If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that the world of public relations (PR) is constantly changing and evolving.
And with change comes opportunity.
It all started in 2020 when the pandemic forced most businesses to shutter their doors and rethink their communication strategies.
Brands that were once reliant on traditional marketing channels like print and television had to “quickly” adapt to a new reality where the digital world reigns supreme.
And so, they turned to public relations.
PR has always been a powerful tool for building relationships and managing reputation.
But in a world where news cycles are measured in minutes and social media can either make or break a brand, its role has become even more critical.
20 PR Trends that Will Affect Your Brand’s Success In 2022
In 2022, we expect to see more brands embracing PR as a key part of their marketing mix. But what does that mean for the future of public relations?
Here are 20 trends that we think will shape the industry in the years ahead:
#1. Data Analytics Will Take Centre Stage
Data analytics has always been a critical part of public relations, but we expect it to become even more central in the years ahead.
As brands increasingly turn to PR to drive business results, they will demand more insights and measurement. That means PR practitioners need to get comfortable with data and learn how to use it to tell compelling stories that demonstrate their impact.
In the not-so-distant past, PR was considered a “soft” science. People didn’t know how to measure its impact, and it was often seen as an intangible activity.
But now that we have sophisticated tools to track everything from media impressions to social media engagement, we can finally prove PR ROI. And as data becomes more critical, we expect to see a rise in demand for data-driven PR professionals who know how to use it to drive results.
Today, brands expect more from their PR teams. The PR industry alone is responsible for $88 billion in annual revenue – and is expected to grow to $129 billion by 2025.
With that kind of growth comes increased pressure to deliver results. And the only way to do that is by using data to tell a compelling story about your impact.
#2. Inclusion and Diversity Reign Supreme
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, inclusion and diversity have become a top priority for many brands.
And rightly so.
Reports show companies are now doubling down on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives, with 79% of organizations saying they plan to increase their DEI budgets in 2022.
This renewed focus on inclusion and diversity will significantly impact the public relations industry. We expect to see an increase in the number of DEI-focused PR agencies.
When employees show up in a workplace, they should feel valued, seen, and heard. The same goes for customers and audiences.
As the world becomes more connected, brands must reflect the diversity of their customer base in their communications. That means more PR practitioners will be working to ensure their clients’ stories are told through an inclusive lens.
#3. Influencer Marketing Gets an Overhaul
In recent years, influencer marketing has been on the rise, but we expect to see a significant shift in its use in 2022.
As influencer marketing has become more mainstream, audiences have become savvier and more sceptical. They can spot an inauthentic post from a mile away, and they’re quick to call out brands trying to capitalize on social movements.
Influencers will crop up in every corner of the internet, from the micro-influencers on TikTok to the mega influencers with millions of followers on Instagram. But we expect brands to be more selective in their partnerships, opting for quality over quantity.
We also expect to see a rise in “nano” and “micro” influencers. These are people with smaller but highly engaged followings seen as more authentic and trustworthy.
As audiences become more discerning, we expect brands to emphasize finding the right influencers to partner with rather than just going after celebrity endorsements.
#4. PR Gets a Makeover
The public relations industry is ripe for change. In the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in activist investors and an increase in regulation. And as scrutiny of Big Tech intensifies, we expect more companies to come under fire for their business practices.
That means PR teams need to be ready to respond to a crisis at a moment’s notice and have a plan in place for when things go wrong.
We also expect to see a continued rise in “purpose-driven” PR. As more and more brands focus on making a positive impact, we expect to see a corresponding increase in purpose-driven communications.
From environmental sustainability to social justice, we expect brands to be more mindful of their impact on the world and be sure to communicate that purpose to their audiences.
#5. Blockchain Enters the Mainstream
In recent years, blockchain has been primarily associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But we expect to see the technology enter the mainstream in a big way in 2022.
We expect to see more businesses using blockchain to track supply chains, verify customer identities, and secure data.
As blockchain becomes more commonplace, we expect PR teams to use it to create more transparent and trustworthy communications.
From smart contracts to digital signatures, we expect blockchain to impact how PR is done significantly.
#6. The “New Normal” Becomes the Norm
2020 was a year of significant changes, and we expect many of those changes to become permanent in 2022.
