#SpinSucksQuestion: Communications Trends of 2020It’s 2020! We made it! See ya 2019!

And in order to kick off the new decade, we decided to have the Spin Sucks Community weigh in on the communications trends they’re most excited about for our first #SpinSucksQuestion of the new year.

In true form, our community doesn’t shy away from controversial topics.

Things like politics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and whether unicorn poop is rainbow-colored (OK, no one brought that up, but really…this is a question that needs answers). 

So here are some of the communications trends our community thinks will rock the industry in 2020.

We can’t wait to revisit this list in December and see which of these trends most affected the year’s trajectory.  

Robots for EVERYONE

Remember when the Terminator movies actually felt like a fantasy?

Yeah, those were the good old days when we believed Arnold Schwartzenager could solve all the world’s problems with a bicep flex and some solid catch-phrases. 


But now, as Shane Carpenter says, “AI isn’t just a trend, it’s a new reality.”

Our community agrees artificial intelligence is transforming the way we work, both for good and bad.

And as communicators, we have to keep up. 

AI Communications Trend: The Stats Say Heck Yeah

Roger Friedensen thinks AI and machine learning: “will radically enhance our ability to target specific stakeholders with specific messages in specific channels at specific times that boost effectiveness (and cost-efficiency).”

That’s a lot of specificities.

But current data shows he’s right. 

Last year’s Forbes Insights and Quantcast research, Lessons of 21st-Century Brands Modern Brands & AI Report found marketers who used AI:

  • Increased sales by 52% 
  • Improved customer retention by 51% 

Likewise, SalesForce found while only 22% of marketers currently are using AI-based applications. an additional 57%  are planning to use it in the next two years.

CMOs who do use AI are mostly using it for content personalization and predictive analytics from customer insights.

The Great Equalizer? 

While right now a lot of large organizations use AI, we think 2020 will be the year that changes. 

AI allows smaller organizations and marketers to access the same types of data the big guys do.

In many ways, it’s the great marketing equalizer. 

Sure, organizations like Target, have been using data to strategically micro-target (haha, Target likes to target) consumers for years.

But very few can afford or manage the large data, research, and both marketing tech and human capital to accomplish such specific targeting. 

AI and machine learning changes that.

Plus, it allows us to do what we do best.

Combined AI and human teams are what our workforce will look like this decade. 

Use the first AI-scripted commercial produced by Lexus, back in 2018, as a case study for how AI and human creative teams can work together to combine their best skills. 

Want to Learn More? 

I’ve heard great things about this class. Or even better, you can just ask Chris Penn, who did this awesome video about AI and machine learning to answer my trends questions.

TL;DR Content Delivery

Jane Tabachnick loves the content and news delivery communications trends that accommodate our TL;DR world:

I am excited about Alexa Flash Briefings and Micro Podcasts. They offer a lot of the same benefits as a podcast, in less time with less tech hassle. With little competition right now, it’s easy to dominate a niche. They also satisfy my craving for information, tips, and short stories, in easily digestible bites. It’s easier free up two to 10 minutes than 45 minutes to an hour.

Considering over a quarter of adults in the US own a smart speaker, half of American’s have listened to a podcast, and a quarter of us do so one a weekly basis, it will be very interesting to see how our listening preferences evolve. 

Riddle me this though: Isn’t it interesting that both super-short content and long-form content are the most talked about lengths right now? 

Something to ponder, right?

Do You Even PESO?

Betsy Cooper thinks integration and the PESO-model is a communications trend that will finally go mainstream this year. We promise we didn’t pay her to say this. 

The continued integration (and evolution) of communications. I think 2020 is truly the year where we will all need to integrate earned media relations in with other marketing elements (Hello PESO!!) It’s been on the map for a while, but I think this is the year that agencies AND clients will realize this is the only way to create effective communications programs.

Martin Waxman agrees and adds: 

I am excited about PR finally waking up and realizing SEO is something we should own, especially as it pertains to E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust—all domains of strategic communications). And that the results on Google should be our new front page (thought I’ve been using that line for a few years ). Plus it’s an integral part of the PESO model.

(We do pay Martin, but this response is not part of his contract, so we think it’s legit.)

We certainly hope so and are increasing the amplitude of our work to make this happen (watch here for some PESO-model-tastic announcements near the end of February).

It’s exciting to see “PESO model” receive several hundred searches a month (pretty good since it started from zero when Gini Dietrich first introduced the concept) and our blog posts on it are consistently the top-visited. 

If you want to start now to develop a PESO-model based plan for your agency, check out our Communicator’s Playbook, which gives you a good primer.

Politics Matters to Communicators

We might all have different political leanings, but watching, and learning from political campaign communications is a very important part of our industry.

This year is primetime for that education. 

Mike Vannest is here for it: 

I am anxious to see how social media will be shaped by this year’s presidential election. Will society buy into the misinformation campaigns of 2016? How will PR practitioners’ social tactics change in the face of the political campaigns? I’m excited to see how this all plays out.

John Bentz agrees (or Mike paid him):

Mike’s question is the best response here and the only one that matters in 2020.

And Fiona Cameron seconds it, reminding us that political communication intrigue isn’t a US pastime alone:

Mike’s point is spot on. I’m still recovering from our poor general election outcome in the UK (five more years of these politicians!?). What I can say is watching how party campaigns evolved and how it was featured more widely across all news (print and online) was really interesting.  We even have a satirist (Jonathan Pie) who is using real social media in his comedy shows and videos. Plus there’s a campaign group called Led by Donkeys (I’m sure this translates across the pond, if not just add ‘mules’). Social media is shaping the political rhetoric even if as usual all the polls are wrong!

Political Ads, Ethics, and Social Media

And if you doubt this will be of any interest (you live under a rock), consider the Facebook announcement Thursday that despite pressure from Congress, it plans to continue to allow political campaigns to target voters.

Additionally, they have no plans to police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

In contrast, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced last fall that the platform would not allow political advertisements

FYI: This post reviews how all the social media platforms plan to deal with political ads. 

Interesting side note to this: Of the top 20 most viewed news stories on Facebook about the 2016 election, the “fake news” stories received 8.7 million engagements, whereas the mainstream news only received 7.3.

So Facebook has no reason to police lies. It’s good for business.

Upon hearing Facebook’s most recent announcement, Mike adds: 

And this leads me to my next point. Facebook will accelerate their decline because of the 2020 election.

Spoiler alert: Mike will not be applying for a job at Facebook in the near future. 

What Communications Trends Would You Add?

Now it’s your turn!

What communications trends do you think will take 2020 by storm? 

Comment below, or even better join our FREE Spin Sucks Community where you can discuss issues like this with likeminded communications pros from all over the world (and be part of next week’s question).

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino