It’s a new year (happy 2018!), and the world is filled with people predicting everything from the just plain crazy to the crazy smart. And, yes, this is technically my version of a trends post. But instead of homing in on marketing and PR, I wanted to look big picture at some 2018 mega-trends that will impact your business.

My starting point was a list compiled by global PR firm Worldcom. Their 2018 predictions included, among others:

  • geopolitical uncertainty
  • economic uncertainty
  • the cost of money
  • social media regulation
  • fake news
  • tweet storms
  • purpose-driven culture

Let’s talk about some of these.

2018 Mega-Trends #1: Uncertainty will be the norm.

Quo Vadis - Mega-trends #1

There’s a thread running through a number of Worldcom’s predictions: uncertainty. Whether it’s geopolitical or economic, it’s clear that businesses will be operating in a challenging environment. Coupled with a rising cost of money as interest rates start to rebound from their historic lows, this means lending will tighten and companies might correspondingly tighten their belts. If you work for a company, can you innovate to make your manufacturing processes leaner or identify ways to reallocate your marketing budget to get the most bang for the buck? If you’re a consultant, how can you help your clients anticipate and hedge against uncertainty? And if you’re a business owner this could offer an opportunity to take risks or signal a time to sit tight and stash your cash.

2018 Mega-Trends #2: Fake news is spreading.

The other major thread running through Worldcom’s predictions is around news and information. Media bashing aside, false “news” is a massive problem. We’ve experienced the impact of selective hacks, fake social media accounts, and the like. This isn’t just a political and civic problem; it has real implications for businesses. Worldcom points out, for example, that “the comments made by global leaders on Twitter (and other social channels) will create tweet storms for businesses as stakeholders react to what they see and hear.” Think Papa John’s or New Balance. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to navigate this media environment. One thing is sure: your company better have a proactive strategy in place and a crisis plan at the ready.

2018 Mega-Trends #3: Sustainability needs to be in your DNA.

Mega-Trend #3: Sustainability (Tree of Life)

Worldcom talks about the need for corporations to adopt a “culture of purpose,” but I think they’re only getting this prediction half right. The real 2018 mega-trend is that companies must begin to embed sustainability into everything they do. It’s not enough to talk about corporate social responsibility or make sure employees understand the corporate mission. Arguably, every business should be doing this already. (And most companies aren’t about saving the world — and that’s okay.) What organizations have to start to do is recognize that sustainability is about more than an aspirational corporate goal or protecting the environment. For example, more and more global stock exchanges are putting down sustainability markers. Even if you’re not publicly traded (or big enough to care), consumers and investors alike will look at what you’re doing in this arena.

2018 Mega-Trends #4: Privacy is dead.

Okay, I don’t really think privacy is entirely dead. But the recent disclosure that every computer chip has security flaws is a troubling reminder that interconnectivity and the Internet of Things come with a cost. While you can’t protect against every eventuality, this is an excellent time to review passwords, security protocols, and who has access to what data. Plus update, update, update (everything). I’ve written about three essential cybersecurity tools as well as other cybersecurity tips you should consider. Your business should also have a crisis plan that addresses cybersecurity in case the worst happens to you.

Quo Vadis by Craig Whitehead (Unsplash); Tree by Neil Thomas (Unsplash).

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