Emma Speirs, managing director of Ballyhoo PR, reflects on what 2021 has taught us from the public relations perspective and how businesses should approach the new year.
2021 is a year that few could have predicted and none of us will forget in a hurry…
Like most industries, 2021 was a year of change for the media and PR. Some newspapers folded as others were bought and sold. More journalists ‘went remote’ and the number of people consuming news via digital and social media channels increased drastically.
In terms of PR, last year saw the Weetabix and Heinz Baked Bean collaboration and caterpillar wars break the internet. We also saw Marcus Rashford use the power of PR to successfully lobby government and help parents to feed their families.
Supply issues also impacted fast-moving consumer goods brands with KFC running out of chicken, a Walkers crisps shortage and McDonalds running out of milkshake. All of which could have negatively affected their reputation if not handled correctly.
From a crisis point of view, we also saw some real clangers in 2021 – the Downing Street Christmas party fall-out and the Better.com CEO firing 900 people via Zoom. And who can remember the European Super League announcement that was so out of touch with fans that it was kicked out before it could kick off?
So, what will happen in 2022? How will PR and comms change? What trends can we expect to see?
Unfortunately, Covid is not showing any signs of disappearing yet. As I write this, the government has just announced more WFH work from home guidance and is accelerating the roll out of the Covid booster injections to offer more protection against Omicron.
This means that more journalists will be working out of home offices and will be less contactable on landline numbers, making it harder for PRs to cut through the noise of a busy email inbox.
The positives of this, though, could be that it is easier to nurture the press relationships you already have. Have frank and open conversations with them. What are they looking for? How can you help them get that content or introduction?
‘Joined up’ PR and marketing campaigns that work together across all platforms will be absolutely vital. You cannot just rely on social media as a means to communicate with stakeholders and potential customers.
The recent Facebook outage was a great reminder not to keep ‘all your eggs in one basket’.
Also, while some of your audience might be weary of social these days, others see it as their only connection with the ‘real world’. Equally, those subscribed to and reading trade magazines and local newspapers need to see that you are active and still have a presence.
Awareness or social/behavioural change campaigns will be particularly big, I expect.
Internal comms is also likely to be a huge growth area again as the hybrid model of working continues. How are you communicating change to your team and stakeholders?
Media outreach is another trend I expect to keep on growing, mainly because it is simple to do during a pandemic. This is where you identify a target media outlet and study it.
Look at what they include in terms of regular features, topics etc and then contact them directly with an idea or pitch.
If they like the idea, they will ask you to write it and publish it. You get the coverage, they get the exclusive content and everyone is happy.
What PR and comms activity do you think you will be doing this year?