Thought Leaders on What to Expect in PR in 2016: Scope and Breadth

We asked global thought leaders in PR and communications what they expect in 2016.

Three powerful themes emerged from their responses:
Scope and Breadth (Insights below)
Science, Data and Analytics (Click link for insights)
Story and Content (Click link for insights)

The theme of increasing breadth and scope of what PR needs to become was particularly important. Lucy Allen of LEWIS points to PR agencies crossing over to encompass paid as well as earned media, Grey Healthcare Group’s Erin Byrne sees PR going beyond its traditional role to be at the center of corporate marketing and communications, Tracey Follows of AnyDayNow expects the growth of internal comms to drive customer experience, and Marian Salzman of Havas PR looks at the breadth of experience that PR professionals need to succeed.

Read the insights on the increasing scope and breadth of PR from these top thought leaders below.


Whether it’s paid social, mobile or display, PR agencies are getting more serious about their media spend. In 2016, I expect we’ll see more agencies growing their paid media departments, especially in digital media. Programmatic has levelled the playing field when it comes to media buying power. It’s no longer about who spends the most, since anyone can bid. That gives PR agencies the opportunity to get into the advertising market. Clients are seeing the value of paid media to amplify and complement PR content. Meanwhile, media owners are recognizing this and welcoming PR firms in their beta programs for new products and tools. We’ll see more PR agencies develop their skills in this area. We’ll likely see some resulting debate in 2016 about how PR agencies account for their revenues (fees vs turnover).

Lucy Allen, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, LEWIS
Follow on Twitter: @lucya


PR is so fundamental to marketing and communications as a whole that I believe this will be the year that PR truly has a seat at the table beyond corporate communications. Reputation is more important than ever, stakeholders are usually part of multiple target groups, and digital becoming ubiquitous has created an environment where messages can no longer be directed to one group. Therefore, PR can and should be at the center of an organization’s marketing and communications strategy. Along with this will come: – Much more robust approaches to content development, management and syndication – Proactive social media engagement, including in highly regulated industries like health – Assisted analytics that truly measure the efforts of PR based on how they impact other disciplines Just like years ago there was a big move to ensure everyone had a baseline level of digital expertise, this will be the year that all marketing and communications professionals are required to have a working knowledge and ability around the principles of public relations and corporate communications.

Erin Byrne, Chief Client Officer, Grey Healthcare Group
Follow on Twitter: @ErinByrne


The one thing I expect in 2016 for the PR industry is an increased focus on internal comms rather than external comms. Of course the latter is still important but it’s getting harder and harder to influence consumers through the efficient deployment of one consistent messaging plan; it’s now all about the experience.

New brands with new business models work to a longer term 10-20 yr vision and execute 2 or 3 initiatives that accelerate them towards that vision every 6-12 months. Nurturing a coherent long and short term plan is key; and creating an attractive internal culture with everyone delivering it to a high standard in a joined up way, is now the name of the game. Only a coherent internal experience can deliver a coherent consumer experience. Look at culture-building at Google, Facebook, Apple and how it shows up in their end users’ service. That’s the blueprint for every company now.

Tracey Follows, Founder and Futurist, Any Day Now
Follow on Twitter: @tracey_lou


For PR pros, a faux intimacy among themselves, influencers and media personalities comes about through tech addiction and its ugly cousin, contact collection (the antithesis of experience collection, because you’re collecting folks whom you oftentimes know by name without ever getting to know them). We’re not only addicted to our techno toys, but we’re also addicted to the rush of adding yet another fan, friend or follower—especially one who sits in the seat of influence.

In another area, experience is the new classroom. Internships have been the new first jobs in PR; now add to that office swaps, which are early career-learning bonanzas. PR pros need to do many things other than taking classes, including immersing themselves in newsrooms, working alongside event planners, being based in client offices and doing everything they do on the job with a student lens. I can imagine a two-year immersion into our biz that replaces graduate study—and puts rolled-up sleeves on the keyboard, ready to collaborate and cooperate in a professional mode.

Marian Salzman, Chairman, Global Collective, Havas PR and CEO, Havas PR North America
Follow on Twitter: @mariansalzman

Image credit: lrargerich

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About Author

Ross Dawson

Futurist, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker, Strategy Advisor, Author. Founding Chairman of the Advanced Human Technologies Group of companies. Travels the world to help clients create the future.