Between an onslaught of new coronavirus variants, the beginning of the “Great Resignation” and seemingly endless supply chain delays and concerns, 2021 was undoubtedly a dynamic year. These larger issues predictably had an impact on public relations professionals, who were also affected by the ongoing cycle of editor moves and outlet shifts like closures and paywalls, the rise in new social media platforms, an increase in accessible data of all kinds and of course, the continual expansion of the traditional scope of a PR professional.
As we continue to reflect on 2021 moving into the first half of 2022, we’re looking at how these trends, as well as new ones, will impact the industry. Here are a few trends that we can expect to see impact our field this year.
Integrated Marketing As the Norm
The lines between paid, owned and earned media are blurring, and 2022 will see an increased convergence between public relations and other marketing disciplines, like social media, influencer marketing, digital advertising and SEO, particularly as job responsibilities are absorbed internally amidst the “Great Resignation.” Public relations professionals will need to craft integrated campaigns that extend beyond a traditional press hit and instead engage all roles in a marketing department to amplify brand awareness and audience engagement with a cohesive and thoughtful message.
Addressing Racial & Cultural Inequities
The public relations industry can’t ignore systemic inequities that continue to persist. Whether it’s being mindful of a reporter’s sociocultural background when delivering a press release or ensuring your company or client has a transparent, authentic and socially conscious stance on ongoing issues, addressing inequities has to be top of mind. Beyond that, we’ll begin to see employers tackling issues that have created a homogenous industry, beginning with more clarity on promotions, pay gaps and accountability, as well as proactive measures to boost diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the industry at large.
Doubling Down on Data
While public relations can be seen as a words game, it’s becoming more and more a numbers game too. With more analytics software and platforms available, as well as access to consumer surveys and real-time sentiment, PR professionals need to review both their plans and successes with a close and thoughtful eye. Data can provide a deeper understanding of your audience, as well as what tactics may be working and not working – and why, ultimately informing smarter campaigns and smarter work.
Hybrid Is Here to Stay
While 2020 brought the word “virtual” to the forefront, 2021 put key virtual events on the backburner with a return to in-person events and activations. 2022 will be the year that these two trends merge. With continued uncertainty around coronavirus and other societal issues, it’s increasingly important for companies and clients to offer hybrid options to facilitate all comfort levels and ensure critical information is reaching the right audience at the right time. This year, we anticipate major events nationally and locally to offer safe in-person options, in tandem with virtual options and virtual follow-up.
The Growth of Affiliate Marketing
As media outlets seek alternative ways to drive revenue outside of traditional advertising, they’re continuing to turn to affiliate marketing programs to bolster their bottom line. Over the last two years, publicists in the consumer products and hospitality industries saw an increase in affiliate marketing requirements, and the trend will only become more omnipresent in 2022. If consumer goods and hospitality brands are seeking earned media coverage in consumer-facing media outlets, it will be increasingly important to implement an affiliate marketing program so outlets can create shoppable and monetized content.
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