Ah yes, 2020 – the year that started with so much promise. Let’s cast aside the obvious rant on this year’s main event of COVID-19 putting a damper on some of our best PR plans. What did happen, however, was a digital transformation shift paired with a shrinking newsroom that will leave us wondering what we can expect in the new year for 2021 PR and digital marketing trends.
The newfound importance of technology and immediate communications picked up a ton of demand and showed us that several trends will likely be with us for years to come.
PR and Marketing Got Engaged in 2020 with Plans to Get Married in 2021
For far too many years PR and marketing departments operated as separate silos with campaigns often running counter to messaging from either department. It’s nice to see those days could be potentially behind us as roles take on more of a digital marketing and integrated communications approach to help tackle broader business goals. A large chunk of our client work now involves various content marketing campaigns paired with public relations and earned media opportunities. Marketing managers often are involved in public relations decision-making with an eye for communicating to the C-Suite on larger business objectives for companies. This will likely continue as a part of 2021 PR and digital marketing trends and will play a large role in positioning integrated communications to have a larger seat at the table going forward.
The bottom line here is the sum of these functions clearly has more firepower than two functions operating independently while interpreting business goals differently. It may have taken a pandemic to get us on the right track, but marketing communications likely will continue to become more of an integrated communications approach. An early peek at job titles such as Director of Content Marketing and PR becoming more popular is the save the date for the impending nuptials we envision.
Earned Media Just Got a Heck of a Lot More Competitive – so Time to “Pivot”
Relationships still matter when it comes to media relations, but the reality is that newsrooms continue to shrink and journalists have become harder and harder to reach. Combine this fact with a limited schedule to interview sources, and the realization is that media will be creating more content on their own and leveraging sources they already know well.
Remember the days of media tours and desk side briefings? They will come back to some degree, but they will never be the PR source/idea machine of days past. Newsrooms are now similar to PR/digital agencies – small central office (perhaps) with team scattered all over the country working in different time zones on different schedules.
The pivot for communications professionals will be leveraging new content that can be easily sourced by journalists without taking up time to procure interviews, note taking and ultimately various editor reviews. A New York Times reporter confirmed the new ways that journalists are gathering information. This shift creates more opportunity for companies to position themselves for broader exposure with owned media – webinars, whitepapers, bylined articles, corporate blogs now have not only the eyeballs of potential customers, but of media and analysts as well.
Digital Transformation is Staying
This year many of us saw shrinking and reallocation of budgets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, placing in-person events on ice. Any communications team was introduced to a variety of emerging digital tools that will reach customers where they are now spending more time than ever – online.
While we expect traditional conferences to perhaps come back by the second half of 2021, virtual events showed us enough that they will have a continued impact into 2021. Digital spending for budgets on tactics such as podcasting and content marketing will continue to shift. We’re working with clients on various digital campaigns that include podcasts, webinars and social media campaigns to target online audiences that are increasingly tethered to mobile devices. An integrated communications approach is a must going forward.
Many of these shifts were long in place and were sped up by the pandemic. The good news is that many of these trends to modernize PR have made things easier for marketing communications professionals and agencies alike. We’re armed with more technology, cost-effective tools and efficiency that should position company PR and marketing plans well for 2021 and beyond.