At the turn of each New Year I take a moment to share the trends shaping the world of PR and our lives living in the content economy as we know it.
But, just like ‘everything PR,’ trends come and go with time – so you have to prepare to pivot sometimes that month, that week, that day.
Whether you’re outsourcing your PR to an agency or managing it in-house, it’s important that you’re across the fast evolving, forever changing landscape of PR so that you can optimise your marketing and communications efforts for better (not worse) and get your PR resourcing to work hard and smart for you.
It must be said though, that even the tactics, trends and tools we use as the conduit to connect with people; the fundamental; and foundational success of PR efforts is always centred on story and connecting through conversation that unearths chatter that matters.
Here is my curated list of public relations trends that you need to know for 2022 so that you can shape and refine your messaging, the tools you use to get it out there to amplify your PR efforts and grow your brand and business.
As consumers we’ll be turning to brands who make us feel better about the world we live in. This means that we’ll shop one brand over another if it comes with ‘that thing we want to buy’ and a cause beyond ourselves. This year, like recent years, accelerated and amplified by the Black Lives Matter movement, shoppers will seek out brands that have socially conscious storytelling and aligned causes with their personal values.
Values Messaging Front and Centre
If your values aren’t showing up clearly in your content assets then you’re not making it easy for consumers to see themselves in your brand. It’s no longer enough to have a few value words on the entrance wall to your business (was it ever?); now as consumers we expect to see brands breathing life through their values with every content asset across all channels. It’s not about just saying what your values are, it’s about BEing what your values are and showing up consistently across all channels including and starting with company culture. Consumers are clever and know which brands are practising what they preach.
Campaign Imagery that is Real and Relatable
Whether you position your brand as luxury or aspirational or not, consumers are leaning into brands that are relatable and reflect a closer reality to their world. This includes the approach to premium campaign imagery. So what we’ll see in 2022, is more and more brands moving away from producing over manufactured campaign imagery that results in far less engagement, awareness recall and call-to-action; and rather producing relatable content at scale that elicits connection, conversation and loyalty. Consumers don’t want elevated campaign imagery lacking in warmth, they want relatability and a consciousness of our world and circumstances, even from luxury brands.
Brand Accessibility Behaviour
Brand accessibility is big for 2022. It’s no longer enough to let comments on social media posts dwindle into the distance unanswered or have them responded to by a sales team who are not copywriting conversationalists and brand ambassadors by nature. In 2022 the businesses that do the best will be the ones who embrace every comment and every direct message as an opportunity to have a meaningful interaction with a potential or existing brand fan.
Social audio provides brands the opportunity for content real-estate across additional channels allowing them to reach followers in an accessible way and grow entirely new audiences for their business. Social audio is not dominated by youth as is with TikTok and Reels creators, giving brands the opportunity to take un-tapped space and unearth a whole new breed of influencers and roving ambassadors for conversations and topics they curate.
Consumers are choosing brands that give them accessible and meaningful contact and that allow them to co-create the brand experience with them. Brands aren’t really being accessible until audio is part of the content mix.
While Clubhouse usage has dropped off, it will continue to evolve and new social audio platforms will continue to emerge with those that reward the creators likely to reign supreme. PR practitioners will seek out guest speaking and interview opportunities for their clients, not just on podcasts but on social audio apps as important CEO PR and brand building strategies this year.
Video via Instagram Reels, TikTok and Youtube will continue to go from strength to strength. As with the magnetic impact of consumers to brands embracing social audio, we will start to see a less-filtered approach working its way onto short-clip-video in a similar way to what we know and love about TikTok.
Influencer Marketing and why Micro Influencers Matter
Just in the same way consumers will seek out brands that have socially conscious storytelling and aligned causes, we will also support brands collaborating with influencers who equally reflect our values. Brands will increase influencer marketing spend but give more freedom to the content creators they work with to share story. Does it mean that all influencers brands partner with will have ‘save the planet inspiration’ as their guiding content and key messaging force?! No. It needs to be centred in giving and taking to connect with social media native audiences in 2022.
For further reading I wrote about Influencer Activism here
And about why influencers are only just getting started here.
PR pitching etiquette
PR pitching etiquette has evolved and it’s a big hello to casual out-reach as a place to start. Direct messaging on social media apps as part of your initial outreach is very OK when it comes to pitching etiquette and igniting the conversation and content idea for consideration. From there you can take the conversation off-line or to email if invited. What hasn’t changed though is that great pitching is always centred on having done your research, knowing who you’re pitching to and ensuring you pitch with value at the heart of your suggestion.
Industry Skill Blending, Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned.
This year we’ll see marketers in PR in social media in brand management in influencer management in design in video production and basically working across all communications channels as part of the marketing mix. PR has well and truly moved on from publicity being the holy grail of a PR strategy and now more than ever we’ll see PR practitioners wearing the many hats and pursuing outcomes in the paid, earned, shared and owned spaces for themselves and the brands they represent.
Announcement Culture and the Era of Personal Brand
In the pursuit of CEO publicity and industry authority positioning we’ll see more people share their personal stories, struggles and triumphs. Living through Covid has made for a more accepting corporate community around matters of mental ill health; millennials and next gens have warmed the stage for the boomers to come. While it might appear to be for commercial gains, what will come of it will be authentic connection, greater healing and community.
Data and Analytics
Ok, so as you know I’m not a big one for measuring what really can’t be measured, PR! I spoke about it here and Flaunter shared an interview with me about it here.
I’d much rather have client trust based on proven track record and spend budget on pursuing great outcomes than tanking high percentages of budget reporting back on mediocre results to justify worth and appease the powers that be.
That said marketers will continue to require that PR and social media managers justify increased spend with data and analytics as a way to measure effort and impact.
Adaptability and Transparency
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 and humbly owning up when things could be improved. Brands will be held accountable by their community.
LAST YEAR’S PR TREND ROUND UP
Trends from last year that brands ought to have embraced to align with consumer expectations of the past decade are; shop local, support small business, diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility and sustainability, wellbeing and kindness, adaptability and transparency. You can read thefull article here.
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 and build from there.
Best course of action:
- Have a cause beyond what you sell.
- Align that cause with the ethos of your business authentically.
- Create impact continuously and not just as a one-off campaign for commercial gains so that you can be ‘seen, being seeing doing good.’
- Align with one hero or fewer causes to ensure you don’t dilute your messaging. Less is more
- Create content that drives chatter that matters and not over-produced campaign imagery your audience can’t connect to
- Embrace social audio
- Get around multi-channelled, short-clip video
- Choose influencers because they can authentically story-tell for your business, bring conversations to life and who share your brand values
- Be ok with saying, we got it wrong, this is what we’re doing to improve
- Only measure what can be measured accurately, and to the rest say no!
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.