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30 Pragmatic Marketing and PR Predictions for 2020

Pragmatic Marketing and PR Predictions for 2020

Predictions reflect facts, experience, and often a bit of hope for the future. Even pessimistic predictions are hopeful. It’s as if by saying it out loud, we’ll ward off an undesirable outcome.

As I’ve done in recent years, I’ve asked a whole bunch of smart people for their marketing predictions or PR predictions for the next year. The responses are a diverse collection of exceptional contributions – truly interesting perspectives worth your while to peruse.

It’s important to point out, while I did try to group some predictions centered on common topics, there’s no order of merit to the presentation. Indeed, my own predictions are at the very bottom.

Finally, if you’d like to be invited to make a prediction next year – here’s where to sign up.

And now on with the marketing and PR predictions for 2020.

1) Marketing embraces sustainability.

“Marketers will begin to more fully embrace concerns about sustainability and will show more courage in implementing changes across their marketing strategies and their organizations.”

Christine MoormanDuke University

Note: Professor Moorman also champions The CMO Survey

2) Marketing analytics enable better efficiency.

“In 2020 I think we will see analytics playing a bigger role in helping teams become more proactive in their approach with customers and less reactive. Data and analytics capabilities will mature to allow companies to predict the best possible experience and communication touchpoints throughout the entire customer journey. This more accurate engagement model will enable teams to become more efficient and focus their efforts where they are needed most.”

Cori Pearce | ChurnZero

3) Brands blur the lines between company and friend.

“We’re used to seeing communications and interactions with brands that are personalized. I feel that beginning in 2020, these engagements will be taken to a whole other level…bespoke, blending the lines between company and friend. Similar to the algorithms which drive many of our online purchases, brands will begin to communicate with their customers as if they have personal connections with them. Example: A favorite food brand that also knows what kind of vehicle you drive, where you stop for gas and your preference in podcasts. And then knows how to leverage this information to persuade you to purchase or act in a certain way.”

Scott Kaminski | Häfele America Co.

4) Better integration of owned, earned and paid media.

“The early adopters have been educating the market in the last few years about the successes that can be had with integrating own, earned and paid media. Firms that stick to being mere providers of media relations will continue to lose market share.”

Jo Detavernier, SCMP, APR | Detavernier Strategic Communication

5) Marketers will slow down.

“The Internet moves at breakneck speed, but that doesn’t mean that we as marketers have to do the same. We can measure the initial impacts of marketing and advertising efforts almost immediately, but that doesn’t mean we should.

New LinkedIn research found that only 4% of digital marketers are measuring return on investment six months into a campaign or longer. True ROI can only be effectively measured by letting a campaign play out for as long as a company’s sales cycle, which in B2B can be months or even years.

Digital marketers can measure key performance indicators – such as CTR and CPC – very quickly, but these metrics only hint at where a campaign is headed. Measuring genuine ROI and a marketing campaign’s long-term contribution to revenue takes time, and marketers need to slow down to do it.”

Sean Callahan, Senior Manager, Content Marketing | LinkedIn

6) Relationships with people who have the ear of your target market.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to cut through all of the noise online. Organic social reach is all but dead, paid social has pathetic CTRs, and organic SEO is as rough as sitting in the crowd at AT&T Stadium and hoping the Monday Night Football camera crew focuses on your homemade sign.

So, what’s the answer? Call it what you like: influencer marketing, partner marketing, even ‘wing man’ marketing (for fans of How I Met Your Mother) – it’s about cutting through the clutter by getting an introduction from a trusted source. It requires building relationships and proving your brand, services, and products to people who already have the ear of your target customers.

This may be complementary product or service vendors, editors at niche publications, bloggers, or others. But it’s not advertising, and it’s not ‘influencer marketing’ in the Kardashian style. It’s about respect: you can earn it, but you can’t buy it.”

Tom Pick | Webbiquity LLC

Note: see my interview with Tom here – Marketing has Gotten Better as a Profession; Off Script No. 29: Tom Pick of Webbiquity

7) Larger investments in SDRs and product marketing.

“Generating leads will no longer be the sole responsibility of the demand generation team. Instead, the budget will move to hire more sales development reps (SDRs) to generate more targeted leads.

Investing in product marketing teams (especially for smaller companies) will take priority. Seeing marketing as the driving source of messaging and sales enablement will become essential and budget will be diverted to hiring experienced product marketing leaders rather than driving leads.

