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Guest blog: ‘Welcome to 2019 – Have we reached “peak chaos” yet?’

This week, we are grateful to Phil Riggins of the Brand and Reputation Collective (BRC) for a guest blog on trends and predictions for 2019. For more information on BRC and to speak to Phil, please contact him at


Welcome to 2019 – Have we reached “peak chaos” yet?


2018 is finally over and perhaps not a moment too soon!  Today is my first day back in London after two weeks in Arizona enjoying the sun, tamales and walks in the desert.  I’ve had time to reflect on the passing year and what it means for the next one.  To kick off the New Year, I offer five predictions for communicators on what to expect in 2019.


1. No, we have not hit “peak chaos” yet. It may seem obvious given events in France, the US and the UK, but buckle up because 2019 is going to deliver as much if not more uncertainty, confusion and anxiety.  Politically, socially and economically the roller coaster of radical uncertainty is going to give us another ride.  Macron. Trump. China. Tech stocks. Looming recession. Need I say more?


2. Corporate social activism goes mainstream. Companies taking positions on social and political issues important to consumers and other stakeholders emerged as a defining element of 2018.  While driven largely out of the US, companies in the UK and elsewhere have felt increasing pressure to stand up and make their voices heard on issues ranging from diversity and inclusion to climate change to the #metoo movement.  Our own research with senior communication professionals in 2018 shows that some issues are “safer” than others – and more likely for companies to take a position on.   Communicators can expect even more pressure in 2019 to promote values that align with their consumers and stakeholders.


3. Know yourself and know your tribe. One of my favourite books of 2018 was Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Flip”. In it, he argues that consumers rather than the company define what a brand means and form “tribes” around the brands and issues that matter to them.  Social media facilitate the process. This year, companies and communicators will need to recognise and support this new dynamic to thrive.


4. Stakeholder touchpoints will drive deeper engagement. As companies realise that the distinction between stakeholders and consumers is a construct largely in their own minds, they will start to apply best practice from communication and marketing across both groups. Brand and marketing professionals apply a laser focus to building consumer touchpoints that engage consumers and drive sales.  Communications professionals in 2019 will apply the same logic to how they engage with stakeholders to enhance the impact of each time they “touch” a stakeholder.


5. CCO as “CEO Whisperer”. CCOs are uniquely qualified to bring different voices to the table and help the CEO and the rest of the organisation make sense of the tribes and issues that matter.  The challenge for communication professionals is the same as always:  how to demonstrate to the C-suite that you understand their world and that you have the metrics to measure impact in a way that inspires confidence.


2019 will be chaotic, noisy and exhausting.  To keep things in perspective, read Hans Rosling’s inspiring book FACTFULNESS.  In it, he compellingly demonstrates that the world is better off than we might realise (e.g., extreme poverty is down) and offers tips on how to make sense of a world drowning in data. Bill Gates cites it as one of the most important books he’s read.  I found it left me more optimistic about making it through 2019 in one piece. Grab a copy for yourself – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Eterna Partners is delighted to have been picked as one of PRWeek’s Agencies to Watch in 2019. Here’s to a successful year for our clients, readers, colleagues and friends.