Each December, Muck Rack asks a panel of expert PR professionals to make predictions for the coming year. After a tumultuous 2020, the challenges continued into 2021.
“One of the biggest challenges as a PR professional was getting to a point where I have accepted the organized chaos in the world and how that showed up for my clients and the media coverage, we were garnering for them”– Yvette N. Harris, founder and CEO of Harris Public Relations.
When it comes to predictions for 2022, a few trends emerged after chatting with our panel of experts: values-based communication, a focus on driving real change when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the growth of the public relations industry are all topics on the minds of PR pros as we enter the new year.
As we’ve all learnt over the past two years, change is the only constant, and the 10 PR pros surveyed are excited and optimistic about what 2022 may hold for the industry.
10 industry pros weigh in on 2022 PR predictions
Muck Rack checked in with 10 PR professionals to hear their predictions for the public relations industry as we head into 2022.
Fatou B. Barry, Founder, PR Girl Manifesto
Inclusivity is going to be a non-negotiable for PR professionals and the brands they represent in 2022.
As consumers continue to lean into requiring brands to take a stand on social issues, PR professionals are going to have to be well versed in the language of DEI and be able to reflect that in campaigns, press releases, messaging and related assets.
We’ve seen data from multiple reports that illuminate consumers’ spending habits are focused on companies that align with their values, which will put pressure on PR professionals to effectively prepare their clients to be socially aware.
Inclusivity is going to be crucial for the success of PR companies and I predict there will be an even greater need to ensure there is diversity in communication efforts and that PR content is culturally relevant.
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Rick Chen, Director and Head of Public Relations, Blind
Expect brands to spend more on public relations and hiring communications professionals.
It has become more challenging to analyze and track the efficacy of paid marketing, as some tech giants implemented new privacy-focused features. Some brands may not be willing to continue investing large sums if they cannot rely on the available data and may shift those resources to public relations instead.
Communications professionals, long accustomed to personalizing messaging and targeting distinct audiences as their bread-and-butter approach, will stand out in the new environment.
Yvette N. Harris, Founder + CEO, Harris Public Relations
I believe the PR industry will step up and tackle racial inequality, diversity and inclusion head on with tactics that will bring about real change. No longer will the PR industry be able to create diversity initiatives and events without the presence of a Black person and not be called out about it.
I also see more emphasis and commitment within media to telling positive stories about Black people, not just as an insert or a box to check-off during Black History Month. Historically these stories have either been non-existent in mainstream media or misrepresented. I believe news stations will hire more Black people who can help make sure that there is fairer and balanced coverage related to the Black community at large.
A few predictions:
- Less emphasis will be placed on DEI being “good business” and there will be more focus on specific programs and ways to keep diverse professionals within the employee ranks of their agencies and companies. As an industry, we are doing “okay” but not great in the D&I space. We have to continue to keep our foot on the proverbial gas and pivot to providing specific, actionable tactics that can be undertaken and measured to enhance greater diverse talent engagement and retention. As a result, this will be seen through more emphasis on programs that build a sense of “belonging” by diverse professionals. No more “talking the talk.” Great companies will “walk the walk.”
- Greater influence will be experienced by communications and PR pros with C-suite leaders. The CEOs get it. They understand how our profession moves the needle on people, products and services. And this recognition will accelerate the advancement of CCOs taking a stronger role in the overall strategic direction and messaging for their companies.
- Trust will continue to erode, placing even more emphasis on communications professionals for more effective stakeholder engagement; CEOs recognize they can’t do this through more TV and radio advertising. “Who do you trust?” will be of even more importance to consumers as they choose the outlets where they get their news and information as well as the buying decisions they make— from TVs to their children’s education. This factor will drive even more the appreciation by CEOs of not only their corporation’s reputations, but their own reputations. And therefore, they will look to CCOs to find authentic ways to “break-through” the noise clutter in order to more effectively communicate their values and purpose in the marketplace.
- Employee communications will grow in emphasis and focus. Corporate culture, “woke at work-ism” and the myriad issues which we saw with employees in the wake of the George Floyd murder will inspire employees even more to voice their positions and the directions they wish their organizations to take on issues from climate change, to education, to politics. The internal comms functions have to be ready to purposefully drive effective engagement within their organizations.
Gini Dietrich, Founder and CEO, Spin Sucks
As we head into 2022, communicators need to be focused on values-based marketing and messaging. We began to see this last year with the mother of all crises (pandemic, economic, climate and social justice) and as business leaders began to understand they need to run their operations differently.
Then, with the Great Resignation this year, business leaders enhanced that understanding with the knowledge that, to keep employees engaged, they have to lead with values. This will continue into 2022 and we are best poised to help organizations turn this ship in the right direction—and do so in an effective way.
Jarryd Boyd (he/him), Senior PR Manager at Hinge
Newsrooms continue shrinking, and there is even less space for companies’ announcements in traditional media. However, there is an increase in channels (TV, website, daily newsletter, social, etc.) where news is shared throughout the week.
2022 will push PR professionals to dig deeper when identifying their organization’s most compelling stories and to also be clear on the most impactful places to secure coverage. Additionally, patience—and various assets—will be key to running the race.
An influential Substack newsletter might be the best fit for a company’s product news. Sharing a new executive’s career journey and team vision might be more engaging on a podcast. Your latest research findings might be prime for one exclusive TV segment or a trend piece on Snapchat Discover. We have to constantly be open to what the final story looks like.
Michelle Garrett, PR Consultant and Writer, Garrett Public Relations
My prediction is that skilled public relations pros will continue to be in high demand. Why?
Building – and maintaining – trust is something that PR practitioners have always been charged with. However, we see trust declining in institutions across the board (look at the Edelman Annual Trust Barometer, for example). So, we as public relations professionals need to help ensure the organizations we work with are transparent and truthful with their audiences.
Kevin Wong, Vice President of Communications, The Trevor Project
For almost two years it has been the norm for communications pros to build their strategies in noisy, oversaturated news cycles. We’re used to it by now, but breaking through has been tough.
Brands are increasingly taking advantage of their owned channels to announce news, like a longform LinkedIn post or CEO’s personal Twitter, because it allows them to address audiences directly. I expect this trend to grow in 2022; you can move nimbly and at your own pace, and it’s a great opportunity to provide clarity and nail messaging to a built-in audience.
Hope Arcuri, Senior Communications Officer, International Rescue Committee
2022 is going to be quite an experimental year. It’s really the first year since 2019 that we’re trying to fully re-enter a lot of spaces that were closed or heavily restricted, workplaces of course, but also in our personal lives like concerts, weddings, etc.
I’m predicting a lot of experimental content as a result—experimental PR campaigns, experimental pitches, make-or-break new trends. It’s a year where PR professions and the media industry will unveil something edgy to an audience and see if it sticks.
Michael Smart, CEO, MichaelSMARTPR
Continued contraction of legacy media will create two great opportunities for savvy media relations pros:
- Large brands’ content marketing will continue to expand to fill the void—especially in B2B but also in consumer—and PR pros will begin landing successful placements with the editorial directors at these operations. Exhibit A: Salesforce+
- Existing journalists, stretched further by consolidation and ever-increasing demands for more content, will lean more on a small cadre of trusted publicists not just for story ideas and news, but trends, SMEs and real people. As a result, these pros will earn more than their share of coverage and see more of their messaging show up in that coverage.
SOURCE: Kristen Dunleavy | Muck Rack