Recently, Holmes Report in partnership with USC Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations released the 2017 Global Communications Report, capturing key trends that will shape Public Relations in five years’ time, beginning from 2017. Four trends topped the list of thirteen trends spotted in a comprehensive survey of 800 Public Relations and in-house marketing executives from around the world. For the first time, 700 Public Relations and Communication students, who examined the role of the Public Relations profession and its value to business and society, were surveyed.

The report, which is the outcome of an annual research programme designed to provide insights into the evolution of the global communication industry by analyzing emerging trends, was supported by top global Public Relations bodies such as  Arthur W. Page Society, The Institute for Public Relations, The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO), International Association for Measurement and evaluation of Communication (AMEC), The PR Council, Public Relations and Communication Association (PRCA), The Worldcom PR Group, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Here are the 4 top trends:

  • Digital storytelling
  • Social listening
  • Social purpose
  • Big data

Others are:

  • Behavioural research
  • Influencer marketing
  • Real time marketing
  • Branded content
  • Life streaming
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Virtual reality
  • Fake news
  • Donald Trump

Graphically, this is how they stand in percentage score:


A Sweet Spot

A sweet spot in the research is the involvement of Public Relations and Communications students, who are the future of the profession in study. It is certain that the future of Public Relations does not lie in those occupying the top positions in the profession today, but in those coming behind, including the students.

Going by the 2016 Global Communications Report, no one would have thought that social purpose would be such a top trend to watch in Public Relations today. Now we know better just because the students were given an opportunity to bear their minds. 81% say they want a job in an industry with a well defined social purpose while a whopping 84% would like to work for a company with a well defined social purpose. Fewer than 60% think that the Public Relations industry itself has a well defined social purpose. This is an eye opener for the Public Relations profession.

How prepared are we?

Fortunately, the students’ level of interest and preparedness for the new trends and technology impacting Public Relations indicates they are reasonably ready to tackle them as shown below:


Are members of the old Public Relations brigade equally prepared for the professional challenges these new trends bring? Perhaps the best way to know is for them to ask themselves these pertinent questions:

  • Do I know what digital storytelling entail?
  • Can I comfortably use blogs, videos, infographics, eBooks, webinars, presentations, tweets, games and  social media platforms to tell my client’s or organization’s stories?
  • Do I understand the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what stakeholders are saying about my organization’s brand?
  • Can I integrate corporate social responsibility, sustainability and corporate citizenship practices through effective strategic planning, implementation and reporting?
  • Do I understand what big data is?
  • Can I apply big data for effective landscape analysis, PR objective setting, strategy development and evaluation of Public Relations progammes?

These questions are not exhaustive in any way. To remain relevant in the industry, every Public Relations professional must ask himself more professional worthiness questions far beyond the thirteen trends identified in the 2017 Global Communications Report. Self-examination of our knowledge, skills and aptitudes in relation to the challenges that emerging trends in technology and communications field throw at our profession is crucial to answering these questions satisfactorily. And we must be ready to embrace lifelong learning in order to remain true professionals.