Edward Bernays conceptualized two-way communication between brands and the public in his book Crystallizing Public Opinion. Did he imagine how this concept would evolve to create a seismic stir in PR trends and marketing methods?
With traditional channels like radio, TV, and print media, the audience had limited means to share their opinions. Brands communicated their messages without hearing the public.
Then came a slight shift with the internet becoming a new touchpoint for the audience in the late 90s. But Bernays’ two-way communication became a reality at the onset of the 21st century.
The technologies of this Millenium lend a strong voice to the public. Raising customer care issues through emails, calls, texts, and chatbots is easy and quick. Sending an email makes communication easier for both parties. Imagine the response time if this were a postal letter?
Modern PR methods let consumers show their emotions. Individuals can voice their feedback through social channels. With enthusiastic and vocal customers at the helm, brands engage with them to make their products more user-centric.
Eventually, a lot has changed with time in the PR arena. Let’s browse through the recent and upcoming trends in the PR industry.
PR Recaps from 2020 and the Decade Gone By
The Race between Digital and Traditional Media
The last decade saw digital media competing with and ultimately surpassing traditional media progressively. Companies of all sizes and budgets gradually shifted their focus to web-based PR strategies and social media campaigns. Smartphone penetration into society made this possible.
Attention to traditional media’s drastic fall in the last decade, the counterpart rose tremendously. You would be surprised to see the dramatic change from 2018.
Rise of Social Media and PR
Although 2019 witnessed Google+ sunset, it was a one-off amid the rising social media. And it hasn’t deterred digital-savvy PR teams.
When digital media—and social media more so—hit fame in the last decade, the PR industry grabbed all opportunities to dive in to extract pearls. Did you know, print media declined from 34% to 11% in the last decade while the internet bagged 50% of the share?
With the advent of Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, big-ticket brands began to utilize influencer marketing. PR teams used social media to change the dynamics of public relationships and created a buzz about brands. One of the downsides of this is paid and fake fanbase.
Reaching out to TV and print media personalities got simpler with Twitter and LinkedIn. Teaming up with the influencers got easy because of their availability on Instagram and Facebook.
Brands and PR teams could create a bond by liking, commenting, sharing, and promoting the hashtags these influencers endorsed. And then, all they needed was to team up with these influencers and pay heftily.
The list of influencer outreach’s benefits is long; the efforts are still enormous but fruitful. Have you created harmony with the users on social media this way?
The Toast of Media: Startups and Entrepreneur
Another trend that stole a significant fraction of the decade’s glamor was the growing community of startups.
The entrepreneurs registered their presence on every possible social channel. LinkedIn especially became their hang out place. More faces came out into the light from the busy board rooms and became public figures. These executives played the mouthpiece for their brands.
The audience enjoyed their success and failure stories. The stories of these executives set examples for the public to learn from. So, the PR houses aligned their focus towards these executives and enchased their popularity.
Trivago is a memorable example of using top executives in ads.
Are you among such startups? Because this trend might not fizzle out anytime soon.
Post-Pandemic PR Trends to Watch Out For in 2021
Align Your Purpose With Morally Aware Audience
One thing that 2020 has made us more cautious about is our surroundings. People are better aware and sensitized about life, society, and the environment. EY reports that 67% of users would weigh social purpose and buy. Brands that convey their affiliation towards health, environment, and community would charm the buyers.
54% of consumers prefer honesty and authenticity in a brand, quoted EY in the same report.
Also, people have shifted to buying from local stores. They connect better with brands that align with people’s values and ethics. After the ‘Black Lives Matter Movement’, brands need to be purpose-driven and ethical.
66% believe that their protests and actions can push the brands to take stands on public concerns.
Do you care to invest your efforts in sensitive issues like the environment, society, and ethics to win your PR game?
Engage, Not Promote on Social Platforms
The public’s immense fondness for Instagram Reels, Snapchat, Tik Tok, and Pinterest has spruced up PR interests in them. These platforms’ bite-sized content is consumed more than anything verbose.
