We’ve curated a list of the public relations trends that you need to know for 2021 so that you can shape and refine your messaging as well as accelerate and amplify your PR efforts and grow your brand and business.
We’ve split this post in two. One half being consumer communications trends happening now. And the other being the notable tactical PR trends to be across this year.
PR is the pursuit of supporting businesses to achieve more; to help the humans behind it get the attention they deserves for the great things they do, so that what they’ve got can reach the people who need it most and make the lives others better. This is PR. And these are the communications trends you need to know to shape your public relations for 2021.
We inhabit a world where we make purchase decisions and join brands based on aligned values. We look for brands that represent us and our personal beliefs. Gone are the days where we purchase from the corner shop simply because it was convenient, well-priced and the product and service, good. Those things were enough to succeed in business once. Not any more.
In 2021 we as consumers look for all of that plus shared values and a greater cause. This is PR and reputation management now. This is how to build a brand now. And these are the communications topics on the minds of consumers now.
A growing trend for some time but accelerated by pandemic buying habits is the sentiment that there’s no place like home. As we were forced to adjust our shopping behaviours, shoppers started to notice the vulnerability of the humans behind the local businesses more than before and felt a loyalty to supporting them. We relied on our limited IRL community for connection and thus shopping local was given new meaning and life. Collectively we want our local communities to thrive so that we too can thrive.
Support Small Business
Supporting makers, creators, and independently owned small business has been trendy for quite some time but is showing no signs of slowing down. This is good for business ownership diversity. There’s amounting research that reveals consumers are willing to pay more now for an item than less, if it means supporting a small business.
We as consumers are preferring to buy from small businesses we not only know, like and trust but with whom we can have a positive, direct impact on by shopping with. Equally consumers are more drawn to supporting big businesses who on a deep, meaningful and consistent level support small business.
Diversity and Inclusion
It was well overdue that we as consumers became outwardly disillusioned and demanded to see more diversity and inclusion from the brands we shop with. Future consumers want more diversity and body inclusion in campaign imagery, in messaging, in the faces behind the businesses we shop with so that we can each see ourselves in the brands we chose to join.
The Black Lives Matter movement has had a profound impact on amplifying the expectation consumers have for ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in advertising and PR.
Inclusive PR, isn’t just a box to tick; it’s a huge opportunity for businesses to break communication norms, evolve communication strategies, share real stories, connect with consumers in a more meaningful and united way and unlock greater buyer loyalty in the process. Inclusive PR is about understanding what makes a brand’s audience unique and embracing it.
Environmental Responsibility and Sustainability
In the face of climate change; as individuals we’re becoming more aware of our personal responsibility towards greener living. The importance of behaving sustainably, both at an individual and business level, has increased. We’re taking more ownership of the impact our consumer choices have on the planet and therein shopping more consciously.
Consumers are turning to brands that make it easier for them to improve their personal approach to sustainability. While big business and clothing companies in the past decade have learnt that sustainability messaging sells – brands that integrate environmental responsibility transparently and share their sustainability goals and progress will continue to do better than those that don’t. It’s all about walking the talk with visible action.
Wellbeing and Kindness
In the shadow of uncertainty there’s never been a stronger case for businesses to play a role that brings about kindness and empathy to their customer community, leading with communications.
Customers want to see that their contribution to a business is valued and meaningful. So when comms for a business show that their customers are seen, heard and genuinely contributing to conversations and shaping a kindness culture; it improves the sentiment around that business and wellbeing for its community.
Companies that push authoritarian, power play and grandstanding in their comms aside both internally and externally and lead with warmth and vulnerability will win in today’s consumer driven kindness economy.
Adaptability and Transparency
It’s no longer enough to say you’re an eco-friendly business, or share a black square and be done with your contribution to social and environmental causes. Consumers are joining brands that are adaptable, open to reform and transparent in their process to improve the way they approach and speak up about causes of concern. The brands doing the best at this are the ones that take their customers along for the journey, who engage in conversation and invite their tribe to contribute in making decisions in ways to improve.
Brands that are the best at embracing a ‘we’re open to learning’ two-way, communication approach will be the ones that succeeding best at this consumer and communications trend. This is about embracing the perfectly imperfect pursuit to get better at social cause PR. Brands will be held accountable by their community.
Value messaging doesn’t mean talking about money and it doesn’t mean cheap. It means communications that integrates a buy well, buy once and buy with brands that bring added value to your life ethos. It’s a growing consumer and communications trend as we all become more conscious in the way we spend and consider not only the experience the things we buy bring but the end-life of the products we buy and how by buying them in, who we’re investing in.
We are looking to buy from brands that saddle their communication in the centre of value. Again, we’re not talking about price-led comms here; we’re talking about the importance of how your business brings value to the lives of others, how it solves problems for your community and how by buying what you’ve got will not only make make their world better but the world better too. This is value-buying and it’s what consumers are leaning in to.
Supporting Social Causes
Yep, as shoppers we want to look good, feel good and do good and we need the product and service businesses we choose to shop with to help us do this.
Does it mean that all brands need to have ‘save the planet inspiration’ as their guiding content and key messaging force?! No. It needs to be appropriate, aligned and authentic. Businesses need to find ways to communicate their clear purpose as their point-of-difference and their cause beyond themselves – whatever it is and whatever they’re doing.
These communications and consumer trends are here to stay with the next-gen of conscious shoppers who expect nothing less with their product and service kicks.
You don’t have to integrate all of these comms trends into your PR strategy; but we do recommend considering how, in a meaningful way you can at least integrate one of them consistently.
It’s also important to be mindful that the best way to build an engaged community is through communication that is not centred on you and what you sell; but centred on the customer, their world, and how they motivate you to be better for them and the world we exist in together.
So while big-buck retailers and commercial corporates will be criticised for commoditising the sentiment of ‘doing good’ for the purposes of financial gains; surely it can only be a positive thing if at the end of the day more businesses are motivated to lead their communications with cause-PR at the heart. Because ultimately in the era of conscious consumer shopping; their communities will hold them accountable and those that fail to live up to their promises, simply won’t survive.
Words by Jade Roberts
raraPR Founder and Creative Director
raraPR is above all the sum of people who together help build brands and share stories. We are present in our determination to make a positive difference to the world by representing individuals and businesses that are doing good. We are an extension of the personal stories within us, those that we exist for and those within you that need to be heard.