Seeking learnings from the very tough year of 2020, the PR industry was seen to bring in a renewed focus for itself in the year 2021 and this holds true both at the agency and corporate communications levels.
Thanks to the exceptional talent and perseverance, new-age businesses to traditional corporates, hired communications specialist agencies, Head of PR/Comms as well as expanded teams and budgets, proving the fact that communications was slowly yet subtly turning as a powerful enabler for India Inc.
As the world dabbles between hybrid worklife, lockdowns, and restrictions, here’s our prediction on what can be expected from the PR industry in redefining itself.
Narratives to take centre stage as a differentiator.
With all things ‘digital’ across businesses and consumers, PR /comms industry will be seen to primarily own narratives which will become the heart of every campaign and will also be a key differentiator. Call it the maturity of the sector or the wave of content marketing that has happened in view of the post pandemic way of marketing mix, the game of PR will be more about the ‘storytelling’ with a mix of digital/PR/traditional mediums PRs will be seen to hold the storyboard and strategize the overall campaign based on that.
One might debate that this was always the case but the shift seen will be essentially positioning of being ‘specialist’ or communications consultants driving an entire campaign narrative rather than a media advisor.
‘Less is more’ will take precedence.
With content strategy taking charge, the industry will bring two immediate shifts:
Internally, agencies and comms teams will need more investments in upskilling, training and mentoring talent on the new skillsets of content/digital will be needed as there will be a proposition of brands wanting a 360-degree qualitative digital overview.
Externally, editorial engagement with journalist will be more for qualitative stories. Campaigns will have a strategic approach and work on the concept of ‘less is more’ on the press activities rather than volume driven outreach. While a few consumer centric brands might take traditional route, the PR industry will start advocating the quality vs quantity concept.
Riding on the marketing communications approach.
A renewed digital focus on marketing has led to the evolution of PR introducing earned and owned mediums in campaigns with the sole intension of bringing greater focus on the brand reputation rather than being skewed into an ‘earned’ channel.
This is further supported with the changing face of media now offering curated and customized media-based events that helps in thought leadership positioning of a brand whilst riding on the topicality.
Intelligence-based strategy backed by Tech adoption across the value chain will be seen.
According to the latest ICCO PR report technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Analytics etc. will influence the PR functions. AI (53%) and Data Science (40%) will be more relevant to the world of PR in the years to come. PR consultancies will leverage social media to improve their client services, build online communities and employee engagement. Many PR companies are expecting to invest in social media management (45%) and multimedia content creation (32%).
Ethical or Value driven campaigns will matter the most in the PR world.
The biggest lesson learned by businesses and communicators in times of severe crisis was that nothing can and will be greater than the core values of authenticity, empathy, diversity, and inclusion as well as human-centricity both in approach and actions.
The corporate India will continue to inculcate a culture of value driven strategies ultimately creating enough reasons for the PR industry to focus, promote and advocate these messages across their stakeholder ecosystem.
Environment/ESG and Sustainability will be a key priority.
ESG came into limelight and was more of an awakening in 2021. However, slowly ‘Sustainability’ as a theme has garnered enough attention across India as well as global to become a serious boardroom agenda which will be PR industry’s focus and they will embed this value/practice through various creative forms- both in crafting messaging as well as in campaign execution.
Conclusion: With the ray of hope of returning towards a BAU (business as usual phase) soon, Public relations professionals will be seen to bring in a lot of agility in innovation and adaptation to newer skill sets.
With the lines of mediums blurring, PR industry will need to make note of the learnings, to ultimately deliver a fine balance between strategic intervention and immediate execution-based approach in 2022. Together this will help reposition the industry in the reputation management business, as the business world steps up with the continued effort to bounce back!
Communications Strategist, Deloitte India