Top 10 PR trends for 2021

PR 2021 trends

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021 communications remains a vital component for most organisations seeking to maintain audience engagement in a rapidly changing landscape.

There are several key areas of communications that need to be considered this year as part of any robust planning and output. Here are our insights on areas to explore and maximise to successfully communicate across 2021

Sustainability

The news agenda and political landscape has become increasingly polarised. Combined with this there has been an increase in consumers placing public pressure on brands via social media, an on-going issue with fake news and a distrust of trusted sources. While the climate emergency and COVID-19 pandemic have placed sustainability high on the agenda. 

Collectively it has created intense pressure on organisations to do the right thing’ alongside the challenges to survive the pandemic. It requires robust communications strategies that can stand up to scrutiny. More than ever before companies and charities need to adopt genuine sustainable policies and communications will need to highlight them boldly, while upholding brand integrity and values. 

Communications will perform a key role in helping the UK achieve the government’s carbon neutral targets. 

Clear information on help and support available to businesses will need to be communicated. Plus, a supportive and positive environment that encourages significant change will be required to ensure the business community and households follow early adopters en masse. PR will be crucial to creating such a landscape and positive storytelling will be an important tactic to deploy. 

In our view businesses that communicate sustainability strongly will thrive. 

Strategic communications

The world and business climate has changed so much since March 2020 that communications strategies should be reviewed to ensure relevancy. Strategic communications will be more important this year than previously, as business seek to emerge from the pandemic and thrive. Organisations have looked inward more than usual, to adapt to new working practices that are COVID-19 safe and there has been an increased focus on staff well-being. Additionally, many businesses will have adapted services during the pandemic and there will be a strong desire to drive revenue through 2021 as the vaccine is rolled out and restrictions are eased. 

This trend will result in an increased need for strategic communications in 2021, to tie all the strands together and communicate the position clearly externally and internally. We envisage this will require an enhanced focus on communicating leadership, stakeholder engagement, internal communications, and on-going measurement of market sentiment.

Values and purpose

By extension of the need to align communications with sustainable practices, 2021 should see an increase in organisations communicating values and purpose. 

The past year has been tumultuous politically, environmentally, and culturally. Some of it has been for the better, but we enter 2021 with deep divides politically and culturally. Plus, a tangible loss of trust in public office, the media, and major institutions. 

Collectively it means business will need to play a significant role in leading the country through the turbulent landscape and into a safer, kinder, and stable era. This will require strong values and a clear purpose. 

PR practitioners will need to communicate values consistently, rather than merely sticking to regular messaging. 

Reputation management

The internet and social media has created increased challenges for organisations and individuals to protect reputation. This issues management challenge for PR practitioners is likely to remain at a high-level throughout 2021, particularly on social media. 

Proactive positive communications that consistently builds an organisation or individuals’ narrative remains crucial to act as a counterbalance should an issue arise. However, the need for sentiment and market monitoring online will increase this year and those who maintain this practice will secure an early detection to a potential issue and thus be able to act quickly. Technology is improving our ability to monitor issues online via advanced filters and machine learning. But a trained human eye is always required to assess the information and act on it effectively. The need for a strong level of social awareness will be high this year for communicators. 

Employee engagement

The pandemic has created increased challenges around anxiety, stress, and mental health alongside physical health. This has rightly resulted in an increased focus on staff wellbeing in many organisations. Furthermore, remote workforces have become commonplace, which has required a change in how organisations communicate internally. 

On this basis stakeholder communications and employee engagement will become more important. Remote workforces are likely to continue for some time followed by a hybrid model of people splitting their time between the office and home. This will mean a continued focus on how to engage with employees who are distributed across a region, nation, or the world. 

Success will require a communications review at a senior level to ensure internal communications are robust and appropriate, alongside embracing modern technology. Platforms such as Slack are increasingly helping organisations improve internal communication. 

