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The Obligatory 16 PR / Social Media predictions for 2010

You know the format – what one thinks are going to be issues in the coming months for digital PR and social media. So with that… let’s look at how PR, gaming and social media are all going to come together – and why the iPhone will become the ChavPhone for some.

We’ll be doing a lot more gaming

Mafia Wars and Farmville were just the start. Good news for the (shamefully under-praised and under-represented) Scottish computer gaming community and potentially for creative PR types as well. The rise of the Facebook game/iPhone game is set to continue to rise for all of 2010 – Civilisation is threatening to appear on Facebook (as is Command & Conquer)  – and there’s a million ways for brands to tie into a good multi-genre game past just that of ‘here’s a game with our name on it’ that integrate not only real-world events and more traditional PR but also make money back (You want a ROI on digital PR? Facebook-style games will be one of the quickest ways in 2010).

These games start at around £25,000. Games companies who can make them are going to do well in 2010. The companies PR’ing them are in for a wild ride too as this will be one of THE growth areas of 2010 for customer outreach. People who play these games are going to be spoiled and brand loyalties may make the difference in getting a game exposure.

Google making certain moves into gaming – as in providing an ingame search results (I’ll come back to this early 2010) is also going to be massive.

ARG will be overhyped for at least the first six months of the year

Alternate Reality Games and location-based overlays for mobile phones – showing you the history of a building, what drinks are on sale in a pub – are being touted as a big thing (though probably not in the tour guide market as reality/location interfaces will see a ton of redundancies there) but I think they’ve got a bit to go before the hype lives up to the reality. When it does kick off, expect some of the following:

  1. The likes of the National Trust to have streaming videos of battle sites, re-enactments of events in buildings, huge infodumps on buildings
  2. A crossover event from a gaming world – perhaps even World of Warcraft – where people and items appear on the phone as they appear in-game. Sony’s Resistance titles could be an early adopter of this one as it seems a good fit. Google’s move into gaming may spark this off too. Microsoft may try this with the Zune as well with avatar’s walking about in the real world.

There will also be something negative around this area – a stalking (or worse) from someone having their ‘locate me’ setting turned on by mistake, making opt-out more likely than opt-in, but you’ll see PR companies try events around location awareness – Pied Piper type stunts (but without the bodycount).

These things will also be very location-dependant relying on areas with lots of people, power and transmitters. (That may sound obvious but as we’ve seen in the last year especially, good coverage – even 3G or EDGE isn’t guaranteed in many places. Look at the recent New York and London iPhone problems for example.)

Companies will merge or fold PR/Marketing/customer relation divisions

Look at the likes of James Watt from BrewDog and Amanda Jones from Red Button Design. Great communicators. Neither of them from a PR background. As more and more companies embrace social media and direct customer communications, they’ll be looking for brand/department champions to pick up the comms work – the age of social media moves us away from the un-named spokesperson and back to specific people that customers can connect or feel reassured from – to be enthusiastic company experts.

(And one huge potential area of problem here is that many companies will have a natural tendency to use a very attractive male or female, sparking cries of sexism and discrimination.)

So basically, PR/marketing types should start looking at what’s been happening in journalism over the last few years…

Many social media “experts” will go to the wall

Hopefully, 2010 sees the death of “if they say they are a social media expert then they aren’t an expert” tweets and posts (which is a true point but it’s been milked to death). Sadly, many people will go to the wall as well – some because they’ve been found out as not being as knowledgeable as they claim, some because they’ve gone inhouse and some because the’ve trained everyone in their areas (I’ve often cracked the joke – half-seriously – that Contently Managed’s main job is to put itself out of a job by training others how to use social media).

Elsewhere, potential students in communications will have found Stephen DaviesPR in 2015 and started making career plans based on it.

There will be social media/digital PR gaffes that are big for one week only

We saw this with the Amazon gay row. There will be more of these – incidents that in days gone by may have simmered for a few weeks and then exploded, but now come and go in the blink of a weekend (except for end of the year and decade reviews)

Print will survive while the iSlate won’t be the digital Jesus many expect

Print is in trouble in Western Europe and the US. Elsewhere it’s doing OK – and even in the west there’s at least one generation who still prefers their news in print (particularly the over-50s) but there is still an incredible demand for news. Accurate, timely, relevant news. One other certainty: papers will still continue to be absolutely horrific at managing their own PR. Apple’s iSlate / iTablet / iCantBelieveItsNotButter is going to get a blog post for itself – but it won’t be the saviour people expect. On that note as well, in the UK, expect to see some forms of the iPhone to be seen as a ned/chav phone as it becomes too ubiquitous.

Many will still wonder about digital and social media PR, many won’t get it

I agree with Paul Armstrong that the political parties are missing an incredible opportunity in the UK – but they aren’t the only ones and many will cling to more traditional ways, wondering what’s the real benefit. There are benefits to social media (just as there are to having a telephone or website) but they aren’t the same for everyone. And for some – like budget or near-monopoly companies like Ryanair and EasyJet – there really isn’t a need if they don’t want to do it. And there will be more failures of communication like happened with Eurostar and Eurotunnel recently.

Twitter and Facebook will keep growing

There will be tweaks and changes to the services they provide – and people will throw mini-protests and numerous tweets and blogs about the changes – but they’ll grow. And one of them will either go public or be bought.

More will be free (and there will be lots more rubbish)

Expect more free offerings from businesses who should really know better as the freemium movement keeps going and spreading with people finding new ways of charging. Sadly, this also means a considerable rise in PR/Social Media snake oil and citizen journalism waffle.

Companies are going to be looking at wanting far more global offerings

For many selling social media and digital PR as a global conversion (though some see it as very local) it’s going to be a tricky year as they will be expected to have that conversation globally at a local level for full engagement, which will mean people in many countries or one person very good at global co-ordination. Either way, that’s not going to be cheap.

tl;dr will probably go mainstream

Purely a hunch, but I think that will be the 2010 crossover phrase. I have nightmares of future audiences in sit-coms going “LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL” audibly instead of  “Ha ha ha ha ha” so anything that delays that is a winner for me.

The digital divide will grow. This will be more of an issue in Scotland than elsewhere

It’s not just about newspapers or how we communicate. There are generations quite happy without laptops and wifi but the metropolitan-based society we have is pushing more material to be online only, leaving others – who don’t want to be digital – to be left behind. This is quite a fundamental failure of our society and I’ll come back to it a lot in early 2010.

HR will be kept busy

Failure to implement social media use/company discussion sections to job contracts will continue to cause problems.

Talking about social media stunts may get more coverage than the social media stunt

The recent Ikea event confirmed this for me that it was on the rise. It also happened for a Scottish whisky. We’re now in an era where an apology at the start of a campaign can be planned or implemented as part of the PR and communications plan.

In video, people will realise audio is every bit as important as the visual

This sounds blatantly obvious, but there’s been many a little video camera that’s decent enough for YouTube, but it’s only with the Kodak Zi8 that the small cameras are getting serious about sound (it has an external mic capability)

There’s more to comms than just the social media and digital PR

If online is the be all and end all, why is Google advertising on billboards and newspapers? Not everyone is online and comms strategies should reflect that. To not be aiming for the most people – with a variety of tactics – is just silly. The tricks is to make sure everything is co-ordinated for maximum impact and result.

  1. Ellen A

    Too long: don’t read!
    Brilliant – can I help make it mainstream?
    There are lots of lovely and clever blogs out there, but simply not enough time to get through them because they’re too damn long.

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