The pandemic has changed how we live and work, from working from home to online shopping. And as vaccines roll out and life starts to return to some semblance of normalcy, we expect many of these changes to stick around.
That means PR teams need to be prepared for a more virtual, global, and connected world than ever before.
They also need to be ready to adapt their strategies on the fly as the world continues to change at a rapid pace.
#7. Personalised PR Pitch
In a world where everyone is constantly being bombarded with information, brands have no option but to look for ways to stand out from the crowd.
And one way to do that is with personalized PR pitches.
With so much noise out there, PR teams need to find ways to cut through the clutter and reach their audiences more personally.
One way to do that is by tailoring their pitches to their target audience’s specific needs and interests.
By personalizing their pitches, PR teams can increase their chances of getting noticed and ultimately achieving their goals.
#8. Authenticity is Paramount in Post-pandemic PR
The pandemic has changed the way we interact with the world, and it’s also changed the way we see brands.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we expect to see a renewed focus on authenticity in PR.
After being bombarded with marketing messages for the past year, audiences are craving authenticity and transparency from brands.
PR teams need to be prepared to meet that demand by creating honest and authentic communications.
They also need to be ready to address any concerns or questions that audiences may have about their brands.
The need for authenticity is even more critical in two key areas:
First, it’s in using AI technologies to create personalized digital experiences for customers and prospects.
While AI allows you to learn about and serve your customers in ways that no one could have thought of just a few years ago, many would still argue it lacks the human touch.
Therefore, it will be critical for PR teams to find ways to infuse AI-powered experiences with human empathy and warmth.
Second, as we mentioned earlier, the pandemic led to a shift in messaging, content marketing, and branding. Fake news and information overload were rampant, and people started craving authenticity.
As we enter the post-pandemic world, audiences will still look for brands they can trust.
It will be up to PR teams to help their brands build that trust by communicating with the much-needed authenticity.
#9. Re-thinking the News Release
The news release is a staple of public relations, but we expect it to undergo a major transformation in 2022.
As audiences increasingly turn to social media for their news, traditional news outlets are beginning to lose their impact.
That means PR teams need to find new ways to reach their audiences with their messages.
One way to do that is by rethinking their news releases.
We expect to see more PR teams use social media, influencers, and other alternative channels to disseminate their news.
They’ll also need to be more creative with how they package their news and use visuals and storytelling to capture attention.
#10. Integrated Communications is Key
We’re living in a world that is more connected than ever. It’s, therefore, important for PR teams to ensure they have an integrated communications strategy.
With so many channels and platforms to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.
But the most successful PR teams will be those that integrate their communications across all channels.
It will also be those that can create a seamless experience for their audiences, no matter where they are or what device they’re using.
In other words, the best PR teams will be those that can create a cohesive brand experience for their audiences.
#11. Conversational Commerce will be Big
The pandemic has changed the way we shop, and it’s also changed the way we communicate with brands.
With so many people now working from home, there has been a shift towards conversational commerce.
Conversational commerce is the term used to describe the use of chatbots and other messaging platforms to communicate with customers or sell to consumers.
It’s a way for brands to provide customer support and sell products and services using chat platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat.
The pandemic has accelerated the move towards conversational commerce, and it’s something that PR teams need to be prepared for.
They need to be ready to create responsive and engaging messaging, and they also need to be prepared to answer any questions that both their current and prospective customers may have.
In other words, PR teams need to be ready to sell products and services using chatbots and other messaging platforms and, most importantly, do it at scale.
#12. Experiential eCommerce will be Vital
Experiential eCommerce is the term used to describe the use of technology to create immersive and interactive shopping experiences.
It’s a way for brands to use AR, VR, and other technologies to give customers a more realistic and engaging experience.
The pandemic has forced many brands to move their operations online, and experiential eCommerce will be how they differentiate themselves.
It will also be a way for PR teams to create more engaging and interactive content.
So, if you want your brand to be successful in the post-pandemic world, you should be prepared to embrace experiential eCommerce.
#13. The Rise of Interactive Content
Interactive content is any content that requires the audience to take some form of action.
It’s a way to make your content more engaging and interactive, and it’s something that PR teams need to start thinking about.
With so much content consumed daily, brands must find ways to stand out.
And one way to do that is by creating more interactive and engaging content.
