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PR, Communication, and Marketing Trends 2012 – Part 2

What’s in store for communicators, PR pros, and marketers in 2012?

Time for Part 2 of our sneak peek into the future of PR and communications!
(Unless, of course, you want to read Part 1 first or you’d rather watch Jonathan Bean‘s presentation of all ten trends in the Mynewsdesk newsroom instead.)



6. Online Goes Offline Goes Online Goes Offline

As we mentioned, placing more importance on your digital communication channels will be key in 2012. However, keep in mind that Digital First does not mean Digital Only. Next year, more than ever before, it will be vital for companies to complement and leverage their digital channels with offline efforts.

This is because the line between people’s online profile and their real-life personalities will become increasingly blurred – you’re the same person when browsing Amazon as you are when walking through a department store.

An example that illustrates this attitude is this year’s winner of the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for PR, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. They used a holistic approach to the winning campaign, Break Up, involving elements of PR, marketing, and advertising to help distinguish their client, National Australia Bank, from the competition.

We’ve focused a lot on digital storytelling. Clemenger BBDO’s example above also incorporates the real world – connecting the digital with the physical in an integrated campaign. One thing that it didn’t do, however, was to involve their public directly. While, of course, the story spread through social media initially, Clemenger BBDO controlled the whole campaign, rather than allowing it to become an organic, evolving story with input from customers, influencers, competitors, or other stakeholders.

Had they used a fully holistic marketing approach, they would have empowered their audience to build a community around the story, sharing and developing it beyond its original incarnation – both online and off.

The example above required an immense budget. However, creativity is key, not money. For communicators and marketers, there are many opportunities offered by the free tools and services currently available, such as location-based services like FourSquare or Gowalla. Ensure that all clients and employees are aware of the digital channels, campaigns, and competitions you’re running. Encourage them to promote and take part in these.


7. Come Out And Play

The gamification of online experiences will start dominating all online activities in 2012. That’s a very bold statement, and despite most companies not even thinking of gamifying their communications, we’re noticing the increased importance of giving people a personal experience and, most importantly, giving them an opportunity to have fun.

It’s all about that most innate of human character traits – competitiveness – combined with getting motivated by gaining a sense of progress. Gamification caters to both these needs and instills a deep level of engagement in the participants. And in the last year, BMW launched a campaign that is an excellent example of this:

The Game

The Winner


Of course, a campaign of that magnitude would require a big budget, but as mentioned before, a little creativity (and perhaps the use of free services like FourSquare), could get you a long way. Communicators need to think of different ways to engage their audience on a personal experience level. The trick is to come up with a campaign or event whose main objective is to let your influencers have fun, while fulfilling a sense of progress towards a clear goal or reward.

It’s more than just rewarding air miles or bonus points for each purchase. Allow for other activities along the whole customer journey that would be rewarded with more points, gifts, or even intangible rewards like badges or titles for a certain level reached. It’s like playing a video game!


8. Life On The Go

We mentioned this last year, but at the speed things are developing within this field, we might have to mention every year. No PR and communication trends report would be complete without the inclusion of Mobile. In fact, we strongly believe that the future of online will be in mobile.

The reason is that we see three behavioral trends dominating our lives. It’s about convenience, context, and fun.

When we speak of convenience, we mean that mobile devices allow us to be connected to what we want 24 hours a day (for better or worse). We’re able to get things done faster and transform the way we do business and consume information.

In terms of context, the mobile allows for more efficient access to relevant information when needed. And as Marissa Mayer, Head of Mobile and Geolocation at Google says, “The mobile phone acts as a cursor to connect the digital and the physical.”

And finally, the best thing about mobile is the ability to make life fun.

This is exactly what we’ve been talking about previously, when discussing an integrated marketing approach, gamification, and focusing on digital first. Mobile is the platform to make it happen.

As a communicator or marketer, regardless of what type of business, you need to start thinking of mobile as an important channel for your brand, if you haven’t already. Perhaps start with mobile versions of your website or think of an app that can engage your customers even further.

9. In The Eye Of The Beholder

At this point, we thought it would be important to highlight two of the most exciting and innovative technologies and services available today.


When launched as an iPad app earlier this year, it shot up to number four on the App Store Chart, and when looked at as a content platform, that’s when things really get exciting. Qwiki creates interactive multimedia presentations of information. So, instead of reading a Wikipedia article about London, Qwiki creates a visual presentation, complete with narrative, about London, sourcing information from various sites, including Wikipedia itself.

The idea is to release Qwiki as a platform on which anyone can create Qwiki presentations about any subject. Imagine being able to present a multimedia news release in this format, or creating Qwiki profiles of your sales people, using information sources of your choice (i.e. not just Wikipedia). An app that is currently being made is a Qwiki-based alarm clock that wakes you up with the latest headlines, your appointments of the day, and the weather predictions for the next few hours.

Augmented Reality

When first introduced two years ago, it was perhaps a little ahead of its time or too reminiscent of virtual reality, the concept it supposedly replaced. But now, the real world application of augmented reality can clearly be seen. Again it connects the digital with the physical, again it emphasizes a fun personal experience, and again it can involve mobile.

While current usage would probably involve a hefty investment, the technology is rapidly advancing. Communicators willing to give it a try will quickly realize just how many possibilities technology like this offers.


10. Content Is King, But It’s The People’s Kingdom

Last year, we predicted that 2011 would see a shift from the B2B and B2C narrative, to a B2P (business-to-people) mindset. We also said that we hoped we’d be talking about people-to-people instead. We believe that 2012 will see this concept become mainstream.

Image by DonkeyHotey (click to view Flickr stream)


As mentioned, the quality of the brand is measured by the people who surround it. Or rather, the customers make the brand. Therefore, it becomes clear that companies need to let go of the brand as a self-centered media object, and embrace it as a dynamic collaboration between the company, community, and influencers.

This is because a customer is not just buying the products or services, but they are also buying the people. In the recent People issue of Think Quarterly (by Think with Google), the authors state: “Information is inseparable from the people who are creating, consuming, and sharing it. And the web is no longer anonymous – it’s built on real people and their connections, opinions, and ideas.” This is true for the information, content, and organization of your company.

It is vital then that companies maintain and nurture their network of influencers and customers, because people trust other people, not logos, brands, or corporations.

As communicators, this will be essential. This is what all the previous trends boil down to, this is what all the technologies, concepts, and strategies are based on. To create true engagement around your brand, you must first change your mindset and think in terms of people-to-people.



Appendix: Some Recent Events

Change is difficult. Change is painful. And we don’t always know how to react to change. Here are two telling examples that concretely show how the current changes and trends can affect companies and organizations – and how their reactions might not always be ideal. But, under the circumstances, did they do the right thing? Would you do something similar?



Join The Conversation

  • mike.rooseboom's picture
    Dec 7 Posted 5 years ago Mynewsdesk

    Hi Bill

    Sorry for the late reply. I usually get email notifications for comments on my posts, but didn't seem to get any for these.

    Thanks for your feedback and your input! "Company culture is World Emperor." I like that! And I don't think we're too far off in our way of thinking - I just think my wording may have been a bit clumsy.

    You are, of course, right. The company culture is first created, shared, and promoted outwards by the company itself. Everything the company does reflects on the company and its brand. Hopefully its actions and deeds match the culture it aims to display - and as you say the company "can never let go of that responsibility to the masses".

    However, my point was that regardless of what culture or brand identity you display, it's still about the people that surround it (employees, customers, partners) and their individual, personal interpretations of that brand - and this seems to result in the trend we're seeing: brands are coming across as people rather than logos, and are speaking to customers as people rather than dollar signs (people-to-people).

    However, it's as you say: it doesn't mean that you have to adjust to tweets, blog posts, or videos. But while you still nurture the brand from within, external voices come into play to help the company and the brand evolve.

    And yes, much easier said than done, as you can see in the example in the Appendix.

    Not sure if you agree to any of that, but my sincere thanks for your input! I think it's great to have a discussion around this and it's really valuable to get the opinions of industry experts. Would you be interested in expanding on your opinions of next year's PR/Marketing trends in our blog? I think it would be great to get you as a guest writer here:

    If so, let me know:


  • MrPackgoat's picture
    Dec 1 Posted 5 years ago MrPackgoat

    Excellent post about the PR trends.  

    My only disagreement is with the common conclusion that social media is forcing brands to let go control of their image by allowing the online community to define the brand.  Being more transparent is clearly an advantage these days.  And embracing influencers online is nothing new... it's just a new fangled way of creating a phenomenal customer experience.  

    But if content is King… company culture is World Emperor.  All the "community defining" tactics via social media and the like are only as good as how the company reflects its own personality through its deeds and actions.  

    Southwest Airlines with its onboard antics and culture of "fun" is what created raging fans long before the Internet was a twinkle in anybody's eyes.  Steve Jobs didn't leave it up to the masses to define the Apple brand (can you imagine... the iPad would have ended up as a digital equivalent of the 99% Movement!).

    You can't sustain a brand (let alone a business!) by constantly adjusting to Tweets, posts and funny videos.  A brand identity still has to be nurtured and protected at some level.

    Bottom line... any social media strategy has to ultimately reflect the genuine nature of the brand.  And that means companies can never let go of that responsibility to the masses.  


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