2H 2021: What’s Next?
The COVID-19 pandemic is not completely behind us, but with more and more people contemplating their return to office plans, some parts of the world are getting back to business as usual. Most companies are undoubtedly looking to return to some normalcy this fall, albeit safely. Industry trade shows and events are moving from virtual to mostly live, which is good news, especially for start-ups who leverage these events to meet new and existing customers and partners or utilize these events for live demos.
PR lessons leveraged during the pandemic that helped companies tell their story and rise above their competitors are here to stay. What are some of those top PR trends that every marketing executive should implement as we enter the second half of the year and beyond?
PR trend #1: Thought leadership and a unique executive point of view helps you stand out
Thought leadership has been a very effective PR strategy for many years. Thought leadership campaigns became even more important during the pandemic as a tool to communicate a company’s unique Point of View (PoV). When done well, thought leadership content establishes corporate executives as experts in their industries and sources of worthy ideas. However, having an effective program requires a solid, intentional foundation built to last as the world around it changes. To be perceived and welcomed as a thought leader by your target audience, you must account for the following three foundational elements:
- Have a unique point of view on a trend, industry topic, or solution to a problem
- Identify and know your channels of engagement
- Consistently follow your business objectives
Start by understanding your audience and what resonates with them. Research their preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. A strong thought leadership POV will only stick if it’s crafted based on a deep understanding of your target audiences. Consider the following questions about your audience to inform your POV:
- Which factors shape their preferences and perspectives?
- What challenges are they having today or future challenges?
- Where do they access content most frequently?
A good thought leadership campaign has been the cornerstone of every client’s PR program at Engage PR. Clients that had limited news during the pandemic benefited by having a strong program in place.
PR trend #2: Future-proof your crisis communications plan
I’m guessing that most companies’ crisis communications plans did not include a response to a global pandemic that would have a vast impact on people’s lives and lively hoods. This significant event should (if it hasn’t already) force companies to rethink and update their crisis communications plan to address their response and commitment to their employees and customers in response to the current pandemic and plan for the next unknown crisis. During the past 18 months, we saw that crisis has moved from the periphery to the core. Every company’s crisis communications playbook should, if it doesn’t already, look at all the potential risks and what could happen within the business that impacts your employees, customers, and customers’ customers. As you update your crisis plan, talk with your executives, employees, business partners and other stakeholders. Determine what theoretically could go wrong and then address that in a proactive communications plan. Include proactive activity the company is doing, communicating with key industry analysts and press. When a crisis hits, a company has already established a line of communication with those analysts and media influencers to help mitigate the perception damage. It’s also a good time to revisit and update your crisis communications team that includes key employees who are strong advocates to the company and globally dispersed employees and can respond quickly.
Company’s crisis communications plans should also address systematic changes in their organizations to prevent a crisis from potentially erupting. We will talk more next month about what your new crisis playbook should include next month.
PR trend #3: Continued calls for progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion
Diversity and employee needs for people of color, women and LGBTQIA+ took center stage in 2020. In 2021, businesses’ and their PR teams focus on making strides in the right direction. Have an actionable plan to make progress with diversity internally if you want to be relevant and authentic. For organizations that continue to ignore the issue, PR problems are likely on the horizon. Without a clear policy and messaging around diversity and inclusion, you not only risk falling behind your competitors, but you also face the risk of negative publicity and damage to your reputation. Progress in diversity, equity and inclusion can also be good for business. According to a recent study racially, diverse executive teams provided an advantage of 35% higher EBIT. In addition, diverse companies attain 19% higher revenue on account of greater innovation. A diverse team is a successful team.
PR trend #4: Engage in social media
Data from BuzzSumo’s index of 8bn articles shows that social media engagement surrounding content has risen by 88% since 2016 – especially between 2020 – 2021, with an uplift of 42%. People have been glued to their devices more than ever before because, well, what else is there to do? There has been an almost irreversible shift in the way we work and interact. The percentage of people permanently working from home is expected to double this year, according to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research (ETR). Leveraging your social media channels and your blog will continue to be an important move well into the future. These two platforms allow you to have a conversation with your audiences, which in turn allows you to build your company’s profile and brand. Use your social media and blogs to address what’s happening in the industry and issues your customers care about. Think of what knowledge or expertise you have as an organization that could be helpful for your audience.
It’s also important to publicly address relevant and ongoing issues you may be facing as a company because of the COVID-19 pandemic or any other external problems. Whether that’s layoffs, order cancellations, or something else entirely, address all news honestly and openly. Customers will trust and respect you more for it, and your brand will be associated with sincere transparency.
PR trend #5: Be flexible and adapt
If we learned anything over the past year, it’s important to be flexible and adapt to what’s next. First, develop, implement and stick to your plan. A strong PR program is vital for staying connected with customers and educating influencers and key decision-makers on the problem solutions and how the company is addressing them. Then, evaluate and adjust your plan quarterly as needed. While we’re making great strides against the COVID-19 virus, new variant surges of the virus could force us to move back to being virtual, and we need to be prepared to adapt our business and communications strategy to whatever is next.