In an accelerated digital age, consumers are given the freedom and tools to share their opinions widely and easily. Add on the global agendas to combat climate change, challenging social and political issues, plus a pandemic — we can agree that we’re riding a huge wave of change. As communicators, it’s never been more important to be deeply entrenched in our clients’ brands and extend our positions from being the connector between the media and our clients, to being fierce brand guardians with strong commercial acumen.
Market prediction and being industry experts are crucial for public relations practitioners to become proactive drivers of change. In this article, we unpack big changes that have been shaking up the industry and present the top 5 trends that PR professionals need to adapt to to remain relevant and competitive.
Sharp, measurable results beyond ‘PR value’
A decades-old point of contention in the PR industry has been how PR success is measured. Through the years, agencies have worked out various mathematical formulas to place a commercial value on earned media, often defined as ‘PR value’. But as the world becomes more sophisticated, how do smaller businesses — who may not necessarily invest in proprietary technology — measure consumer sentiment and outcome? This is where, we believe, developing tailored deliverables that are tied to commercial success is key. Whether a campaign drives an increase in room nights over the same period, or driving page visits from a specific piece of content, PR teams need to put on their mettle and demonstrate the power of great storytelling.
Well-researched, socially-aware campaigns
In this era, consumers are not simply demanding quality products but are actively sourcing purchases that align with their personal values and commitments. With more people putting conscious consumption into practice, highlighting your clients’ ethos and commitment to social responsibility will play a big role in reaching your target audience. As consumers are constantly being exposed to advertisements and products pitching for their attention, providing meaningful creative content will ensure better reception. Finding platforms and social media channels that will give brand leaders an opportunity to voice their views can allow consumers to connect with the brand on a greater level by understanding the heart and mind behind it.
Selecting relevant and socially responsible KOLs
How long has it been since a Kardashian-endorsed product generated sky high sales? Besides, a celebrity level budget being out of reach for many brands, finding KOLs that demonstrate authenticity is becoming a rarity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as when brands do manage to find the right one(s) to collaborate with, it could go a long way in generating brand love. PR agencies should be aware of potential KOLs on multiple levels – micro, macro, and nano – as well as what this means in multiple markets and social media platforms, as well as the average engagement levels of influencers. Be an avid user of social media, so that you can keep an eye out for upcoming talent which could allow you to foster important relationships early on.
Rethinking events and consumer activations
In most countries, the road to opening up after the pandemic has been slow which means the possibility of holding large scale consumer activations or events in the near future are slim. While this has definitely thrown a cog into the usual running of public relations, it has also been an opportunity for agencies to get creative and even increase their reach and effectiveness in these unprecedented times. Because of this, online and hybrid activities have become more commonplace. And while we’re all eager to see life go back to normal, it is entirely possible that many of these new changes are here to stay even after the pandemic. Therefore, PR agencies should not view this time as a temporary waiting period before returning to traditional consumer activations and events is possible. Rather, effectively experimenting with new strategies and identifying which ones will remain relevant post-COVID will set PR agencies on track to adapt to the long term changes we will see in consumers and their behaviours.
Debunking the traditional definition of PR and deep diving into digital
In an age of algorithms and data-driven marketing, a key question to ask is where PR fits in the consumer journey given these new adaptations. Consistently serving to help clients build relationships and highlight noteworthy aspects of their brand, we believe the PR role remains of high value and acts as the strongest brand guardian in a time of constant change. As PR agencies and in-house teams work more cross-functionally than ever, it provides an opportunity to connect multiple marketing functions to drive better search, earned, and shared results and build a great reputation. In fact, a data-saturated world benefits PR teams tremendously if they are able to capitalise upon it by generating relevant and meaningful content which will translate to better content that drives conversion.
As we have experienced first-hand, the ‘new normal’ is marked by unprecedented uncertainty. For PR professionals in the travel industry, this means that storytelling in a post-pandemic world will have to grapple with unpredictability and the upheaval of emotions in society. Consumers will be drawn to stories that address this new normal, yet also point to a more hopeful future, stressing how they can be a part of it. This is a great time for brands to assert themselves, refocusing on what matters most.
The V&VPR team share our top tips on how brands can navigate these challenging times:
Determine what readers and journalists want
Aside from putting out amazing products and packages, there is a new expectation placed on brands to be more in tune with current trends and social issues. This is especially important to ensure your brand is always adapting, as the media landscape is ever-changing and must be consistently monitored. When the pandemic started to pick up pace around the world, scheduled stories on travel trends for 2020 immediately went out the window. Instead, brands had to look ahead and anticipate new trends that would arise in the new normal as a result of COVID-19, including a rising demand for personal wellbeing and social responsibility.
Appeal to and connect with a more eco-conscious and culture-conscious audience
What matters to you? The Earth is in need of love now more than ever. Sustainability is not just a choice, but a moral imperative, and consumers have begun to realise this. The same goes with culture-conscious choices, like the need for racial representation and gender equality. The most effective stories arise when the beliefs and motivations of your brand resonate with the desires and lifestyle of your consumers. This does not mean that brands have to hop on the bandwagon for every trend, but highlights the importance of maintaining your brand identity through combining it with the news around the world that matter to your target audience.
Highlight how your brand ties into the consumer’s journey
Cookie-cutter experiences will be less desirable, and meaningful content and experiences will hold more impact in the new normal, especially as consumers become more mindful of the privilege it is to buy or travel. What are your brand values, and how can you set up touch points for consumers to interact with your brand so that they know exactly who you are and what you stand for?
Think outside the box
What are you able to offer that stands out from the crowd? Do your research, gather your team, and think of something different. A great way to come up with new ideas is through the free association technique where random ideas are thrown out in an attempt to force connection between your current questions or challenge –– this usually results in ideas far separate from the mainstream.
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