2021 in PR.
A summary of the most important events and market trends.
What year was 2021 like for the PR industry?
The last 12 months have raised PR to a new level of importance, giving the industry as a whole a lot of new opportunities for growth. Those who took advantage of these opportunities by offering their clients better strategies and a good understanding of what was going on, and were able to translate this onto their business were likely to have gained a lot during this time. The second year of the pandemic has shown that PR agencies can bring valuable insight and help solve corporate problems. Corporate reputation hasn’t been this valuable in a long time. After all, it is what the trust of employees, business partners, and the market depends on.
What were some of the most significant events for PR in 2021?
We’re seeing a clear change in people’s approach to the media, as well as in the proportion between paid vs. earned media. Media planning and publishing have become essential elements of almost every tender. The ability to create multi-channel campaigns that use various tools and fields to reach consumers with valuable content is the foundation of any PR activity. This is becoming visible in changing agency structures, where digital teams are consistently being expanded. In my agency, our CREATIVE team consists of specialists in such fields as social media, influencers, digital content creation, media planning and purchasing, performance marketing, as well as in designing such content as websites, newsletters, podcasts, animations, photo sessions and videos. Importantly, these skills are used by both the PR and PA teams.
Clients are also beginning to understand that PR is there to get consumers engaged with their brands through great content, as the Internet is now at the centre of our life experience. That is why firms are turning to PR agencies with briefs that are focused on creating relationships with their brands. In this industry, you succeed by taking on an agile and multidisciplinary approach as the market needs agencies that are able to react quickly and think outside the box.
In my opinion, 2021 was dominated by ESG and the topic of sustainable development in all shapes and forms. And let me tell you, there was a lot of confusion among our customers; some intensified their efforts in these areas, while others looked for a quick fix that would help them make up for lost time. There are plenty of valuable briefs on sustainability and this trend will only strengthen with time. I anticipate that ESG reporting will become a powerful new revenue stream for PR agencies within the next five years!
What events (domestic and international) have had the greatest impact on PR? What challenges did people in the industry encounter along the way?
Mark Zuckerberg has a monopoly on the content that 3 billion people see, warned whistle-blower Frances Haugen. This shook the industry (so much in fact that Facebook came up with an escape plan and changed its name to META). Over the past year, social media have come under intense fire due to their lack of oversight by regulators, their massive influence on political choices and consumer decisions, and – above all – for antagonizing people.
Marketers have also began speaking out about such issues as insufficient access to data, and have even started questioning the effectiveness of their advertising on SOME platforms. Brands such as LUST and Balenciaga deleted their profiles, offering their customers alternative forms of interaction through their own digital spaces (including movies, podcasts, newsletters).
The HBO production Fake Famous undermined the credibility of influencers, unveiling an artificial world bent on turning a quick profit. In Poland, we’re seeing the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) act and screen the content posted on SOME by Polish influencers, suspecting that ads and other paid content are not labelled as such, which in turn misleads their followers. Moreover, people are also pointing out that SOME promote unrealistic standards and have a severe impact on people’s mental health (which, overall, is in an extremely fragile state given the second year of the pandemic).
People in PR faced many difficult choices in 2021. The year brought about more thoughtful actions and the precise micro-targeting of campaigns. For some, TikTok is a cool platform, while for others it’s a sign of a lack of responsibility and a disregard for privacy rights. The past 12 months have brought an end to our misguided enthusiasm for social media.
FORECASTS FOR 2022
What PR trends will we come to see in 2022?
At the very end of 2021, the USA’s former First Lady launched a digital platform for NFTs where they can be bought with SOLs. Ms. Trump’s venture shows that the world of virtual commodities is getting hotter. This seems like a blatantly obvious statement after the success of such projects as Ape Yacht Club NFT, which saw digital images of bored monkeys sell for big money (the value here isn’t in the image itself, but in the bragging rights that go with it). And there’s plenty more examples just like this, leading to the simple conclusion that we should expect to see creatively used tokens and NFTs in PR campaigns in 2022. However, this is a short fad that isn’t likely to turn into a lasting trend i.e. this explosive and sudden fascination will burn out in no time and fizzle off into non-existence, just as so many other fads before it. However, having said that, I predict an avalanche of NFT-based ideas next year. I just hope they’re in better taste than the 3D scan of pop star Doda’s body (also available for purchase as an NFT).
On the other hand, a meta trend that will stay with us for a long time will be sustainability. Next year, we will observe many new initiatives on diversity management and building inclusive environments. One can never be to fair This change may bring on more verifiable approaches to companies’ loud declarations – from the ESG reporting I mentioned earlier to audits carried out as part of B-Corp certification (which has become a goal for an increasing number of Polish companies).
What challenges will PR face next year?
We will inevitably have to verify our approach to social media and analyse to what extent specific platforms are the best channel to reach consumers. “Medium is a message” – in this case, it is a message about the moral attitude of brands and where they lie on the worldview spectrum. I do not predict drastic changes here, but rather this topic being a brief talking point on corporate agendas.
Also, traditional media are weakening, and this change is bringing about new challenges for specialists in our industry. I believe that strong editorial offices and their difficult questions foster the development of PR agencies. Only then do clients invest in our field of work, which is media relations, and pay for a consultant’s seniority. But will the world move on in this direction? I doubt it, considering how well media projects outside of the mainstream have been flourishing in recent years. Increasingly often, entities that rely on grants or Patronite donations seem to offer access to high-quality journalism.