2020 was a year of radical change for nearly every industry—to put it kindly. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted how we all live and work seemingly overnight. Mandated closures, concerns over the virus, and other factors led to an increase in ecommerce adoption, a rise in the use of technology to stay connected, and nearly brought all travel to a halt.
For businesses, the changes experienced this year are likely to have a lasting impact across business units and operations moving forward. Remote work has become the norm for many and Zoom calls have been woven into the fabric of our everyday work lives. When we look at marketing and communications, we see major impacts on some functions, like events—an industry that was turned on its head in a blink of an eye.
But what about PR?
While the changes and impacts on the PR profession may not be as profound as some other marketing and communications functions, 2020 and the pandemic have changed how PR professionals will go about media relations, content development, and brand management as we move into the New Year. As we move through 2021, here are six trends created by the events of last year that will dictate the PR profession moving forward.
Alternative media outlets will become a focus
In a world that is happening primarily from home, consumers and business leaders are consuming ample amounts of media from a variety of sources —primarily podcasts and video. Businesses should identify podcast shows and video series that are relevant to their industry and develop tailored pitches to include spokespeople and company content in upcoming episodes.
Anticipate trends beyond the headlines
Newsjacking will always be a staple tactic in the PR profession, but being too shortsighted can spell disaster for even the most well laid out PR plans. Businesses should be leveraging their PR teams to map the trends and behaviors 18 to 24 months out. Especially during a time when consumer behavior is undergoing radical change, being forward-looking will not only instill confidence in your communications but prepare other business units for what’s to come.
Relationship building will require creativity
In-person coffee meetings with editors aren’t feasible in the age of COVID-19, but creating and maintaining solid relationships with the press can’t be put on hold. Businesses will need to adopt creative strategies to maintain solid relationship building with reporters. Whether it’s finding opportunities for virtual meetings or digitally interacting through social media, identifying ways to replace in-person opportunities for interactions will be critical.
Employer brand will take center stage
Work has been taking place from kitchen tables and home offices for nearly nine months with no end in sight. While the workforce remains distributed, companies are still vying for top talent that is looking for employers who are doing the work to keep employees engaged during this time. In 2021, the employer brand will become imperative for companies looking to hire and retain top talent as we continue to work remotely.
The lines between PR and marketing will continue to blur
PR and marketing have always had a symbiotic, yet sometimes tense relationship. As companies look to drive efficiency and maximize communications efforts to prospects, PR and marketing will have to work even more closely to align brand awareness messaging with campaigns down the funnel. In 2021, the role PR plays in shaping marketing messaging will be key to keeping brands on top of the latest trends, and on top of what’s coming next.
Social justice and DEI remain top of mind
2020 brought with it a reckoning on the social justice front and with it an expectation from consumers that brands should be socially-conscious in their policies and business operations. This year, many company leaders have taken on the calls for change and started to take the steps necessary to overhaul company culture and create an impact beyond their organizations. In 2021, the need for effective communication around the promises and pledges made for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within organizations this year will be on the top of many consumers’ minds.
While we would all appreciate a crystal ball or trailer for the year ahead, it’s inevitable that more change is coming our way. For PR professionals who want to stay ahead of the challenges and continue moving the needle for their clients and organizations, being mindful of the trends that have emerged in the last several months will improve planning and set teams up for success.