Castle’s 2019 Public Relations Recap & 2020 Social Media and PR Trends

By The Castle Group
2019 Public Relations Recap

After a successful and bustling year, the Castle public relations team reflects on the trends that defined the industry in 2019, the biggest media moments – from viral heartwarming social media moments to Operation Varsity Blues rocking the nation, and shares PR and social media trends to watch in 2020.

What do you think was the most inspiring media story of 2019?

  • The U.S. Women’s National Team successfully defending its title by winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Not only are they now four-time World Cup champions who broke numerous records including the most FIFA Women’s World Cup wins and the highest margin of victory in one soccer match in both women’s and women’s World Cup soccer history, but they also used their platform to fight for equal pay. It was incredible to see the USWNT inspiring girls and women across the country both on and off the field.
  • Two come to mind for this one. The first being when an Idaho football team surprised a nine-year-old boy with autism at his birthday party after only one person RSVP’d to his party. The other was when a young waiter at a Pennsylvania restaurant sat down with, talked and listened to a 91-year-old WWII veteran during his break. It was amazing to see how one small act brightened not only his day but everyone else in the restaurant.
  • How people and companies rallied around the couple that got engaged at a KFC in South Africa after a journalist posted a picture mocking the engagement. The entire wedding and honeymoon were planned and paid for by strangers.
  • In today’s climate, you have to hunt for inspiration. I like the spontaneous, social media-driven moments like the two pre-school friends who were so happy to see one other, they ran towards each other for a hug or the woman in Australia who tried to save a koala from a wildfire.

What was your favorite PR or social media trend for 2019?

  • We’ve seen the impact and importance of investigative reporting, highlighted by coverage of the #MeToo movement.
  • The actual users of social media demanding more accountability from social media companies themselves, and more control over how their personal information and data is stored and shared.
  • Employees and consumers/customers holding companies and institutions accountable for their actions (or inaction).
  • Throughout 2019 the lines of PR, digital media and social media have continued to blur. We are continuously using elements from each industry to complement each other and work to benefit overall strategic goals.

What do you think was the biggest PR crisis of 2019?

  • Varsity Blues because of its wide-ranging impact on individuals, institutions, and higher ed as a whole.
  • Two deadly plane crashes of Boeing 737s and the company’s resulting response, which was widely perceived as severely lacking. Boeing was too slow to act in the wake of the disasters, which allowed a perception to develop that the company was putting profits above passengers’ lives. Media coverage subsequently stretched on for months and included multiple exposés detailing the company’s pattern of shunning regulation in favor of improving its bottom line.
  • Nike did not have a great 2019. Starting off with the infamous shoe fail – basketball star Zion Williamson’s sneaker fell apart during one of the biggest games of the season causing an injury, propelled by social media acknowledgment from former President Obama. Then, the company, which tends to be socially progressive in its advertising and marketing strategy, decided to cut endorsement compensation during maternity leave for some of its athletes. Both incidents resulted in Nike boycotts, complaints and loss of revenue.
  • Among all the PR crises we saw this year, Prince Andrew’s disastrous, fascinating interview on his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein takes the crown.

What public relations and social media trends do you anticipate seeing in 2020?

  • Since it is an election year for the U.S., there will be more pressure for brands to take a stance on hot-topic issues like gun control, reproductive rights and immigration. There will be an increase in protests both on- and offline, which will result in crisis communicators working more proactively than ever before to identify potential risks and plan accordingly for such crises. (Think Gillette with the #MeToo campaign and the nearly 200 CEOs that signed an open letter urging states to reconsider restrictive abortion laws, including executives from Bloomberg L.P., MAC Cosmetics, YELP, and Atlantic Records to name a few.)
  • With TikTok becoming increasingly popular (it recently surpassed 1.5 billion downloads, meaning it is still outperforming Instagram), I expect to see more businesses incorporating TikTok into their social media campaigns.
  • Continued investment in investigative reporting. Continuing contractions in the media landscape. Investment in crisis preparation. Refinement of social media strategy and how it connects back to the larger marketing and PR picture. (See Peloton‘s holiday ad-driven social media uproar.)

Wondering what our events team was working on in 2019? Check out their 2019 year in review to find out, and stay tuned for more Castle insight on everything from crisis communications planning and media relations, to event marketing and corporate incentive programs throughout the year.

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Written By: The Castle Group


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