The year 2020 started with a focus on the latest public relations trends. Niche targeting, live streaming, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Big Data integrations generated the most buzz, and they continue to do so. Although they haven’t faded in the background, the focus on how to use them has drastically shifted.
Brands have started to actively market to a niche audience through influencers, self-publishing platforms, social media, and informative content. The top players from brands have started to use live streaming to get in front of the audience.
Artificial Intelligence and big data have become the go-to source for brands to monitor social media platforms, predict consumer needs, and develop targeted content based on causes impacting their audience. Handling it all from behind the curtain is an experienced public relations agency.
Public relations agencies are well-aware of the changing times and have doubled down on their efforts to point brands in the right direction. We want to highlight how PR has changed in 2020 and what to do about it.
COVID-19 and Work from Home
Public relations agencies have adjusted to working from home and interacting with clients, influencers, and journalists. We have to be more mindful of the sensitivities and challenges involved, which entails only pitching stories that are newsworthy to journalists who are preoccupied with reporting on the virus. The pandemic has led brands to change their goals, strategies, and budgets, and PR professionals play a major role in making these changes happen.
If a brand refuses to postpone events or cancel product launches, it becomes a challenge. We have to ensure safety-related SOPs are being followed, necessitating creating a crisis management plan. This plan should include a section on how to deal with the pandemic in the future. We view it as a learning opportunity, so if a pandemic takes place again, you’ll already have a plan to overcome it.
Recession and Layoffs
The recent pandemic has brought with it a recession and layoffs. Public relations firms are not in the safe zone. They aren’t immune to the effects of recessions and layoffs that follow it. With travel and conference industries nearly shutting down, the stock market collapsing, and hotels, restaurants, bars, and other retail businesses closing down, the economy has been hit hard.
Brands are struggling to keep their PR efforts and investments with reports of companies slashing their PR and marketing budgets. This development has created a wave of panic among public relations companies amid industry-wide pay cuts and layoffs. Some PR firms gave up even before the recession could do some real damage.
They don’t think they can survive the recession, and most PR and marketing agencies, including us, disagree. PR and marketing agencies that have been through previous recessions and have come out on top are urging businesses to stay calm, advising them not to reduce their PR and marketing budgets.
Brands that increase or maintain their budget will seize a sizable market share due to others packing up, and they are expected to become winners in the end. Even though things don’t seem positive, the situation will improve with passing months. The recovery will take time, and it is within reach if you set up your PR firm for long-term growth. In fact, research shows brands that invest in PR and marketing during a recession win big!
Black Lives Matter and Activism
The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum in the United States and many other parts of the world with large-scale protests happening in the United Kingdom and France. It’s a cause we all stand for, yet some brands are just jumping on the bandwagon and showing solidarity via campaigns and slogans that haven’t been thought through properly. In such situations, having a PR agency on-board becomes your saving grace.
Public relations firms have had to step up their games in helping brands promote BLM without stirring up controversy. For instance, L'Oreal showed their solidarity with the movement by releasing the slogan, “Speaking Out Is Worth It.” And a British model and activist quickly called them out, claiming they dropped her from their campaign when she spoke about racism. This is where research comes in.
As a public relations company, we perform intensive research to discover all the negatives about a brand beforehand, so we can create a plan to address it. We also advise against using generic boilerplate slogans and statements, especially if the brand can’t back them by extending meaningful support to causes and providing moral leadership on equality. It’s never too late to do the right thing, and it’s never too late to admit your past wrongs.
See also our George Floyd Business Mentor Program, our unique and humble way of taking action and trying to make the world a better place versus just giving lip service or posting in solidarity on social media.
Diversity and Inclusion Sensitivities
Now, more than ever, consumers and employees are demanding more diversity and inclusion in brands’ promotional efforts. As a response, PR agencies must take a cross-cultural and multicultural approach, not just with promoting a D&I images for their clients but also creating it within their own company. “It’s no longer a nicety to have,” says Jason Mudd, the managing partner of Axia Public Relations. “It’s now absolutely mandatory!”
In 2018, the ethnic makeup of the public relations companies in the United States was 88% white, 8.3% African-American, 2.6% Asian-American, and 5.7% Hispanic-American. It’s important to bring change within before you can advocate for change among others.
Our public relations firm is continually trying to become a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Addressing the diversity and inclusion sensitivities and challenges will help PR agencies because brands are looking to hire PR agencies with a diverse and inclusive workforce to represent them on a public platform. Having diverse insights and experiences leads to smarter and more sensitive public relations programs and campaigns.
Presidential Election Year
Every presidential election year, public relations professionals fight for their clients to be seen and heard. However, the 2016 election year introduced us to the “Trump Effect.” Brands now have to compete for coverage with the White House and a presidency that has been riddled with controversial tweets, conflict, lawsuits, and more. This competition for attention seems never-ending and during the 2020 election year, it will become more intense than ever.
PR professionals have to pitch compelling and irresistible stories to journalists and influencers. We need to change how we narrate our client’s story as the goal is to break through the noise. You’re not just competing against the White House but also against other PR firms’ clients that are just as starved for attention.
We believe in being inventive during this time, creating new ways to integrate a narrative. The strategy is to connect with journalists, influencers, and audiences in a creative and effective manner. Most importantly, we search for opportunities that do not compete with the White House for news coverage. It’s tricky yet not impossible, and it’s nothing an experienced public relations firm can’t handle.
Axia Public Relations stays up-to-date on the challenges affecting the press relations industry and works to overcome them. We can help your brand reach its full potential and tackle issues positively and constructively while building up your image before your target audience. Contact us for a free consultation.