Scoring individual leads to drive marketing qualified leads (MQLs) will shift to account scoring, which in return will introduce more complexities to the Marketing Automation Platforms and Analytics platforms.”

Sophie Shiatis | Shiny Blue Marketing

Note: see my interview with Sophie here – The Interim CMO as Change Agent; Off Script #19: Sophie Shiatis

8) A clever mix of press work and content.

“Microenterprises increasingly rely on public relations. In the daily struggle for attention and visibility, small companies do not leave the field to large corporations. One-person companies no longer rely solely on their own Facebook page, but on a clever mix of press work and content that they place on their social media channels and websites. This is also a great opportunity for PR consultants to offer their support to these entrepreneurs and encourage them to tell their stories to the media and potential customers. We all like the stories from the shop around the corner – so let’s get them in front of the curtain.

Christoph Luke | Christoph Luke Media Relations

9) Podcasts: true dialogue tops talking heads with zingers.

“Podcast advertising revenue will exceed $1 billion in 2020. We’ve reached a critical point in the evolution of the podcast platform and marketers are seeing the value. Right now, podcasts seem to be the only medium available that has true dialogue instead of talking heads arguing and competing for ‘zingers’ and likes/shares. They are a relief from the current media outlets and that’s why people are flocking to them. Podcasts are a place where brands can find a loyal audience, reliable measurement, and a less clutter, and their spend will reflect it in 2020.”

Craig Dekshenieks | Aderant

10) A pullback on PPC.

“Marketing realizes that it can no longer fleece the pock of Google and begin to pull back on AdWords spending.”

Ted Seward | GrowPath

Note: see my interview with Ted here – Over-reliance on Marketing Automation Depreciates Leads; Off Script No. 16: Ted Seward

11) Privacy regs bring back the basics.

“The consumer privacy battle will rage on, and marketers will be affected by new data privacy regulations. As consumers get savvier about how their data is being collected and used, their demand will grow deeper for transparency and protection. These protections will drag marketers and public relations professionals back to targeted outreach and quality over quantity when it comes to their most valuable relationships.”

Stacey Miller | Auto Care Association

12) The context for collaboration and relationship building.

“PR will become more of a collaborative process. While most departments from HR to marketing to sales have had dedicated solutions for decades now, PR has really been left behind. If you were to build the perfect media list in a spreadsheet, it’s going to be out of date in a matter of hours or days at best, as journalists change jobs. If you’re able to provide PR pros with information and context on the folks who they need to build relationships with, then you’ve really opened up the possibility for PR professionals to be able to just focus on the parts of their workflow that are going to add value, as opposed to tons of time spent in spreadsheets and doing manual tasks.”

Greg Galant | Muck Rack

Note: Mr. Galant is the CEO of Muck Rack, which is also one of the companies I track for my writings on PR technology. You can find all posts that reference Muck Rack here.

13) Personal stories drive stronger connections.

“Content marketing will revolve more around individuals and storytelling components. As how-to’s and lists become more and more obsolete, the narrative will shift to personal stories and a more journalistic approach. Personal stories provide a stronger connection between brands and customers, and brands can target micro-influencers (i.e. loyal customers) to be part of their narrative.”

Jered Martin | OnePitch

Note: Mr. Martin is the co-founder and COO of OnePitch, which is also one of the companies I track for my writings on PR technology. You can find all posts that reference OnePitch here.

 14) Earned media as fuel for more effective paid media.

“Earned media becomes your best advertising content. Studies continuously show that earned forms of media are the most trusted ways for a brand to reach consumers. Further, classic paid advertising continues to decline in trustworthiness. But while your PR team is responsible for (and deserves the credit for) generating your company’s most valuable content, they lack the same controls that their advertising counterparts enjoy, including when, where and how frequently your message is delivered.

The biggest trend in 2020 will be standardization of the practice of converting a brand’s most impactful earned media articles into advertising assets and leveraging advanced targeting and automation to put those articles directly in front of precise audiences, at scale. This strategy combines the strength of PR (credibility) with the power of advertising (reach & frequency) and brings the PR team to the forefront of both earned and paid media executions.”

Sean O’Neal | Onclusive

Note: Mr. O’Neal is the president of Onclusive, which is also one of the companies I track for my writings on PR technology. You can find all posts that reference Occlusive here and read my brief on their product here – Onclusive Provides PR with Attribution Capabilities and Promises Novel Approach to Distribution [PR Tech Briefing]

 15) Out of machines…humanity!

“AI will ‘humanize’ B2B sales and marketing. Our strength is decision making. AI however can analyze a lot of data and present recommendations on how to humanize client engagement based on the personality of your buyer. Outcomes will be more targeted 1:1 engagements supported by AI-generated recommendations that help sellers tune into the wavelength of their buyer. Better communication = trusted relationships = bigger deals! AI will recommend who to engage with and how to best connect with them in the most human manner!”

Usman Sheikh | xiQ Inc

Note: Mr. Sheikh is the founder and CEO of xiQ. Read my brief on his company’s product – xiQ Mixes Content Curation with AI in Support of Account Based Marketing [Martech Briefing]

16) Social media fragments into niche communities.

“The social media landscape will never be more unified than it is now. It will continue to split and fragment and silo itself into like-minded communities with incrementally less access for marketers.”

Rafael Sternbach, Marketing Operations | Talkwalker

Note: Talkwalker is one of the companies I track for my writings on PR technology. You can find all posts that reference Talkwalker here.

17) AI unlocks more relevancy.

“For the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has become the rapidly maturing elephant in the marketing room. Nine out of 10 companies surveyed by MIT show that they already use AI in some form to improve customer journeys. If almost everyone is using it, what comes next for 2020 and beyond?

AI does more than automating mundane tasks. Expect 2020 to be the year when companies finally understand and invest in AI’s biggest value add: personalized customer experiences. Expect AI to be more involved in the full breadth of the martech stack – from analyzing audience behavior patterns to tailored content recommendations.

We know how data dimensions like previous purchases can improve recommendations, but adding the next generation of algorithms – like deep learning recurrent neural networks – changes the game. Machines are learning based on more unstructured variables, and that’s where AI is going to truly unlock the relevancy for customers.”

Matt Garrepy | Solodev

Note: see my interview with Matt here – Key Marketing Considerations in Choosing a CMS; Off Script #28: Matt Garrepy of Solodev

18) AI helps test content and messaging.

“AI tools will be used by top tier marketers on a daily basis to craft and test content and messaging. With chatbots capable of handling more and more ‘how to’ and ‘information requests’ internally, leading marketers and communications pros will train them to give feedback and assist when executing on content initiatives.”

Joe Cardillo | Ecosystems and Entrepreneurs

Note: Mr. Cardillo is open to new opportunities if you are seeking to hire a savvy marketer.

19) The scramble for attention.

“Inexorable march of digital. Fake news consolidates and becomes harder to detect (or people become lazier to differentiate). Scramble for attention. Audience fragmentation and hyper-targeting. Media struggle for income gives rise to desperate measures.”

Gillian Findlay | Cambial Communications

20) Marketing and PR walk on eggshells.

“It is going to be a time that is increasingly fraught with peril, for PR and marketers. The tools and channels that served us well and we’ve been mastering (e.g. social media and content marketing) will come back and bite us. Companies are blasted when they take a stand, or if they don’t…it’s ‘cancel culture’ comes to brands.  Add the heightened noise and sensitivity of an election year and we are all likely to see lots of controversies kicked up and blowback in response to campaigns. The high touch of creativity, big ideas and market smarts will reign over tech and hacks; we’ll all look to see what comes next after content.”

Bob Geller | Fusion PR

21) Intentionally divisive marketing.

“Not all predictions are positive. For this, I apologize. But I am curious if consumer trust has reached a point where more and more brands will look to intentionally create content that ‘goes viral’ due to its divisive or outrageous nature.

Closing out this year we have a Tesla with more conspiracies than broken windows and a Peloton Bike ad that has ‘peddled’ a narrative that feeds on our eager nature to seek and destroy on social media. I’m not sure if these examples were intentional, but the fact that they caused people to think they might be marketing plays and subsequently received the attention they did does reflect a general lack of trust in brands and a breeding ground for intentionally divisive marketing.

With a likely tenuous U.S. election year, a meandering Brexit and outrage in Hong Kong, we’re even more primed for divisive marketing as more brands break from safety and align themselves with causes. So, how many #gate incidents will be coined in 2020 and will we see more than just Nike’s get torched?”

Kevin Hartman | Merit

Note: see my interview with Kevin – The Blurry Edges of PR; Off Script No. 11: Kevin Hartman of LTPR

22) The long road of trust-building.