Through short videos on Reels and Tik Tok, brands make their place in their audience’s hearts.
DIY quickies, fashion tips, and recipes are a hit among the flavorful Pinterest visitors. These quick bites strike a chord with the audience quickly.
However, put a pause in pushing your products and brands via social media, suggests Kristin Johnson, VP, content and communications at Sprout Social. Your users are already bombarded with serious news. So, a promotional strategy can put them off.
Instead, engage in organic discussions and authentic communications with your audience. Open up for social listening and stop shoving your message on them. Empathic listening and value-based conversations could be key to your PR strategy in 2021.
Air Your Words on Podcasts
Podcasts are going strong for a few years. With easy access to free platforms and live sessions, podcasts are not a monopoly of big publications, brands, and corporate houses.
Edison, a media research company, mentioned a 16% rise in the podcast listeners YoY in a study. The rise of smart speakers pushed the number of podcast listeners to a new level of 27M in 2020 from 23M in 2019.
The graph below shows the outcome of the study done on 1500+ Americans above 12 years.
Clearly, if you aren’t embracing this PR trend, you would be missing on a meaty and heart to heart conversation with an industry expert or an emerging trendsetter.
Make More Space for Visuals
Gamification and AR/VR have hit the PR world big-time. Everyone likes to see gamified content. Your users love digitally amplified content with AR or VR. All because these are fun to consume and put the viewers at the edge of their seats.
Many cosmetic retailers are capitalizing on ‘try and buy’ features. Furniture, furnishing, and home décor brands like IKEA have AR apps, which help your consumers visualize the products in their homes.
Likewise, promotional videos have enticed 84% of consumers to make buying decisions. A verbose-high content is yawn-inducing to the zing-crazy consumers while videos glue them.
Do you impress your audience through exciting visuals?
Measure Your Efforts with Data
Contact tracing with personal data by governments became a norm in 2020. Since many people didn’t hesitate to share their whereabouts and other demographics, this would remove the opacity between consumers and brands to a huge extent. EY notes, 53% of consumers are ready to share their data to identify infection zones.
With this new transparency and positivity around data sharing, businesses have a better chance to interact with consumers. Hence, web analytics would grab the limelight with conversion and sales as the desired KPIs.
But transparency compels the responsibility to use the data mindfully. Creating a personalized experience for your consumers should take precedence over bombardments of unsegmented ads.
Are you ready to use the users’ data in the right way?
Shift Towards Micro- and Nano-Influencers
Although marketers trust influencer marketing for better ROI, 2020 saw a recession due to pandemic. Celebrities and influencers are costly, and brands’ drying pipeline amid lockdown didn’t permit high expenses.
It’s right time you encash micro- and nano-influencers. Grandstanding is fading behind brandstanding now because the problem of falsehood is big to tackle. Brandstanding brings out a brand’s right image without being over-the-top.
Regular bloggers and social heroes with a small follower base can generate more engagement as compared to celebrities. 82% of your audience follows micro-influencers. 7x higher engagement is impressive to encourage you to connect with rising micro-influencers.
Now that social platforms monitor fake influences, PR teams have a better option to work with authentic and niche influencers.
Before You Leave
We are going through a lot these days—natural disasters, terrorist events, political upturns, social unrest, financial shocks, and job cuts. But issues shouldn’t become your boilerplate to dish out some stale PR strategies in 2021.
Brands should support social and environmental causes more than hype for a brighter spotlight and genuine engagement during this time.
Trends fizzle. Strategies crumble. What stays memorable is the trust that the public vests in brands. What is one (or more) PR trend you will use to put your brand in the limelight?
Rashmi Agrawal writes about technologies as a freelance writer to help brands leave stronger digital footprints. She likes to pen on topics related to IT-technologies, work culture, HR, parenting, and marketing. When not freelancing, she either dreams of writing novels or weaves short stories. Rashmi lives in India and enjoys the diverse seasons sitting at her desk by a big window. You can catch her on Twitter @ThrivingWordss