Capitol Communicator regional editor Jeffrey Davis was among 25 PR professionals asked by the national Public Relations Consultants Group (PRCG) what they’ll be watching for in 2022. Keep reading to learn what a cross-section of PR experts representing top markets across the U.S. are predicting for media relations, crisis communications, marketing, technology, advocacy and more.

Media Relations

Sharon Kreher of teamworks communication: Personalized pitches to specific journalists and influencers are likely to reap greater rewards than general one-size-fits-all media distributions. Podcasts, bloggers, etc. are great opportunities to connect with specific audiences. Influencer marketing is now an essential part of the marketing tool kit.

Taking care to provide the media you pitch with a variety of content and visuals is more important than ever. For example, offering spokespeople to be interviewed in person and by Zoom, Offering b-roll for use on-air and online and providing still shots that reporters can use online.

Tom Garrity of The Garrity Group Public Relations
Owned content and power of the newsletter – Reporters are looking for authentic content. While the news release will always be relevant, reporters are looking at how organizations communicate with their members and customers.  Enter the newsletter!  The newsletter provides a way for reporters to get information in a way that they don’t feel like someone is trying to handle or “pitch” them. Instead, a newsletter provides an opportunity for a reporter to “listen” in, be an observer and look for any possible story ideas.

Tony Vann of The Guild

The shift with marketing-forward, public relations-supported strategic communications plans. I believe 2022 will see more erosion of the ever-thinning paper wall between editorial and advertising.

Consumers continue to become more savvy while credibility in media outlets combined with the continued shrinking budgets of media force consumers to ingest information in a different manner.

Jason Brown of PublicCity PR:  I am seeing more opportunities in the Pay to Play (P2P) space, not only with traditional media but non-traditional as well such as influencers, podcasts, etc. In the past, we would often shun a paid placement for our client, but now given the shrinking media world, a P2P opportunity may be the best chance for your client to shine.

Felicia Knight of The Knight Canney Group: We’re tailoring public relations to meet people where they are in their lives now. Creating content that speaks to those who WFH, those who’ve cut corporate ties, those who want to do good for others, and who are concentrating more on what makes them happy.

Jeffrey Davis, APR of J. Davis Public Relations in Baltimore

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” — Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

The wisdom of the French thinker and writer will prove even more relevant in 2022, when an abundance of content and distractions means PR writers must find the time to craft even shorter messages. Companies and thought leaders previously on the sidelines will test outlets like TikTok and Instagram Stories to reach audiences that demand these simple, clear micro-messages. Media consolidations and closures mean PR pros will be challenged to find more blogs and niche micro-sites for earned and sometimes pay-for-play coverage.

Crisis Communications

Jasen Woehrle of The Firm Public Relations & Marketing: A trend that will likely (and should) carry over from 2021 into 2022 is crisis preparation and having a contingency plan in place for product/business launches, staffing, events, etc. Most communicators consider as many scenarios as possible when planning, however the pandemic has thrown in quite a few curve balls. It’s more important than ever to be able to pivot quickly to achieve desired PR/marketing goals.

Corporate Communications

Stephen Michael Brown, APR, Fellow PRSA of Cookerly PR: We’ve seen this discipline bubble up in importance during the various stages of the pandemic to date, but employee relations has never been more critical than in this time of the Great Resignation. We’ve had many clients rely on our agency for strategies to ensure their smaller-than-usual workforces can be informed and engaged. Plus, we are developing creative ways to leverage institutional teams as brand ambassadors. Connecting people within enterprises to videos, blog content, co-creation opportunities and ways to directly engage with corporate social responsibility and community efforts have been central to this process.

Jeff Worden, APR of Worden Public Relations: Transparency. With so little trust in institutions, companies will continue devoting resources to keep stakeholders informed and to provide third parties the access they need to form independent assessments.

Jenny Smith, MBA of Acuity Public Relations LLC
Creating a higher level of consensus and mutual understanding (if not total agreement) and positive forward movement on pressing social and environmental issues will remain a vitally important part of what public relations professionals do in 2022.

 

Josh Poupore, APR of Corning Place Communications: The permanent shift to remote work and the great resignation/reshuffle.

John Knox of Knox Communications: Establishing credibility.  With so many opportunities for influencing public perception, advertisers and marketers via public relations can rise above the fray by building credible statements through consistent messaging and with spokespeople who have high regard in the eyes of the public.

Nathan K. Hokama, APR of Strategic Communication Solutions LLC: Managing post-pandemic change.

Jo Trizila of TrizCom Public Relations: The biggest PR/marketing trends for 2022 will be measuring and tying PR efforts back to business goals, attribution and content, content, and yet, even more content. Unless you know what the business is trying to accomplish (sales, employee retention, lead generation), you can’t create communications KPIs (key performance indicators) that the C-suite cares about.

But how do we create, manage and determine what strategies will be efficient enough to satisfy the C-suite? We utilize an integrated mix of owned, shared, paid, and earned media content. Typically, traditional PR sticks to earned media, but earned media is not very measurable, and it’s typically not the primary driver of sales.