“Trust is the watchword for 2020. As consumers have lost trust in many organizations (54% think companies don’t operate with their customers’ best interests in mind, according to Trends in Consumer Trust study), brands will need to work harder to build those relationships and increase trust. How can they do that? By consistently showing up, engaging with audiences (internal and external), and not expecting results overnight. PR, social media and content marketing initiatives should be an ongoing integrated process. And that process takes time.”

Michelle Garrett | Garrett Public Relations

Note: see my interview with Michelle here – Why PR Pros are so Versatile and the ‘Relations’ Part of PR Hasn’t Changed; Off Script No. 35: Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations 

23) Analytics and emotions unite.

“A new power couple in marketing emerges: 2020 will begin an era when analytics and emotions unite. The start of the decade ushers in a true detente. Marketers will no longer fight between head and heart or gut or data but recognize both matter in the battle of the hearts and minds of their customers. This unlikely union will create some of the most creative, impactful and best-in-class marketing the planet has ever seen. We will finally recognize that we are far better together and this time we will actually believe it too.”

Wendy Zajack | Georgetown University

Note: see my interview with Wendy here – Network Latency and Endeavor for Jargon Free Corporate Communications; Off Script No. 17: Wendy Zajack

24) A stream of marketing and PR conscience.

“The Empowered Consumer + Several 2020 Hunches: To look ahead, we must glance back: digital pits the new power of consumerism and consumers against professional practices. What was once the bastion of public relations, for example, is now the DIY news release, the book writer, the broadcast news reporter, the social media engagement specialist.

Consumers wielding new-found tools are the current photographers, videographers, journalists, publicists, social media mavens, and new royalty of the Interwebz. How does that bode for the future of our professions? Not well.

And the tide is so powerful that seasoned professionals can only shake their heads in mock horror (LOL, that’s a bit dramatic, but there is some truth to the suggestion)  I predict an ever-weakening public relations profession littered with wannabes who don’t even know “there’s a profession for that” and instead know “there’s an app for that.”

What’s happening in public relations is happening right now in independent journalism. On Nov. 21, 2019, the New York Times published a story, “With Local News in Retreat, The Community Fabric Frays.”

Mass chaos has social media platforms fighting off hackers seeking privacy data, reducing organic content for preferred pay to play, eliminating fake accounts, attempting to limit meddling in politics and elections, mounting insurgencies and terrorist cell recruiting, and other fake accounts that sow the seeds of malcontent.

Consumers interested in a random conversation about nothing, in general, are targets for programmatic advertising and poseurs. Brands are departing social media in droves, wondering where the ROI is (if ever it was) while the political divide nudges brands to jump on a side while forcing consumers to change loyalties (read Soul Cycle, Chick-fil-A, Nike, AT&T).

Meanwhile, the platforms continue the always tweaking of tools, tallies (elimination of ‘likes’ on Insta) and tech (fear of Tik Tok creates new Insta Reels, a video-music remix to fight back) to keep marketers guessing about engagement and branding strategy.

In 2020, I predict a return to traditional public relations where relationships are built one on one, in person, in real-time. I predict a recession that forces marketing budgets to re-evaluate extended spend on unproven tactics and ROI. And, lastly, I see the value and regard for unfettered public relations campaigns built on traditional creative strategy, positioning, customer engagement, and the message.

Media relations, a dying art, will cease to exist in three years as journalists lose positions (like we’re already seeing) at anything but the largest national outlets.   I don’t want to ever predict that my profession dies, but I am throwing my hat, unfortunately, in that ring. In its place will be ___________ (fill in the blank).

Lastly, the effect of Google on any search engine ranking (with its continual algo tweaks) will keep marketers guessing as to the effectiveness of content and SEO strategy. That’s why public relations will re-assume its forefront position in marketing as a way to engage traditionally with audiences outside of digital platforms. Who knows, will brands re-engage with direct marketing to reach the almighty consumer?”

Jayme Soulati | Soulati Media, Inc.

25) The backchannel for law firm marketing and bizdev.

“The rise of legal operations and legal procurement professionals is creating opportunities for marketing and business development professionals to develop strategically importantly back-channel discussions outside the traditional RFP process and the traditional partner-general counsel conversations. Legal ops professionals want to hear from the firms they work with, and marketing and BD can be the perfect conduits for important information on client satisfaction, process and performance, etc. These folks want to talk about their needs outside the scope of actual pitches.

