The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies and industries globally, leaving virtually none untouched. Through it all public relations professionals have stood guard like a loyal soldier. We’ve been a tower of strength, and we’ve fought to keep our clients top of mind through the unpredictable curves and turns.
PR pros have come to the rescue with crisis management strategies, communicating lockdowns, creating new campaigns to amplify messages about health and safety, mental health care, educational shifts to virtual classes, and ongoing changes that continue to keep us on our toes. We have managed conversations about businesses transitioning to e-commerce and the uptick in online shopping and curbside pickups. So too have PR pros led efforts in corporate social responsibility, pinpointing areas where businesses and nonprofits can give back to their communities and help the less fortunate to keep food on their tables and take care of the essentials.
We’ve been there through the tough moments and the unifying ones, urging leaders on, supporting our clients through a maze of hurdles, and getting them publicity across a host of media outlets. As the 2021 progresses, there are several PR trends that are popping up on the radar that organisations should take into consideration if they are to make meaningful conversations and stay ahead of the game. Here are some of the key ones to keep an eye on:
We’re online a whole lot these days. From virtual classes, to Zoom meetings and webinars, we are having more screen time than ever before. To capture your audience’s attention, you will have to dig deeper to create innovative content and to incorporate brand storytelling to connect to the heart of their ideal clients. Think of the pictures, videos and the words you use. It’s important now more than ever to show up in a memorable way. Innovative content is relevant and necessary for owned media channels like websites, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. When you produce thoughtful content, it makes you stand out. Which social media channels do your audience use? Do they love videos? Are they crazy about Tiktok? How about LinkedIn for B2B connections? Or the latest craze, Clubhouse? Wherever they are, using thoughtful, creative content is the way to get and maintain their attention. Let’s not forget innovative content to get the attention of traditional media houses. When you land publicity via blogs, newspapers, or online outlets it operates much like SEO for your brand. You extend the life of your stories, you get social proof and third party endorsements that overtime can yield great benefits for your brand or business.
#RepresentationMatters – Focus on Diversity & Inclusion
Through all the changes since the pandemic, one of the main conversations that continues to evolve is the importance of diversity & inclusion. A McKinsey’s Report, Diversity Matters which predates the outbreak of the global pandemic, stated that companies should pay much greater attention to inclusion, even when they are relatively diverse. Since the global protests and increasing conversations around Black Lives Matter, more businesses globally are giving a nod to the inclusion of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) audiences. Business leaders have had to acknowledge that the archaic and stereotypical messages and approach to multiculturalism are now out the window. There has been a paradigm shift since the protests and ensuing conversations, and now, the pressure is mounting for them to be mission-consistent, and to stand the accountability litmus test. Major iconic brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s have been renamed because of their connections to racial stereotypes, organisations have revisited how they embrace diversity & inclusion, and many are actively taking steps to integrate multiculturalism in the workplace and to find out how to better engage multicultural audiences through messages and campaigns. In October, CBC news announced that Canada plans to bring in more than 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years to fill gaps in its labour market and boost the economy, both hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. That in itself is a reminder that the shifts will continue in this space and they should not be ignored. As businesses battle the debilitating effects of COVID-19, tapping into this diversity & inclusion conversation will go a long way, and PR pros will play a huge role in ensuring that it is done right.
Personalised & Hybrid Events
Live events have been halted across the globe but that hasn’t stopped brands, businesses and individuals globally from reaching their audiences in the virtual space. If you’re a big music fan, a highlight of 2020 was the impact of Versuz TV, an American webcast series created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. The producers reeled in over 5.6 million followers since they launched in April last year, hosting epic music battles with some of the top musical acts and thrilling fans globally through live clashes that brought nostalgia, sheer joy, and a sense of camaraderie. Businesses, too, have taken the reins to engage audiences via online channels, whether by hosting webinars, live chats, or events to complement their integration of e-commerce. That said, there should be no mistaking the fact that people still crave human connection, the opportunity to connect in an authentic space, and to share in experiences that leave them fulfilled and yearning for more. Hybrid and personalised events can fill this gap. By creating engaging and immersive experiences that will leave a lasting impression on current and prospective clients, you set the stage for a solid long-term relationship.
Integrating the ‘PESO’ Model
Media houses have downsized significantly since the pandemic, advertising and marketing budgets have been slashed, funds have been redirected to the most critical aspects of businesses, and to add to that, there continues to be significant changes in the social media algorithms that make it a never-ending maze to get your messages to your target audience. So the question is, how do you navigate this while making sure that you’re communicating effectively? The solution is to create integrated campaigns that incorporate Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned (PESO) media. Each channel has its unique advantages, and compliments the others in creating a seamless campaign that reaches all the major touchpoints for your audience.
As COVID-19 continues to stir ongoing shifts, it inevitably affects organisations across several industries. Communication strategies will have to be adjusted to amplify the messages about the changes, and PR professionals stand ready to take on this challenge as they did at the start of the pandemic. By creating innovative content, honouring diversity and inclusion, incorporating personalised, hybrid events and integrating the PESO model, you’ll be on your way to rocking the year!
Kimesha is the CEO of Oasis Integrated Communications, a PR firm with operations in Canada and Jamaica, and a focus on helping businesses to find their paradise. She’s a seasoned PR professional with a passion for crafting meaningful stories that connect with people. An eternal optimist who thrives on perfecting solutions that marry creative brand experience with consumer engagement, she believes in tapping into the core values of a company and tailoring strategies that share their narrative and find affinity. Her experience spans public relations, corporate communications, marketing, social media and advertising across a range of industries. She has executed projects in Toronto, New York, and Jamaica where she has deftly managed some of the foremost brands across North America and the Caribbean.
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