Then & Now: What we can learn from #10YearChallenge

Nostalgia is a wave that engulfs us all on occasions. A trip down memory lane, a flashback to times gone by, a recollection that takes us hurtling back in time, even if only fleetingly. While it can often be a deceptive barometer of progress, it can serve a valuable purpose to retrace our steps once in a while.

Take the current social media trend of sharing comparative snaps from a decade ago, the so-called #10yearchallenge. Celebrities posting snaps of themselves in full-on Benjamin Button mode are in stark contrast to those of us who have added a fair few wrinkles and grey hairs. In agency terms, looking back ten years would be like Marty McFly rocking up in the fifties wearing his puffer jacket (“Get a load of this guy’s life preserver. The dork thinks he’s gonna drown!”).

At the tail end of the Noughties, social media was still a comparative novelty, an optional extra for brands to communicate to its audiences. Forget metrics and measurement, forget fake news, forget the PESO model, social was a PR practitioner’s plaything in its infancy.

PR and marketing departments have undergone such a vast evolution in the past ten years, it is hard to imagine a time when we were solely reliant on press releases, and newspaper scans, in other words ‘earned media’. Those things are still important (hence the ‘E’ in PESO) but our arsenal of tools has expanded, and so too have our opportunities to engage with audiences.

The rise of content creation has transformed how agencies in particular have to operate. We’ve swiftly dispensed with self-appointed social media gurus, and we’ve recognised that in-house capabilities have to capture a wide range of skills. Creatives, graphic designers, videographers, data specialists, editors; successful agencies nowadays have to be a one-stop-shop, fully flexible and creating content for multiple on- and offline channels.

As we approach the end of the decade – the tennies, the tens, the 2010s, or whichever media savvy term is being adopted – we’ll reflect on just how far we’ve come. Or in some cases not.

2019 will see another big shift in how we go about our business. Whether it’s developments in voice search, AI, AR, automation tools, keeping a finger on the pulse of the digital landscape will require a concerted effort. This is no longer an optional extra; this is a fundamental part of agency life.

Crucially, though, this is in parallel to the more customary public and media relations that have taken years to hone. It is the combination of these traditional skills, together with more recent developments, that will help the drive for more authenticity and accountability in communications – to combat the rise of fake news and misinformation. That snapshot of us ten years ago forms the backbone of what we have become today.