Coming off one of the most disruptive years in history, PR pros are returning after a holiday break to workplaces that have been forever changed. From the on-again-off-again nature of the COVID-19 recovery to the unrelenting advancements in technology, many new themes will emerge in the worlds of B2B and B2C marketing, alike.
Here are five to consider as we turn the page on 2021 and say “hello” to 2022:
1. Digital nomads. With the spread of vaccines, the loosening of restrictions and a general eagerness to get back to something resembling “normal,” 2022 will likely be the closest we get to the vaunted “before times,” when most of the world was blissfully unaware of what living through a pandemic was like.
Still, while some aspects of life will largely return to normal, COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on everyday business, including where and how we work. Top companies such as Microsoft, Google, PwC, Facebook and many others have all embraced a permanent remote work policy, opening the door for employees to live anywhere in the world without disrupting their daily routine. The “digital nomad,” once little more than a thought experiment for bleeding edge firms, now seems poised to become the new normal.
While there are many things to be said for meeting in person, shaking hands and sharing meals, most aspects of daily PR work can be—and already are, in many cases—handled remotely. The gig economy has also risen to further prominence within the industry, providing an ideal outlet for service-related minutiae among firms and hastening digitization all the while.
Moving into 2022, PR agencies that embrace digital nomads when hiring will see their candidate pools explode. When location is removed as a requirement, agencies will be free to hire the best and brightest, prioritizing talent above all else. This approach isn’t suited for every job—incorporating digital nomads will require careful assessment of what positions will be best suited to remote work—but agencies that make thoughtful use of digital nomads when staffing up next year will be positioned to see capabilities reach new heights.
2. Artificial intelligence in PR. Jobs are becoming even more reliant on artificial intelligence to conduct business, and PR is no exception. AI has affected the PR profession in many ways with tech that can now automate repetitive PR tasks (such as media monitoring), improve accuracy when drafting communications deliverables (with software such as Grammarly and HelloScribe), and help better assess sentiment among a brand’s target audiences. Although many PR professionals are not as versed in how AI is already changing the game, many more will see how AI is improving how we deliver results for clients daily in 2022 as these software solutions become more advanced and become more widely adopted by communications practitioners.
Another application of AI in PR is how it will continue to shape and improve the metaverse, and how PR teams will leverage these new, virtual worlds when ideating new strategies for the brands they represent. As the metaverse starts to become more mainstream, we will see brands use the metaverse for special virtual experiences to reach their most tech savvy customers.
Think virtual conferences where guests log on to the metaverse and attend events in the form of their avatars for life-like meet-and-greets, trade shows, concerts and private shopping events. Brands are already buying land in 3D virtual reality worlds, such as Decentraland, and are constructing buildings and plazas where customers can shop and experience their brand in new ways. With this new evolution of the internet will come new channels for brands to connect with their audiences, and we will see this space grow as AI tech advances to affect how we experience the metaverse and more companies get on board.
3. Keeping it simple. With the world growing more complicated by the day, it’s easy to lose the people that brands are trying to reach. Attention spans and anxiety levels are being stretched, but the most basic and effective form of communication is also the most overlooked. That’s why one of the most important trends in PR for 2022 will be to simplify a brand message.
As more people consume news in a personalized way through digital online media, it is more important than ever to have a quick and concise message to explain what your company does and why it is beneficial to your target customer. This simplified brand message will then be more easily shared across all the marketing programs, from PR, to social to content, to digital ads.
Often brands become long-winded about the value-add language—the wrong approach. PR agencies can and must help shorten the story and simplify what it is they do and why it matters.
4. Live events. The return of live events has been a long time coming. This past year was marked by fits and starts in this area with many professional organizations opting for virtual—or even hybrid—approaches to their gatherings to protect everyone from COVID-19.
As we turn the page on the calendar, the pandemic seems to be under enough control between the vaccines, boosters and rapid testing programs that not only is there light at the end of the COVID tunnel – but we seem to be approaching it rather quickly.
In-person business events—long a standard in the arsenal for marketing companies—are one of the top trends that’s poised to return in a big way.
From trade shows and industry conventions to award ceremonies and networking functions, there are many types of live events that marketers can use to get the word out about their clients and forge partnerships. Sponsorships and in-venue display promotions are other tools that can be tapped to reach a captive audience.
Kicking off the year is the returning champion of trade shows, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Jan. 5-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Expect a flurry of opportunities to follow and continue through the year as businesses readapt to travel and recall the value of personal relationships.
5. PR with a purpose. In 2020, many brands were put under a magnifying glass for outdated policies, a lack of diversity and inclusion programs, and non-existent stances or involvement on national social issues. In 2021, companies updated their policies, revamped their DE&I programs, took largely public stances on social injustices and promised to do better. In 2022, brands will largely emphasize their mission-based efforts across their PR messaging.
From a branding perspective, companies will need to show accountability and prove they are acting on the changes they promised to make in 2021. PR efforts will be largely focused from a corporate standpoint on consistent philanthropic involvement and staying socially aware and involved. Conscious consumers will be listening to legacy brands to see if they are “walking the talk” and following through on “do-better” initiatives.
Andrew King is Director of Public Relations for Bastion Elevate, a full-service marketing agency based in Costa Mesa, California.