This time last year, no one anticipated the economic and social disruption that would be caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor could we have predicted the months of social and professional acclimating that lay ahead — wearing masks in public, distancing from loved ones and friends, and working from home.
As we approach the one-year “anniversary” of when our lives turned upside down, it remains difficult to imagine what this year will hold. Luckily, public relations is all about identifying creative and strategic ways to come out on top — even in the toughest of situations. While we don’t have a crystal ball (otherwise we’d be able to tell you when this whole thing would be over … ), we are keeping a close eye on the following PR trends that we think will emerge in 2021.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will take a front seat.
The new relationship between humans and intelligent machines is enabling PR professionals to create data-driven campaigns, automate repetition-based tasks, analyze online conversations, predict a crisis and even produce personalized content. AI offers brands an unprecedented ability to increase revenue and reduce costs through more intelligent automation and machine-powered predictions. That’s why McKinsey predicts AI will create up to $2.6 trillion in business value in marketing and sales alone.
New communication channels are here to stay (and will continue to grow!).
The heightened use of software like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack is a rising tide that can’t be turned. From broadcast news to press conferences, the pandemic has forced all organizations to consider other ways to connect with stakeholders. What was once unconventional is now less expensive, less taxing and helps brands connect with an audience like never before. In 2021, PR and marketing collateral with virtual and digital elements will have even more reach and engagement.
2021 will be a new era for accountability.
For all the talk around issues like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in 2020, this year will be a time for action to speak louder than words. For example, Forbes offers a list of six DEI resolutions that companies should focus on in order to thrive in 2021 and beyond. There’s no “one size fits all” strategy, but there are innumerable DEI lessons that 2020 showed us and that companies must commit to in order to be sustainable. This year, try making a commitment to donate a percentage of revenue to organizations that support the inclusion of underrepresented groups or to diversify the workplace. Actions will speak louder than words!
Earned, paid, social and owned media will continue to integrate.
Gone are the days where we had three teams in their own silos: advertising, public relations and marketing. The pandemic fully reinforced the intersection of these disciplines and today is about integrating paid, earned, shared and owned media because it is true what they say … three heads are better than one. When the PESO Model is working at its best, it can help you establish authority. This is your industry golden ticket.
LinkedIn will take center stage.
2020 became one of the most fruitful years for LinkedIn. The platform rolled out LinkedIn Live, Events, Polls and Stories. This year will become the year when marketers get a hold of all these different tools and explore LinkedIn opportunities in a new way. To implement these features into your PR strategy, focus on encouraging conversation with your followers. Create polls that your audience will want to vote on, ask irresistible open-ended questions in updates, share candid photos from your workday in stories, or post about celebrating career milestones.
We’re excited to see how the industry will evolve this year, and we hope you are too. Let us know your 2021 prediction in the comments!
Curious about what was in vogue last year? Check out our blog reflecting on the biggest trends of 2020.
By Clairemont intern Maia Guterbock, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.