Planning for 2018 before we finish 2017 seems like a futile task, but we get it that in many corporations that is exactly what is required. Luckily, we can share with you the sure-fire future trends. How do we know? A combination of time-travel, crystal ball and the fact that we have lived this for 20+ years so are beginning to see some of the writing on the wall.

1 - Media Fragmentation and Loss of Trust

This is not new, but we believe in 2018 both media fragmentation and loss of trust will become more prevalent both in the U.S. market, and internationally.

There has been a clear trend in the past few months that the national U.S. media is less trusted. OK, I have not seen the research to support this, but frankly I haven’t looked for it. We can feel it. Oh, and an impromptu survey of 60 millennials we asked last night also corroborated this. The ‘big traditional media’ (predominantly owned by larger media moguls) is less trusted by the public.

Who do the ‘public’ listen to? Smaller, more niche media.

From a media relations perspective, there is a change in ‘credibility’ perception, and we better know where to get the placements if our messages are to resonate with the target audience.

2 - Getting Noticed in Growing Media

The more media that a target audience can experience, the harder it is gain their attention. If we look outside of traditional media (let’s include newspapers, magazines, their online versions and even blogs in this bucket), at the new (dare we say ‘dark’) media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchap etc, it’s clear that social media is taking more attention from the traditional.

To incorporate this trend in the future, marketers need to understand that they need to take control of social media platforms from non-qualified internal resources and develop either a comprehensive in-house policy (along with a branding manual that incorporates tone of voice), or outsource to a PR agency writing in the voices of the client on these same social platforms.

3 - Paid vs. Earned

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish editorial content and advertising. Just surf over to your favorite online media and see if you can distinguish native advertising from editorial content.

While some PR professionals will argue that ‘true’ media relations should only include earned media, what is important here is that if you are planning strategy and budget, you better include paid-for placements as well.

4 - Influencer Marketing Evolution

Let’s call it what it is - influencer marketing is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the larger target market.  Often in today’s market this includes celebrities (real and imaginary).

But, let’s just face it, this is exactly what PR professionals have been since the 1930’s (if not earlier). But now it’s just a little more complex, as the ‘influential’ don’t just consist of editors of large newspapers.

When it comes to planning your influencer marketing, it requires both an understanding of the much larger media landscape and a more laser like focus for where it will count. Don’t think this is a 30-minute discussion.

5 - Artificial Intelligence

Beyond the obvious, such as media monitoring, basic research and other mundane chores, AI has the potential to automate some of the most important PR functions.

It’s a trend that will need time and budget so you can research and stay ahead of the curve. We don’t think you’re going to see much cost saving in 2018, but if you don’t stay ahead of this curve, you may be overtaken by your competitors.

Put that in your 2018 budget and smoke it.