PRWeek has just released its list of the top ten technology stories in 2010 carried in the trade publication. It is understandable that the list would reflect PRWeek’s focus on accounts, executives and program successes or failures. But even a cursory review of the publication over the course of the last year reveals a list of other stories that will have even longer-lasting effect on the public relations business.
1. The rise of the smartphone app. Led by the iPhone, the link between consumers and the companies they trust is embedded in a represented by a simple “tap.” It will be essential for public relations to develop such connections for their clients.
2. Privacy as a product attribute. The primary focus was on Facebook’s changes and Google’s Street View, but the growing scrutiny from governments in the U.S. and elsewhere is evidence that as much as form factor, speed and design, privacy needs to be built in to products and promoted to consumers.
3. Success has many parents, failure is an orphan. This story really isn’t really new, but Google’s Nexus One cellphone made it fresh. In an attempt to unilaterally remake the way mobile phones are sold, Google overlooked the need to build and nurture the kind of ecosystem that is essential for success.
4. New ground rules emerge for dealing with the media — especially if you are the media. When Techcrunch and Fortune got into a row over whose excerpt of David Kirkpatrick’s book, “The Facebook Effect,” was longer, they eliminated the last vestiges of collaborative niceties that used to underscore embargoes, exclusives and background briefings. For public relations people, not only is there no news cycle, there is no time to think. It has to be right, right away.
5. Net neutrality rules create business model arbitrage. Whether the rules proposed by the federal government will ever be implemented, they usher in a new era of network management that will affect the ability of companies to maximize their reach, product availability, customer service and revenue.
6. New gTLDs are set to expand the landscape of the World Wide Web. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — ICANN — is about to begin taking applications for hundreds of new top level domains — the registry of names akin to .com, .net and .co. Canon has already said it will apply for .canon. It will either be a boon to customer loyalty or a loss leader. It will be up to marketing and communications to help tell the tale.
7. Streaming movies. For Netflix, 2010 was a breakout year. In moving from the ubiquitous red mailing envelopes to streaming movies to almost any Internet-connected device (think Xbox), it spelled the end of video rental stores. It also is remaking the relationship between the studios and all distribution companies — and those that aspire to be. For communications professionals, it will be important to understand which industries are next.
8. Tech spending increases in Washington, D.C. As government increases its oversight of technology companies, most are learning now what Microsoft learned nearly 15 years ago — being active in the Nation’s Capital is as essential as spending on research & development. Public affairs and public relations are important tools for delivering on the lessons learned.