By Hilary McCarthy, Clearpoint Agency
From racial justice protests and political polarity, to the ongoing pandemic and release of vaccines—2021 was a historic year. As we continue to grapple with what will be “the new normal” post-COVID and make sense of rapid changes throughout our communities and the world, several trends have emerged and/or accelerated. Marketing and PR are no different, as these fields must move quickly to meet changing markets and attitudes.
Following are the top five PR trends marketers and executives should consider while planning 2022 go-to-market strategies.
1. EVERYONE is the media – many people expected influencer marketing to be a short-term trend. But, when the pandemic hit, people increasingly took to the Internet for answers on everything, from the virus, to the election, to the best technologies to work remotely. Consumers collectively piled into GameStop and other meme stocks, disrupting market makers and requiring them to increase hedges, as prices on these stocks soared. It was all coordinated by consumers banding together on boards on Reddit and others. Today, Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets has 11.3M members. And others, like r/market sentiment (34K members) also sprung up, seemingly, overnight. These—and subreddits like r/books, r/RenewableEnergy, r/Futurology—serve as “media,” with regular updates on news and strategies, amidst community commentary and policing with up (and down) votes from readers.
And don’t forget about TikTok, or FinTok (for financial), where anyone can become an influencer on #Stocktok. TikTok may be full of both “sense and nonsense,” as a Financial Times article observed—but there is no ignoring its growth. Hubspot and Talkwater predict TikTok will dominate social (in 2020 it was the most downloaded app). While 46% of 18-40 year-olds use social for investment information, one in four get it from TikTok, according to Magnify Money by Lending Tree.
Finally, the way younger people (Generation Z) consume content also suggests influencers are not going away. In addition to using services like Netflix and AppleTV, many young people also stream videos from brand-sponsored influencers on video gaming, music, skateboarding, computers, and more, far beyond watching traditional TV. YouTube and Instagram are the two most popular platforms for this age group.
2. “The Media” Also Includes Brands (and Agencies). As more people took to the internet during the pandemic and newsrooms experienced cutbacks, publications still needed to maintain content to keep up with demand.
This continues to pose an opportunity for savvy companies and PR professionals to provide unbiased thought leadership as well as to assist reporters with dense, information-filled pitches (versus short, pithy outreach) that writers and editors can run with. Using HARO, Profnet, and platforms like Qwoted, PR pros can provide the exact content reporters seek, potentially gaining articles for clients without the client ever having met or talked with the reporter (but it has to be done right). Pay-for-play opportunities are also on the rise as many outlets look for funding to stay alive.
And, as noted in Clearpoint Agency’s 2021 predictions, companies are increasingly taking the news cycle by storm and becoming publishers with their own magazines, podcasts, Clubhouse forums, and amped up blogs. Companies also often seek commentary from outside sources on traditional media platforms.
However, even today, as many media newsrooms get smaller and others spring up, an important consideration is that companies still have to provide quality, unbiased news and feedback that meets editorial standards to be taken seriously. And their own platforms need to be mobile-first and align with their PR, thought leadership, and SEO strategies.
3. Employees Take Center Stage, Right Next to Customers. One other effect of the pandemic is that it has made many workers reflect and prioritize, assessing constant change and a taste of greater flexibility with WFH. Currently, we are seeing worker shortages and “the great resignation” as a result of burnout and reprioritization. Forrester predicts 10% of companies will commit to a fully remote future and 60% will go hybrid, but many will fail as leaders continue to design meetings, job roles, promotions around face-to-face, even as they say they support hybrid. Other companies will struggle with a fully in-office model that employees will no longer accept, says the analyst firm.
Workers’ exodus and shifting of priorities are likely to continue into the new year as people seek work/life flexibility and working for companies that are aligned with their values for adaptation, and even diversity and giving back, for many.
With new models of work and fewer people in the office, companies will seek ways to better understand and resound with employees, prospects and customers, as business can’t go on without any of these. This will include asking what audiences want and need and assessing the data for specific customers and employees even more regularly in 2022 and beyond. About 67% of marketers expect to increase market research in 2022 (Hubspot), and respondents rank surveys, followed by emails, as leading tactics.
In 2022 we will see an increase in communications directly to employees and prospects promoting excellent workplaces and hiring, with ads from brands like Stop and Shop and Amazon as examples. PR will be critical in ensuring strong, consistent messaging and to maintaining positive brand perception across all channels.
4. Social Listening & Reputation Monitoring Goes Live
With quicker news cycles and the ability for feedback on brands to be published, almost instantaneously, smart brands and their agencies will continue to ramp up monitoring to assess reputation, better understand audiences, and respond more expeditiously.
With even more channels—on social media (and 32 billion people active on Facebook daily and 400 million on Instagram, as two examples), podcasts, publications, and websites—and the ability for anyone to comment on brands, it is no easy feat to monitor mentions and sentiment. But platforms such as Critical Mention, Sprinklr, Mention and savvy agencies will step up with tools, processes, and alerts to rapidly scour sites and comments to better inform a brand’s ability to respond in a crisis.
5. Video’s Role Expands
The pandemic hastened video adoption. Media uploads increased 80% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020, peaking at over 100,000 on April 22, 2020, according to Wistia. And video’s use is expected to continue, with 82% of worldwide internet traffic expected to come from streaming videos and downloads by 2022, says Cisco. Live video is also on the rise.
We see video becoming even more entrenched in PR and marketing, increasing its use in press releases, in online press conferences, webinars and live events, with many experts predicting that the future of events is hybrid.
What other top business and PR trends, or challenges, are you expecting for the New Year? We would love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hilary McCarthy is PR and content director at Clearpoint Agency. She draws on 20+ years in media/analyst relations, marketing and content strategy and has worked in TV news and radio in addition to PR. She can be reached at email@example.com