We’ve already dove headfirst into the new year with our hopes high and our plans in place to prepare ourselves for the unpredictable as we make our way through 2021. I never love to throw away a year or a month or even a week, because of obstacles, challenges, and even pandemics that happen during it, because then we miss out on remembering the good. Personally, while 2020 was a year I don’t think many of us could have imagined, it was also one I will be eternally grateful for – I gained a new, beautiful niece, we gained another year in business, and well, we all gained myriad life lessons.
Those lessons lent themselves to looking ahead into 2021 and beyond to consider the trends and foci for public relations, social media, and communications efforts. So, we wanted to share with you our experience, research, observances, and thoughts on what’s to come in the year ahead:
Loyalty and Attraction to Brands Demonstrating Trustworthiness, Safety, and Health: In the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic consuming us, the consumer focus has shifted. Through messaging in the media, social media platforms, and other forms of communication, it’s essential for brands to create a strong sense of trust and show their commitment to creating environments of safety, cleanliness, and health. Not only does this mean sanitizing, cleaning, distancing, providing protocols and alternative options to in-person purchases, it also means showcasing it through different public platforms like social media, particularly of a visual nature. Has your facility sprayed down with anti-microbial spray by cleaning experts? Film it, post it, and tell the consumer you’re looking out for them.
The Homebody Economy is now mainstream: Companies should communicate with and pivot services or products for (which they hopefully already have, but certainly should continue to) the consumer with two things in mind ~ 1. They’re going to learn about it online, due to increased use of time on digital devices, and 2. They’re going to be at home when they use it. A study by McKinsey & Company showed that 90 percent of people are spending more time on their digital devices. This is both telling and also somewhat tragic.
The digital experience is now the human experience, which means that when we communicate through media platforms or post on social media, we need to create more human connection from digital device to a digital device. While human interaction has decreased significantly, companies should look to increasing the ability to interact with other people through digital interaction. Quotes are cool to post on social media but think about how much more meaningful it will be to hear the story of a customer who tried a new dish and comes back every day because of the perfect, delicious consistency. Or as someone seeking a new gym – would you rather see a quote telling you to do what your future self will thank you for – or would you rather see the story of Jen who lost 40 pounds since joining and has regained her confidence, her health, and gotten off of all her meds. If she can do it, you can do it, too. Connect humans to humans, even if it’s done digitally. They’re all craving the connection from their homes.
Social Responsibility will also mean getting consumers OFFline: I read a term today in Forbes called, “Doomscrolling.” In short, the time we spend, the HOURS we spend online lead to issues that are dooming – mental health issues, social isolation, digital addiction – to name a few. We must begin to focus our communications and PR strategies on messages that will strike a chord with our audiences online, but also those that may encourage them to step away from their laptops, phones, or future chips to experience the world in its natural form. San Antonio Sports has done a great job at this, encouraging participation in its virtual Fit Family Challenge and promoting the Power of Sport. They want their audience to know the importance of these messages, but also want them to get away from their computers, spend time with their families, and go exercise, play sports, enhance their health, and more – without their phones attached to their palms. There is life beyond your smartphone, and we need to reroute our audiences to not just post about what they are doing, but also experience the actual doing.
A side note to this thought – virtual reality and augmented reality is already and will continue to play a larger role in PR and digital communications, as well as user experience. The key will be to create positive change and connection that allows the consumer to experience the brands in a unique way with human connection but without digital addiction.
It’s important to continue to look ahead as the world in front of us keeps evolving. If there is anything the past 12 or so months has taught us, it’s to embrace change, embrace the pivot, and while we are limited in our in-person or close-knit exposure in human interaction, do your best as a PR professional or a company to recreate the human interaction through your digital PR practices!