Trend Surfing for Fun and Profit

In the fast-paced world of tech PR, it is important to be able to track trends.  Understanding the important trends in fields that relate to your employer or client can help in a number of ways.  This may seem pretty obvious, then again there are many in our field who just flog news and products without really understanding the shifting winds of the spaces they're in.

First, trends can help drive issues campaigns.  This is a way to present your story within the context of major trends.  Putting a trend first is a softer approach than leading with "this is why we are a great company with a great product."  It is a door opener, because people you are approaching who you hope will take an interest ostensibly are the same ones who care about what is happening in a given market, and the trends that are shaping it.

Further, an understanding of the hot trends can help with thought leadership activities such as pursuing speaking opportunities and writing articles.  Most show organizers and magazines that take articles want those to be based on relevant trends and topics.

Ideally, an understanding of the trends that are influencing a market segment come from real experience in that segment – whether it is your own experience, or from talking to people who work in the field and understand its nuances and dynamics.

Of course, you can get this indirectly by reading a lot.  I would never want to discourage being well read.  However the challenge with this approach is that it tends to be a day late and a dollar short.  You are getting your information through filters when you just rely on reading about what others think.  And widely covered trends can get to be tepid and not that interesting.  If the trend has legs, before long everyone will pile on and it will be harder to break through the noise and position your product or service relative to the trend (e.g. the current trend in green data centers and technologies).

Ideally, you want to be on the leading edge of a trend as it is getting some steam and people are starting to pick up their heads up and take note (i.e., somewhere between the Technology Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations on the Gartner Hype Cycle).

So what does someone with little experience in a given area do to get smart about emerging trends?   And how can industry veterans stay on top of trends to make sure they are not missing any important new ones?

Please stay tuned, I will be covering the topic over several posts this week.

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