Who Needs a Groundhog? Vanguard’s 2017 PR Trend Predictions

In 1989, the film Back to the Future II predicted that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015. Sure, they were off by one year — but nonetheless, that’s an impressive prediction.

We won’t try to predict the next series win, but here’s one thing we are confident about: what 2017 holds for public relations and communications pros.

We asked our team of experts at Vanguard to peer into their crystal balls. Here’s what our soothsayers came up with:

brenda foster

Brenda Foster, Senior Vice President, Health + Wellness
As we close one of the most unpredictable years in modern American history, we will see a renewed focus on more effective audience research and personalized approaches. Audience analysis will move beyond what audiences say to what they are experiencing and how they are perceiving information. Our public relations responses will be personalized appeals that start conversations, rather than mass messaging that shuts down dialogue.

Lisa Swanberg

Lisa Swanberg, Vice President, Training + Technical Assistance
The whole notion of “truth” will become important to our PR work and how we develop messaging for our clients. In this new world where truth and facts are becoming “old fashioned” and irrelevant, truth is now apparently whatever you want it to be. Our challenge in 2017 will be to respond and adjust to these trends, while still being responsible in our PR work.

LeAnne DeFrancesco

LeAnne DeFrancesco, Vice President, Design + Editorial
We’ve always known that what we say is important, but with even more and “louder” mechanisms in which people can hear our positions (social media), thought leaders in all industries will require a savvy content plan and communications pros that keep them not just on message, but out of hot water. Speechwriters and social media managers, buckle your seatbelts.

Matt Chun, Vice President, Digital
The use of video will grow to become a staple in any PR or communications strategy, much like the role of social media over the past few years. Somewhere between full- blown video productions and smartphone-shot “micro-moments,” communicators will recognize the effectiveness of relevant, authentic, and at times live video content to inform, inspire, and empower audiences that are increasingly consuming information in social feeds and on smartphones. The creative and logistical challenge will be for communicators to build in-house video capabilities that are cost-effective and yet of quality at scale. In other words, even short videos created for “social media content” will require strategy and planning in order for creative ideas to shine.

Noralisa Leo, Vice President, Diversity + Inclusion
Within progressive communicators, I think you will see more of an emphasis on “humanizing” strategies that will seek to illustrate the impact changing policies have on their core constituencies. To give a face to the voices and stories, we will see more video content and gallery-like campaigns. Hearing straight from the source — everyday people — to create authentic, personalized content will figure prominently in 2017.

Jane Tobler, Vice President, Youth + Families
From the beginning of time we have connected with people and ideas via storytelling. Storytelling platforms have grown and there has been a lot of talk about new social media channels pushing out “old” ones, and which ones you “must” be on to achieve your goals. But at the end of the day it’s about connection. No matter the channel of choice — from cave walls to Snapchat — people connect with each other and ideas via storytelling. Authentic storytelling: It’s here to stay.