Although owned, shared, paid and earned media content is golden, it’s also important to note that not all content is created equal. Google wants EAT content or “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.”

PR needs to be attributed just as marketing and advertising campaigns are. Attribution is how we quantify the effectiveness of our PR campaigns. I steadfastly believe that PR will never be taken seriously until we attribute our efforts to sales.

Nicole Candler, APR of Nic Creative Public Relations

With nearly every organization focusing more attention, effort and investment in recruiting, maintaining and engaging their workforce, a company’s employee base will becoming its most important stakeholder audience and marketing asset. In 2022, companies will examine and invest in their internal and employee communication programs, grow more competitive in their recruitment advertising and be measured, by their consumers, on their workforce satisfaction. Companies that have creative and aggressive employee benefits, pay and culture will win the day, and the public relations and marketing teams will have the great honor of sharing that story and highlighting that company’s greatest asset. How a company treats its employees will be the stories told in media relations, social media and advertising. Corporate social responsibility will expand beyond philanthropy and sustainability to include greater responsibility for its people. HR and PR unite!

Strategic Positioning and Advocacy

Paul Larrabee, APR of Corning Place Communications

The speed at which promoted and boosted content has been expanding shifts the strategic paradigm. Earned media placements remain a gold-standard – however they are extremely challenging to secure as news rooms shrink and journalists work remotely. Placements and columns of more than 400 words require a Plan B strategy. Clients are seeking engagement (linked to ROI) via social media. Publishers and news aggregators are seeking content (and are open to well-crafted collateral that provides a stream of revenue).

 

Technology

Vannessa Wade of Connect The Dots PR:  Artificial Intelligence (AI) and PR will continue to blend and play an important role in the customer experience.

Liz Hersh of Hersh PR and Marketing
Reaching customers without intruding on their privacy continues to be a priority for marketers in 2022. Google, Apple and Facebook have taken steps to reduce the amount of third-party tracking on their platforms, which translates into less data for us to leverage. This information historically has been the cornerstone of effective marketing, helping to shape marketing content, advertising strategies, and more. In its place, brands are leveraging first-party data collected via channels they own to create highly personalized messages.

Barb Harris of teamworks communication
Non-profits need to venture deeper into mobile technology. Mobile commerce now makes up nearly half of all annual e-commerce sales. As people of all ages have been forced to up their use and understanding of mobile applications during the pandemic, non-profits that have generally relied on traditional donation channels need to up their mobile game.  Make sure your website is optimized for smart phone viewing. Offer mobile giving options for donations and pay attention to mobile search optimization (Mobile SEO), as mobile is now the most common form of web search.

Marketing

Robb Yagmin of PSPR: Influencers were a $13 billion industry in 2021 and influencers will continue to play a huge role in 2022. From TikTokers to food influencers, to fancy dressers, to niche B2B thought leaders…those are the folks we as PR professionals need to reach out to continue to grow relationships to better our clients.

Elizabeth Edwards of Volume PR & Engagement Science Lab: ImageA significant shift we see in 2022 is more leaders creating PR and marketing strategies around influencing and changing human behavior. The core of communication is to change someone’s relationship with a topic by taking them from a state of unawareness or confusion to a state of comprehension. At Volume PR and Engagement Science Lab, we see companies doing this three ways:

-Training teams on engagement science
-Auditing and refining existing communication from a behavioral and cognitive science viewpoint
-Reframing strategies to influence positive behavior change across audience types

Kristin Helvey of Helvey Communications LLC: As the pandemic continues to create upheaval in business processes and practices, flexibility has become paramount. While the consequences of the pandemic have been severe for businesses across the globe, leaders who show the desire and ability to adapt will prevail in 2022. While supply chain and staffing issues have become an accepted explanation for gaps in the customer experience in most cases, business that leverage creativity to redefine a positive customer experience will pave the way for new “normals.” As companies make these breakthroughs, public relations and communications professionals will be challenged to shape and share these stories of change and championship.

Brian Chandler of Commonwealth PR: Brands will begin considering ways to grow their customer loyalty programs through digital rewards such as crypto cash back, branded NFTs, or airdrops. More than 44% of customers now want to receive awards in digital currency and this number is continuing to grow.

Mimi Rasor of Rasor Marketing Communications

I think the continuing decline of cable TV and growth of Over The Top (OTT) TV and streaming has pushed even more advertising dollars into digital TV. Our clients aren’t seeing the same return they used to on broadcast and cable without incorporating digital. I think it’s moved from being just a part of the mix to a necessity.

 

Jennifer Bisbee, APR of Bisbee and Company: Creating content and self-publishing and distributing through owned and shared media channels will become more important as traditional media outlets continue to diminish. This creates even more opportunity for organizations to control messaging and better target audiences.

Founded in 2000, PRConsultants Group is made up of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants representing top markets in the United States. Their unique collaborative philosophy allows PRCG members to work together and separately on projects, offering ‘on the ground’ experience in their local markets to clients’ regional and national public relations initiatives.

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