LMA Tech West 2019 featured Connie Brenton of NetApp and Emily Teuben, now at PayPal, and each laid down the welcome mat for exactly this kind of conversation. Smart firms will unleash their marketing and BD from their ‘support’ roles and send them off in search of an opportunity that can only be uncovered via personal investigation and relationship-building.

So while one end of the business is getting more scripted, so firms and companies can better track metrics, another end of the legal ecosystem is far more willing to go off-script and accept a sophisticated ‘warm’ call from someone who has really done their homework, knows how to listen, and is honest about what their firm can deliver vis-a-vis the competition. And, of course, offers ideas on genuine solutions, whether their firm is the solution-provider or not.”

Susan Kostal  | Stet

26) Earned media and beyond earned media.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now 6 PR professionals for every one journalist. As garnering earned media becomes more challenging due to shrinking newsrooms, PR professionals will lean on ‘owned’ media to create results. Repurposing content will become even more key to allow PR professionals to save time, work efficiently and impact the bottom line for their companies and clients. For example, take that press release you just sent out to the media – what else can you do with that content to tell your story? Here are a few ideas: turn it into a blog post, prepare a webinar, submit it as a session for a conference, publish an infographic, repurpose content for social media, etc. The list goes on. Media relations will always be important, but communicators in 2020 will get savvier about how and where they tell stories, knowing that owned platforms can play just as big a role in the PR puzzle as earned media.”

Jessica Lawlor | Jessica Lawlor & Company

27) Executives and employees as the way through the clutter.

“Companies will begin to invest in their executive and key employee brands on LinkedIn as the platform prioritizes individuals’ content over Company Page content. And that content will be led by timely and informal video posts – one can hope!”

Betsy Hindman | Hindman Company

Note: see my interview with Betsy here – Paid Social Media as Surround Sound in B2B Marketing; Off Script No. 39: Betsy Hindman of the Hindman Company 

28) Empathy and a focus on emotions

“While there will no doubt be continued advances in data gathering and marketing technologies (AI, real-time personalization, voice search, and more) the need to connect on a basic human level never goes away. In 2020 more marketers will create campaigns that acknowledge the fact that customers are more than the sum of their data points; they’re people full of emotions, and emotional connections are potent drivers to create brand affinity and instill action.

Campaigns that stir emotions – such as joy, fear, surprise, sadness, sentimentality, anger, amusement excitement and amazement – are more likely to go viral and gain attention in the media. It’s why a simple request to like a photo of an egg on Instagram became a news sensation in 2019. And it’s why empathy marketing, which puts the focus on human emotions, will become more prominent in the year ahead.”

Deni Kasrel | Marketing & Digital Communications Executive

29) A logical investment in creativity.

“As more and more marketing organizations adopt content marketing, the approach alone won’t be enough to drive results. Certainly, you’ll still need all of the basics – relevancy, quality, consistency – but those attributes are becoming table stakes. To remain competitive, content marketers will need something more: a sizable investment in creativity. This isn’t a call to abandon data-driven marketing. Creativity and metrics are not mutually exclusive. Leaders in content marketing will focus on finding ways to drive marketing innovation by getting their left and right brains to collaborate effectively.”

Frank Strong | Sword and the Script Media, LLC

Note: This one was submitted to the Content Marketing Institute for their annual content marketing predictions post: Back to the Future? 90 Content Marketing Predictions for 2020.                                                               

30) Creativity and CMOs will come back in style.

“Creativity and CMOs will come back into fashion. For a long time, marketing got beat up by the business for not being data-driven. Today, the pendulum has swung too far in the analytical direction. As a result, creativity isn’t valued enough and the trade press (and analyst community) is full of itself with the-creative-CMO-is-dying stories. It’s left marketers everywhere chasing the same clicks, with the same look and feel, because we all have the same data and tools. To be clear, analytics will remain important, but in 2020, creativity needs more weight in an overall marketing equation. Differentiation is derived from the word different. To be different, you have to be creative.”

Frank Strong | Sword and the Script Media, LLC

Note: This one was submitted to the Michelle Garrett for her list of predictions: 20 Influencers Predict What Lies Ahead for Communicators in 2020.

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Many thanks to all of you that participated. If you’d like to be invited to participate next year, feel free to sign up here.

Related predictions posts from around the web:

Here are some prior year prediction style posts published here:

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
The Most Interesting PR Tech Announcements in 2019 [PR Tech Sum]

Image credit: Unsplash

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