If you want to be a trend spotter, take an interest in things beyond your personal interests. “To get what’s going on in the world, you have to stretch and move beyond your comfort zone,” says Richard Laermer, founder and CEO of RLM Public Relations, best-selling author, and public speaker.
Curious? Here’s a trend spotting experiment you can try. Visit a local news stand that offers a variety of publications. Choose and read through several specialized trade journals or magazines. If you find a new topic that each of them covers, you’re spotting a trend. “It’s not a coincidence that people are talking about the same thing,” says Laermer, who reads several publications and up to 50 blog posts per day.
Laermer will speak about becoming your own trend spotter and applying that knowledge to your business at a networking and presentation event sponsored by the NJ Communications, Advertising, and Marketing Association (NJCAMA) at the Hopewell Theater, Tuesday, April 24, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Register online at njcama.org. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers.
Among several topics, Laermer will discuss the difference between fads and trends, how to really listen and pay attention, follow trends online, deconstruct the news, and the difference between being interested and being interesting.
Looking outside your field is a good approach to spotting trends but focusing on your expertise within your field is a good general rule for communicating on social media, Laermer says. His advice is to share information that reflects your knowledge and distinguishes you from what people in other fields share. It’s more important to be interesting than interested, someone who shares unique and useful information rather than someone who repeats what is popular. In turn, he says, readers will want to share their expertise with you.
As a trend spotter and one who has devoted more than 30 years to public relations, Laermer compares the topics of daily news to the evolving moods of our culture.
“We’re living in very tough times. There’s all this fighting and there’s a lot of anger out there. There’s a lot of stuff going on that’s very emotional. But I think this anger has a positive side,” he says, mentioning the Me Too movement as one example.
“I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, and I love seeing all these people stand up. The takedown of Harvey Weinstein is not a small thing. We’re talking about one of the most powerful men, and he was a terrible person. People are rising up and saying, ‘Enough of this. Let’s do something about it.’”
Another trend Laermer embraces is the use of blockchain technology. Because the blockchain process comprises a set of digital records of all ongoing transactions related to a given product, service, or event, it is often described as a transparent public ledger.
Laermer sees this as a revolution that allows individuals, businesses, and communities to solve problems and be incentivized for their contributions. “It’s the best of all worlds, a little bit of socialism, a lot of capitalism, a little bit of community activism and a lot of organizing,” he says.
“I think people want to be a part of the community that actually is more democratic than the world that we live in now,” he says. He sees the use of the technology growing over the next several years. In fact, media outlets have been reporting on current and future applications that extend beyond banking and finance where verification is important, like organic labels on vegetables, original art work, insurance claims, health care data, real estate sales, voting records, government records, and more.
One of Laermer’s working projects is a wire service that uses blockchain technology. “It would be a democratized wire service that everybody could use,” he says. “That’s my grand idea. That’s the thing that keeps me up at night in a good way.”
One of his recent business initiatives is Reportable Inc (ww.reportablenews.com). He describes the service as a multimedia press release company that can be used by businesses and communications companies. He’s found that press kits that include video, audio, and graphics do well in being picked up by news outlets and reaching media consumers.
Laermer began his media career as a reporter in 1979 and has been published in numerous news outlets. He founded RLM Public Relations in 1991 after a stint as PR director at Columbia Business School. Today Laermer speaks at events for corporate, community organizations, and other groups across the U.S. and worldwide.
Laermer has authored several books, including “2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade” and “Punk Marketing: Get off Your Ass and Join the Revolution,” the handbook, “Full Frontal PR: Getting People Talking about You, Your Business, or Your Product,” and several others.
He is currently writing a book with the working title, “How to Fame,” which he expects to publish by next year. The main theme is about people rising up by making positive impacts through their work. It’s not about famous people, he says, but about people who add value to their own fields every day.
Laermer was born in Queens and moved with his family to northern New Jersey as a child. He describes his father, an aeronautics engineer, as someone with a great sense of humor who taught him the value of spending time wisely. His bookeeper mother, he says, spoke what she thought and taught him common sense.
Looking ahead to the CAMA event, Laermer hopes to start a discussion about topics reported in the press and how they relate to things that matter to the audience. “I want to engender a discussion about what’s important to people,” he says, “because that’s a big part of trendspotting, right?”