SXSW Interactive: 7 Trends for PR Pros to Watch

sxswSXSW Interactive returns for its 22nd year to Austin, Texas, from Friday, March 13 through Tuesday, March 17. The list of events taking place at this year's SXSW is nothing less than daunting. From tech exhibitions and presentations to networking events and film screenings, Austin will be buzzing with activity.

This year's festival is sure to offer up plenty of interesting and inspiring content for PR pros, with presentations and panels covering branding and marketing, content and distribution, the future of tech and emerging workforce trends. Whether you're taking the trip to Austin, following along on Twitter or making use of SXSW On, the festival's new dedicated live streaming service, there will be plenty to keep up with. Let's take a look at seven trends to watch out for coming out of Austin over the next week.

Brands with a cause: This year, SXSW will introduce SXgood, an umbrella of programming where tech entrepreneurs, content creators and nonprofits can brainstorm new ideas for a better tomorrow. SXgood will host more than 30 sessions focusing on how new technology and the brands that produce it are making positive impacts on the world. For anyone looking at the future of CSR, it will probably be here.

News and media relations in the age of Snapchat: What is SXSW if not for the coverage generated by the swarm of journalists who descend upon the festival each year to cover it? Reporters bring SXSW back to the everyone who doesn't get to go to Austin, and this year there will be several panels and presentations focused on how they do it. On Saturday, representatives from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and AP will discuss how social media has both strengthened and weakened the overall ecosystem of journalism and publishing. And on Tuesday, Dan Rather will speak on how breaking news has changed in the mobile era.

Putting big data to use: Big data is still big, even if it feels like you've been talking about it for entirely too long at this point. This year, SXSW will feature some interesting panels addressing how to make big data actionable for marketers.

The continually growing startup community: This year's SXSW will have double the amount of space devoted to startup-related content as compared to what was offered in 2014. The increased attention makes sense, as startup darlings such as Uber and Snapchat have been dominating business and tech headlines for some time now. All of those new companies are going to need PR help at some point.

A lot of new technology that you're not quite sure what to do with yet: Connected cars, smartwatches and the Internet of Everything will be everywhere at SXSW, but it's not immediately clear how, if at all, public relations professionals can put them to use. Still, it's important to stay up to date on where emerging technologies are making the most advances and to start thinking about how you may put them to use.

The dark side of social: Social media is a huge part of the SXSW Interactive Festival. This year, the festival will feature speakers and presentations who address the dark side of social. The panel "We Are What We Click: The Dark Side Of Sideboobs" will provide a sobering look at click trends while other panels will cover trolls/bullies/fraudsters and the social media skills of terrorist organizations.

There will be hashtags: Hashtags probably can't be considered a "trend" anymore, but there will be plenty of them to watch, the most obvious being #SXSW and #SXSWi. Keep up with the more popular hashtags coming out of Austin over the next week here.

Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene