Distilled to its essence, public relations is the action of building relationships with key stakeholders and target audiences. COVID-19 has shaken up the strategies and channels that PR pros and marketers typically optimize to build these relationships. The pandemic has also changed consumers’ expectations about the way brands should communicate with the public. Here are five post-COVID PR trends to watch in 2021.
Any good PR strategy draws on data trends and the principles of human psychology that influence the beliefs, attitudes and opinions that shape consumer behavior. According a recent survey, the top U.S. public concerns during COVID-19 are getting sick and accessing medical care and supplies. Brands must be sensitive to these concerns or risk alienating important audiences. Check overly edgy collateral and COVID-related jokes at the door, and remember to keep health and safety top of mind when crafting key messages.
Tapping into the binge-watching trend
Comcast reports that the average household is now watching TV at least eight hours more per week. Now is the time to step up your media relations strategy by crafting the perfect pitch to land your client on a local morning show or the evening news. With newsrooms stretched thin, one of the keys to securing positive coverage is to make producers’ lives easier by assembling a package of talking points, photos and videos to accompany your pitch.
Merging internal, external and executive communications
Telecom giant Verizon Communications topped Forbes’ list of the nation’s top employers’ responses to COVID-19, with CEO Hans Vestberg hosting regular video telecast updates (organized by the HR and corporate communications teams) for employees. The broadcasts are also livestreamed on Twitter. This smart communications tactic enables Verizon to strengthen stakeholder relationships by keeping employees, customers and shareholders informed. It also allows the company to proactively address any misinformation before it gains traction.
Effective two-way communications is the hallmark of any successful PR campaign or reputation management strategy. It’s more important than ever, and consumers expect it more than ever, for brands to “read the room” and truly listen to consumers before blasting out messages. Scan the comments on your social posts and solicit feedback via surveys to help better understand your stakeholders’ wants and needs.
Rethinking your mix of traditional and digital touchpoints
Screen time is up and driving time is down. According to mobile data analytics company Arity, there has been a 65 percent decrease in driving since before the first shelter-in-place order was mandated in California. With fewer people slogging through the daily commute, consider whether dollars traditionally spent on billboards or radio ads could be better allocated to real-time digital advertising or direct mail pieces to reach at home.
As Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Agencies and brands that can adapt to the wave of changing trends brought on by the pandemic will fare well in the post-COVID court of public opinion.