2018 is here, and we’re optimistic about what this year has in store for public relations and marketing.  Technology is helping us reach more audiences and measure our efforts more effectively than ever before, but it also adds complex new challenges, such as security, privacy and legal concerns, that communicators need to be prepared to address.

Here’s a look at the top five PR and communications trends we’re watching in 2018.

Enhanced Integration 

We’ve seen the lines between PR and marketing blend more in the past six months than the past six years combined, and the integration isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Marketing, PR, advertising, social media, internal communications and sales disciplines will work even more closely together toward shared objectives, rather than in the silos we’ve seen in the past.

Focused Influencer Marketing

Influencers and micro-influencers (influencers with fewer than 30K followers) will continue to play a valuable role in the digital marketing mix, but brands will get smarter about how and when they engage influencers. While celebrity endorsements are a powerful way to build brand awareness, studies show that consumers trust “regular people” more than celebrities when it comes to purchasing decisions, and micro-influencer campaigns deliver 60% higher engagement rates. In 2018, quality will trump quantity in influencer engagement strategy.

Powerful Measurement

Gone are the days of measuring public relations campaigns in clip counts and ad value equivalency. We have powerful media analysis tools at our fingertips to better understand message penetration, audience engagement, sentiment and actual business impact thanks to tools like Trendkite and Google Analytics. Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics tools are becoming more accessible and accurate, enabling marketers to drive campaign strategy and demonstrate ROI.

Opportunistic CSR

More brands are understanding and using their power to make a difference in the community and take a stand for social justice. In 2017, we saw bold moves from companies like Patagonia, Chick-fil-a and Cards Against Humanity. According to a new study by Sprout Social, about two-thirds of consumers want brands to take a stand on social and political issues. Brands who do this authentically and appropriately will stand out in 2018.

Changing Risk Environment

In a world driven by ecommerce and Big Data, cybersecurity is going to be an important topic for communicators in 2018. Unfortunately, we also need to be prepared for a new wave of physical security breaches, including mass shootings and sexual harassment issues in the workplace. Make sure your crisis communications plans are up-to-date and inclusive of these potential risks, and more importantly, evaluate company policies and advise leadership to make adjustments to mitigate these risks.

Do you agree? What brands and trends are you watching in 2018?