Interactive content includes quizzes, polls, surveys, infographics, and calculators.
So, if you want your brand to be successful in the post-pandemic world, you need to figure out how to make your content more interactive.
#14. Intent Monitoring will be Important
Intent monitoring is the process of tracking and understanding your target audiences’ online behaviour.
It’s a way to get an insight into what your audience is thinking and feeling, and it’s something that PR teams need to start doing.
It’s time marketers started focusing on their most prominent marketing goal: finding buyers who are further down the purchase funnel and ready to buy.
The perfect way to do this is by using intent data.
Intent data is the information collected about an individual’s online behaviour that can be used to understand their Intent or what they are looking to do.
It’s a valuable tool for PR teams because it can be used to understand the needs and wants of their target audiences.
It can also be used to create targeted content and campaigns that are more likely to convert.
#15. A Resumption of In-Person Meetings and Business Travel
The pandemic forced the business community to communicate remotely, which led to a decrease in business travel and in-person meetings.
However, as the world reopens, we will likely see most of them hit the road and meet their peers face-to-face as they used to before the pandemic.
This is good news for PR teams as it will allow them to meet with potential clients and partners in the flesh again.
It will also allow them to create more personal and meaningful relationships with the people they do business with.
So, if you want your brand to be successful in the post-pandemic world, you need to be a little outgoing.
You should be prepared to meet with people in person and build relationships.
#16. New VR-based Experiences
With Facebook changing its name to “Meta” and the introduction to Metaverse, there is no doubt that Virtual Reality (VR) is the future.
Many businesses use VR for training, events, and marketing purposes.
This will present new opportunities for PR teams to create immersive and interactive experiences for their clients.
We would anticipate seeing more mixed and hybrid reality experiences in 2022 as businesses start to use AR and VR together to create even more immersive online experiences.
#17. New Collaboration Methods and Teamwork
The workplace moved from a location to a mindset in 2020.
And as we enter a new era of work, we expect to see more changes in the way we work together.
There will be a greater emphasis on collaboration and teamwork as we move away from the traditional 9-5 work model.
The impact this new paradigm shift has on the market is huge, and it’s something that PR teams need to be prepared for.
We expect to see new methods of collaboration, such as remote work, co-working, and freelancing become more popular in the post-pandemic world.
This new way of working will present both challenges and opportunities for PR teams.
They will need to find new ways to work together and build relationships with their clients and partners.
But if they can adapt, then they will be well-positioned to take advantage of this new way of working.
#18. Media Outlets Are Looking for Contributed articles
Newsrooms aren’t what they used to be.
Due to budget cuts, many media outlets have downsized their staff and are now relying on freelance writers to produce content.
This presents an excellent opportunity for PR professionals who have something valuable to say.
If you can write a well-written and informative article, you stand a good chance of getting it published in a mainstream outlet.
And it’s not about producing hashed-out or vague ideas, but rather something that’s well researched and thought out.
For example, instead of talking about how TikTok is about to take over, you can focus on a more specific topic, like how small businesses are using TikTok to reach new audiences.
You need to make sure that your pitch is newsworthy and of interest to the publication’s audience.
#19. PR Pros Will Develop Tighter Relationships with Journalists
These platforms have made it easier for PR pros to find and connect with journalists looking for sources for their stories.
But as we move into a new era of journalism, we expect to see PR professionals develop even tighter relationships with journalists.
That’s because journalists are becoming more reliant on PR pros to provide them with story ideas and sources.
PR professionals are also using digital platforms such as private groups, clubhouses, chatrooms, and Discord servers to connect with trusted publicists and journalists.
As we enter a new era of work, it’s clear that the role of PR will continue to evolve.
PR teams need to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities the post-pandemic world will bring.
#20. Press Release Blasts and Mass Email Pitches Will be Buried Six Feet Under
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the increasing use of chatbots, we expect to see a decline in the use of press release blasts and mass email pitches.
AI makes it easier for PR professionals to target their pitches and connect with journalists who are more likely to be interested in their stories.
Media blasts will be ignored more often as journalists become savvier and more selective about the pitches they receive.
Journalists want exclusivity, personalization, and relevance in the pitches they receive.
PR teams that can provide this will be ahead of the game.
We also expect to see a decrease in black hat techniques, such as astroturfing and fake news.