PR in 2021 and beyond

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

(p.s. there will be no digital agencies…)

As 2020 draws to a close and COVID 19 sadly shows no sign of slowing pre-vaccination rollout, we can’t quite breathe the sigh of relief we’d hoped for. And 2020 will be with us into 2021 as it has influenced a number of the short-term trends. But things get really interesting for public relations as we zoom out into the next decade

The most interesting thing for me is how PR continues to come into its own in the communication’s landscape after being slow to respond to the first wave of digital disruption. PR’s legacy skills coupled with deep learning leaves it best placed to solve communications problems in the next decade

We’ve been doing some reading quite widely around what to expect next year:

1. 100% digital - we will see the continuation of the heavy adoption of tech, beyond zoom and hangouts but much deeper use of analytics to guide insights. And of course, work will continue to be fully digital reliant as we continue our remote working lives.

2. Measurement and the bottom line – we will need to do that better and tie it more closely to the bottom line.

3. Data will drive greater personalization and coupled with compelling relevant content will provide the biggest breakthrough – we’ll know more about audiences to better direct communication.

4. And of course, influencers are still integral to planning but will evolve into more refined partnerships. Coupled with that will be more podcasts, more hybrid (and probably better) events.

5. And as we have seen in 2020 with #blacklivesmatter amongst other things, values and expressing them becomes critically important or as Cision put it “to say nothing is to say something” - everything is highly politicized and PR can help you navigate this space.

But it gets much more interesting when you consider the trends for the next 10 years as outlined by provoke media (the title might suggest some provocation in some of their predictions) but I think they are spot on in a lot of them.

1. Digital agencies will disappear – we’ve already seen the dissolution of social media agencies and digital only will follow soon. The reason for this is firstly, the understanding that an integrated communication approach that spans both digital and traditional is non-negotiable and much more effective. Digital has not been good at integration. But perhaps equally important are two key cornerstone skills of PR – the ability to tell stories to people of influence who in turn share that influence and secondly the PR foundation of building relationships and engagement.

2. PR will be central to brand building – as increasingly communications will be built on engagement, not reach and frequency; built on better insights drawn from data. And in fact, the prediction is that success will be measured in relationships.

3. PR will add advertising into its mix and will be able to do so with the key insight that communications is built on credibility with creativity. That’s our oxygen: credibility.

4. The other mega trends point to a collapsing of walls between corporate comms, marketing comms, investor relations etc, to be replaced by one central PR function. Reputation, in fact, takes center stage and silos no longer work in a time when stakeholders determine what to communicate, not companies.

5. And the consolidation of agencies and globalization we see today will come full circle back to niche specialist agencies as brands need on- the- ground nuanced advice and expertise relevant to the market they are in, not an agency head office solution.

The biggest challenge for PR in South Africa is for it to very quickly catch up with communications best practice in the rest of the world; firmly shrug off the “PR = media relations” mantle, and bring the full power of its skills to bear on the bottom line.

Give us a call if you’re looking for game changing communications thinking.

*Other references includepublicrelationstoday

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