15 Years Young: A Look Back and Ahead to the Future of PR, Social and Digital

By Scott Signore

<p>My oldest child – Matter – turns 15 this weekend. It’s no April Fool’s prank that our incorporation date is the first of April, 15 years ago. We’re enthusiastically celebrating this milestone as an agency later this year, but it’s appropriate to pause briefly to reflect on our people and the smart, hard and creative work that drove our growth. We’re nearly 150 professionals strong – all of whom support some of the best brands in their respective categories. I’m proud of our path and who we are at 15 years of age.</p>
<p>This being shared, I’m joined by our staff in modestly reflecting on where we’ve been – while remaining focused primarily on where we’re headed. And, I’m excited. Not just about the agency in which we work, but also the category where we apply our skills. The ever-evolving communications market is vibrant and filled with opportunity for brand-oriented companies to better establish themselves, and for professionals who want to be creative in their approach.</p>
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<h2>Don’t hold me to it, but here’s where I think communications is going in the next 15 years:</h2>
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<li><strong>Emotional brand marketing</strong> will have a heightened importance. Smart and savvy brand managers will seek ways to further connect their beloved products and services to the hopes, dreams and directions of their audiences – in a personal way that drives further brand loyalty. But, this will need to be carefully balanced with heightening concerns about privacy. As marketers become more digitally savvy about tailoring messaging to hyper-targeted audiences, there will be a greater drive to fully disclose HOW the brand knows what the audience wants, and that the information wasn’t harvested through data the customer didn’t know the brand possessed. This act of balance between privacy and emotional appeal will separate the brands that do well from the ones that fail.</li>
<li>We will see <strong>increased attention given to the quality of content</strong>. That goes for still and moving images, and copy in all forms and formats. Is it as good (engaging) as it needs to be? That question will be asked by marketing professionals as they further assess not just the avenues their content travels, but also the content itself. And, agency professionals will be held to a higher standard with expectations even greater than today.</li>
<li>I’m certain<strong> customer engagement</strong> will continue to be a priority – and I’m further certain the channels for connecting with customers will be countless. I suspect, however, that some of the current and popular platforms will expire, fade away or just die on the vine – <a href=trend data shows that’s already afoot with younger generations. Acknowledging that all things change over time, staying educated on new technologies – opportunities to interact with customers, really – will continue to be key to a brand’s success.

  • Search marketing will be a BIG – bigger than it is today! – percentage of marketing budget for consumer-facing entities and those who market products and services in technology and B-to-B. It will further drive the creation of content, but it will be the backbone of many programs as opposed to being merely a supporting tactic. We’re working here at Matter to move search to the beginning of the planning discussions, and I expect that’s where it will be across all client accounts shortly.
  • I think a brand’s genuine and organic commitment to charitable work – as a real extension of the business, not a line about CSR in the annual report – will be even more important. The challenges of those less fortunate are being elevated in the public dialogue – driven by a global “do-better” generation – and businesses will need to have real initiatives that demonstrate how they are paying attention and working to solve serious social issues at home and around the world. Companies that ignore this will be left behind by a generation of customers who prioritize helping others.
  • Much has changed in our market since we started our business 15 years ago, and much will change in the 15 years upcoming. I’m looking forward to all of it!