Published on November 11, 2020, at 6:35 p.m.
by Grace Evans.
It is hard to imagine a time now when people did not wear masks and working from home was reserved for sick days. But before this year, few people knew the word “coronavirus,” and every organization and industry was planning for different trends and outcomes than what has resulted in 2020.
However, this year has also pushed the public relations industry forward in unforeseen ways. Growth due to pressure is proven to deliver incredible results and creative approaches, and the pressure from the pandemic is no exception. How do we now anticipate the evolution of PR with so much unknown ahead? When many industries are changing so rapidly, how are consumers’ needs changing, too?
According to PR Daily, focusing on the consumer is crucial: “As communications pros, the power of the pivot hinges on understanding our consumer. What are consumers feeling and experiencing right now, and what are they looking for, expecting from the brands they love?”
This in-the-moment mindset is key to navigating a dynamic landscape, and the ability to adapt to unplanned circumstances has revealed the strengths and weaknesses of many organizations this year. Although 2020 has tested the PR industry in unprecedented ways, there is a lot to look forward to and be inspired by in multiple fields.
Improved digital and social media engagement
If there is one aspect of PR that has advanced this year, it is social media. Today, more than half of the world uses social media and there are now over 346 million new users since August 2019. Content is extremely valuable to any organization because of how many consumers base their opinions and decisions on a brand’s online communication.
Michelle Kijek, senior vice president of FoodMinds, believes that integrating social media tactics has not only enabled her company “to demonstrate greater value to clients” but has also created the “ability to generate intel on shopper behaviors, to improve future programming.”
Brands have also leveraged influencers’ platforms to capitalize on industry trends and connect more personally with their consumers who trust and respect people they can relate with. The Digital Marketing Institute reports that “49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations” for their purchasing decisions.
“The rise of TikTok and Instagram stories has cultivated the idea that anyone can be an influencer and any video can go viral,” said Bailey McMahan, digital marketing and advertising strategist for Markstein.
Utilizing both video and graphic content on a variety of platforms has the ability to exponentially grow a brand, but the best PR pros will find new and innovative ways to reach consumers by staying on top of trends.
Quantifiable campaign ROIs
PR professionals know that data measurement is not only important for their own analytics but also for the client. Proving the strategic value of a communications campaign is much less of a challenge than proving its business value.
Founder and chairman of Markstein, Danny Markstein, explained that “there has been increasing pressure on agencies to measure the results of and quantify returns on investments in marketing initiatives and campaigns.” His team welcomes this shift, “as it will benefit clients while challenging agencies to work smarter and accept new and very important levels of accountability.”
One way professionals measure a campaign’s success is by utilizing SEO, which Entrepreneur stated will “become an integral part of communications campaigns, with the main objective to support businesses being more visible online to generate the right traffic to their corporate platforms.”
Integrated measurement has also proven to be more effective for both agency and in-house PR pros. Marketing and PR measurements “integrated into a single online dashboard” allows for a clear evaluation of a communications plan and presentation of relevant, important metrics to the client.
The PR industry is notorious for offering strategic approaches without considering the bottom line, but improved technology and a greater focus on campaign measurement will help PR professionals better articulate the return on investment.
Increased opportunities to transform the industry
Due to a shift in consumer wants and needs, brands are focusing on niche marketing to attract loyal consumers. This trend has “put successful media placements within the reach of smaller brands” and proven that both large and small brands can exist in the same space and experience success. Traditional media placements have been replaced by a much more focused approach, due to the increased ability of anyone in the world to grow their personal brand online and appeal to a specific market.
“What I find exciting about public relations … in our current environment is that it has no boundaries,” said Hall. “Now more than ever, we’re being pushed out of the traditional lanes of communications. The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged the industry and professionals to find new, innovative solutions to delivering clients’ key messages through digital (media),” she stated.
The current industry is ripe for change, and fortunately, PR professionals work best when they have the freedom to experiment and test new strategies and tactics.
PR pros can expect to see even more unexpected shifts in the industry for years to come. However, these shifts are a good thing, especially when they mean growth and enhanced consumer relationships. 2020 may be the year of change, but it can also be the year of opportunity.