strong rules. Writing stuff that pleases internal audiences and echoes messages that they want to hear is easier than stories that will appeal to and move external audiences who have no such compulsions. Storytelling needs a mindset which is yet to take root in many organizations. Till that happens it will be just another fad, with an odd one here and there making it to festivals and winning awards giving the pretense that all is well and it’s practiced widely.
- Clients will become more demanding close to being unreasonable
That is something many of us may not want to hear but likely a reality this year or for another depending on when the economy and sentiment really picks up. The flurry of boutique firms springing up all over and willing to work at highly competitive prices has an added lure to clients in a decelerating economy with multiple challenges. It may not be a healthy trend or one that delivers benefits for the clients but times like this do spawn and drive certain behavior which we all need to accept and factor in.
- Talent issue will continue to haunt the industry
Somehow talent in the PR industry alone feels and behaves as if it is immune to the larger economic changes. Have had engineering graduates swarm us with applications saying even if an unpaid internship is fine in the low days of the tech industry. The same is true of many other industries but not PR. Here, talent still seeks a significant increase year after year, don’t invest in honing their skills constantly and think moving around automatically bolsters their career. India also seems to be unique in this as don’t see this as much in the US, UK, Australia or Singapore markets which are more mature. There are no easy answers and I guess each firm has to find its unique mix to address this growing challenge.
Of course have not dwelt much on the impact of convergence and other macro drivers on the industry but that is for another article. Have a great and fun 2020.
Xavier PRabhu, the author of this article is Founder & Managing Director, PRHUB.