Virtual events

Social distancing restrictions saw a spike in virtual events in 2020. Many industry conferences are being held online and in the education sector for example schools and colleges are hosting virtual open events to recruit students. 

Digital video streaming technology enables organisations to reach and engage with wider audiences, without the need for travel. Across 2020 PR professionals adapted quickly to the technology available and have embraced it to help clients deliver virtual events, encompassing video conferences, podcasts, and webinars.

At Fortitude, for example, we have delivered video production services in the education sector to help colleges and schools showcase their venues and courses to prospective students and their parents via virtual events. 

Physical events will return in the future, but we fully expect the trend for virtual events to 

grow further in 2021, as more organisations adopt the technology. 

Video

The use of video online reached record levels in 2020. With advances in smart phones, tablets, and streaming technology the use of video for business has expanded way beyond traditional TV advertising. Many businesses now provide personalised video direct to its audience. And we expect this trend to continue in 2021.

Social media giants YouTube and Facebook have both recently announced plans to enhance short form video to increase engagement. Facebook revealed it plans to prioritise videos in its algorithm to promote more meaningful interactions.” While YouTube announced its plan to launch a short form video platform called Shorts’.

Video remains an incredibly engaging way to communicate with your audience and the content can be repurposed across multiple platforms. Therefore, we expect to see a growing demand for video for virtual events, webinars, plus corporate videos, and educational and training video content. 

Storytelling

Grabbing and holding attention in a crowded marketplace is challenging. The key to engagement is quality, relevant content that adds value to your audience. 

The power of storytelling will continue to become more apparent, more valued, and increasingly successful in 2021. People are now bombarded with messages, content and adverts daily. And with an increasingly digital savvy audience many people can now distinguish between adverts, quick comment, and quality content that adds real value. 

Additionally, people connect digitally with platforms, organisations, and people they want to hear from. Therefore, tailored content that is interesting, informative, new, engaging and of value will stand out from the crowd and perform well. People want to hear from you, but make sure you maximise your opportunity by being relevant, interesting, and informative. 

One of the best ways to achieve this is through the art of storytelling. Make people the heroes of your stories and bring your organisation to life via interesting real-life stories, rather than dull corporate content or by recycling pieces others have already run elsewhere online. 

Be original, be bold, be engaging, and be interesting in 2021

Self publishing

With an increased need for leadership this year, combined with many organisations repositioning and revising how they behave communication will be vital in 2021. Therefore, self-publishing will become a key part of most communications strategies. 

We expect to see an increase in organisations using websites and social media more effectively this year. The shift to digital accelerated in 2019 and a lot of people have used the year to examine how best to communicate online. On this basis there will be an increased use of social media and website news pages. Executives who need to show enhanced leadership, transparency and accessibility should embrace LinkedIn and thought leadership. Facebook Live is also a platform that is growing in popularity for hosting meetings and public forums. 

Repurposing content

With the expected increase in the use of owned media combined with the need to communication regularly the art of repurposing content will grow this year. 

This involves taking a piece of primary content and repurposing it for different platforms. It is valuable and effective technique. Firstly, it helps organisations with tight budgets to maximise content. But secondly, and importantly, it ensures content is tailored for each platform. For example, the tone of voice and length of copy will be different on each social media channel. This increases the chance of your content performing well on multiple channels and increases your volume of audience engagement. This approach has grown in popularity and it will only increase in the year ahead. 

Amid the almighty communications challenges many have experienced during the pandemic the PR profession has come to the fore, stood up to be counted and demonstrated its value. Traditionally PR has often been misunderstood as spin, or media relations. However, it is incredibly multifaceted, encompassing all external communications to enhance and protect reputation. Skilled PR practitioners are good at devising strategies and integrating multiple disciplines and platforms, so they work together in support of the overall objectives. 

When considering the above trends as key consideration for 2021 it should be an exciting challenge for PR professions to embrace, deliver on and continue to demonstrate exceptional value. 

If you would like to chat about how communications can help your organisation please get in touch here.

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