If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s to brace ourselves for uncertainty. As 2021 comes to a close, the world continues to evolve, and PR is changing along with it. And while it’s impossible to predict all the new developments ahead, the PR industry has seen some exciting evolution this year. With an eye to 2022, here are some thoughts on four key areas that I think we’ll see more of in the new year:
1. More stories about DEI
The ongoing pandemic and recent racial injustices have laid systemic inequities bare. Now more than ever, companies are recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, and genuine social consciousness will only become more pronounced in the PR world in 2022. With its emphasis on effective storytelling, the industry is in a unique position to amplify voices that have historically not been heard.
But diversity by itself is not enough—it’s equally important that business take a conscious step toward equity and inclusion as well. In 2022, there will be fresh efforts to define terms and generally clarify language around these three concepts.
This will be part of a general trend toward a more holistic perspective on DEI. Businesses will work harder to meaningfully integrate DEI into their operations, rather than simply using it as a messaging strategy for internal communications. Diversity, equity and inclusion all matter deeply, and policies genuinely supported by these three pillars lead to better outcomes for everyone.
2. More collaboration between PR and its cousins within the PESO model
Simple, memorable and all-encompassing, the PESO media model (paid, earned, social, owned) is a key part of an effective marketing approach. The traditional image of PR as focusing primarily on earned media coverage is no longer the reality. A successful campaign requires a deep understanding of paid, shared, and owned media tactics as well. By honing in on all four elements and the way they interact, companies can create an integrated media strategy that’s both measurable and intuitive.
A key benefit of the PESO model is that it assumes PR as an integrated part of the business – a key contributor to leads, sales and stakeholder value across multiple channels. Firms in 2022 will find new, creative ways to get involved in all aspects of their clients’ media plans.
3. More executives embracing executive visibility
Surveys have found that we live in a time of relatively low trust in senior management, and therefore high demand for C-Suite transparency. This presents an opportunity for executives to demonstrate their credibility and expertise in new ways. By engaging with their audience thoughtfully, without pandering or selling to them, executives can establish powerful connections, deliver value to investors, and win new business. Executive thought leadership will be vital in the PR world in 2022.
Thought leadership is more than just a buzz word—when leveraged properly, it can translate to tangible success for PR companies. However, executives need to put in the legwork for this to happen. To that end, CEOs in 2022 will create more curated content establishing their credibility. This kind of executive visibility can take many forms –whether it’s a dedicated space for knowledge-sharing on the company site, regular social media posts, or an email newsletter (just to name a few.) 2022 will find even more creative ways for executives to make their personal voices heard.
4. Fixing the measurement conundrum
Much of PR campaign reporting focuses on inputs (e.g. number of press releases issued, social media posts) and outputs (e.g. quantifying media pickup, tracking gross impressions) without much regard for measuring impact. But there is a big difference between what happened and what was accomplished. Finding better ways to measure the latter will be a key focus for PR in 2022.
In a media environment where digital campaigns are paramount, there’s vast opportunity for measuring impact beyond simply tracking impressions. For example, conversion rate paints a better picture of how marketing materials influence user behavior, bounce rate shows how long users are willing to spend engaging with a brand, and share of voice offers a window into the competition. PR will continue to embrace more sophisticated digital KPIs like these in 2022.
While these are all valuable metrics in certain contexts, there’s no silver bullet. Every business has its own specific goals, and a successful PR campaign should be custom-fit to achieve them. This ties back to a recurring theme that will emerge in 2022: PR companies will make efforts toward integrating themselves more fully into clients’ overall marketing plans. Having those conversations will make it much easier for PR teams to pinpoint the KPIs that truly align with business goals.