Why there will be fewer people working in PR in 2018

From tech fatigue to the rise of the creatives, Eleven and Fleishman Hillard MD Roberto Pace shares his predictions for the year ahead.

Less greed more good

It’s been a big year, and we’re either riding high on the good we’ve done (like legalising same-sex marriage) or feeling low about the state of play (from Trump to the rising cost of everything).

There’s a feeling that policymakers aren’t doing enough (or are doing it too late), so we’re looking for other sources of inspiration. Brands more than ever can take a stand and act on issues that matter.

From gender equality to housing affordability, there’s a raft of challenges that need meaningful debate, and it feels like 2018 is the year where they’ll happen most. The challenge will be to do so with authenticity.

Less chin stroking, more chin wagging

Signs are pointing to 2018 being a year of change, hopefully for the better. The window of opportunity to act on what’s culturally relevant is here and now. Brand planning is undoubtedly important, but the winners will be the ones who can think and act fast.

With this in mind, the planning cycle will need to move at the speed of culture, with less time for linear conversations and more all-in debates between agencies and marketers to land on the endpoint sooner. The agencies (or groups of agencies) who can work together with clients to act as one team will be the ones that get the most out of what 2018 has to offer.

Less tech more craft

AI. VR. Wearables. We love them all, and Eleven and Fleishman had its own crack at them this year, from shoes that guide you through the unexpected for the Australian Turf Club, to a dress that shows how much UV you’ve been exposed to for Neutrogena.

People love tech, but they’re over tech for tech’s sake. There’s almost too much tech in our lives now and we’re struggling to make sense of it all. Brands that hero craft will resonate. We’ll want to stop pushing buttons so much and instead make stuff, or celebrate the brands and people that do. I’m waiting on the ultimate collaboration of tech and craft to happen – that’s a good challenge to pose to our respective teams.

Creative culture

There’s been a number of agencies this year hiring CDs. Where previously only a handful of PR agencies were able to have this arsenal, now it seems that that playing field has been levelled – and it’s a good thing, upping the stakes of what constitutes a good idea.

The next frontier will be around who takes ideas from a fleeting moment in news and social, to lasting cultural significance. PR has always played in the space of culture, so hopefully this new influx of creatives into PR land will see a greater body of work coming out of our industry that has significant and lasting impact.

Fewer people… fewer people

2017 has seen a massive squeeze on the PR talent pool. A combination of visa restrictions and a shift to work–life balance has seen agencies in particular fight over a much smaller pool of talent. I think the trend is here to stay for at least another year. But it’s done something that is much needed – it’s meant that many agencies have had to rethink the agency model and working practices, which is often needed given it’s largely gone unchanged for so long.

Will we ever be a 9–5 workplace? Unlikely. But we can make the balance better for our people with far more flexibility in how, when and where they work. Job sharing will be a reality. Augmented client / agency teams will be a reality. These are all good things which will not only give talent diversity, but hopefully pass on efficiencies to clients.

Roberto Pace is MD at Eleven and Fleishman Hillard 


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