3 Pieces of Advice for the PR Industry in 2021

By Sami Stansberry
As a self-proclaimed news junkie, Sami enjoys staying up-to-date on the latest stories of the day. When she's not brainstorming newsworthy angles for clients, you can find her cooking, traveling or making to-do lists.
 

No one could have predicted how much uncertainty this year would bring, so you have to acknowledge that it’s almost laughable to try to predict what’s next for 2021.

But looking at the year ahead for predictions in the PR industry, there are a few things we know we can expect. Whether it be a marked increase in philanthropic efforts and contributions to local communities or reporters “checking in” on diversity efforts promised in 2020, here’s a look at what’s on the horizon for 2021.

Start by helping close to home

Now more than ever, community is important (this should come as no shock given that the vast majority of us haven’t left our homes for anything not deemed “necessary” in the past several months). COVID-19 reminded us to support the businesses on our block and to help those closest to home.

Consumers and customers alike care about the philanthropic efforts of your organization – and it’s more critical than ever to lend a helping hand. But in 2021, it’s going to be crucial to go beyond just PR and get your entire team aligned with how they’re contributing to the community.

One of my favorite examples of this in 2020? Muros (a Chicago-based global art activation agency) ran a Murals for Medical Relief campaign.

And while we’re talking about community, I feel obliged to mention that local and regional PR are both important to growing your business. While these opportunities typically require a specific type of news (think: what is relevant to your neighbors?), they can do wonders in terms of social engagements and SEO value.

Proceed with caution when pitching reporters

According to a recent Muck Rack survey, 31% of tech journalists reported being less likely to respond to pitches in 2020 than the same time last year. My apologies if I’m the messenger of bad news, but this is only going to continue to progress in 2021. Newsrooms are getting cut. Media opportunities are harder to secure (let alone an interview), so expect to see more contributed content pieces and email Q&A’s next year.

Given this shift in the media landscape, consider looking beyond traditional earned media placements. Your clients’ stakeholders are directing their attention to other forms of content. Whether it be investing in a heartier social media strategy or developing your own blog or podcast, there are so many ways to get your information out there.

Visual mediums are proving to be more beneficial for businesses – in fact, 90% of active Instagram users follow a business on the platform.

It’s time to walk the walk – seriously

This year brought strengthened awareness of many social justice matters, including increased focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ and other D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) issues. This focus is not going away and neither are the diversity promises made by organizations in the summer of 2020. Reporters are checking in – it’s time to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.

So how does this apply to the PR industry? We need to continue to hold ourselves accountable. Check in with your client – did they say they were going to diversify their board that once consisted of all white males? And look internally, too. Are you finding that you’re consistently going after more traditional publications with the same spokespeople?  Mix it up. Give the entire C-suite and beyond an opportunity for the spotlight and with new publications that hit a diverse audience.

It’s on each and every one of us to make the much-needed change for society. It’s time to go beyond just a little black box on Instagram.

Buckle up for 2021

2020 demanded quite a lot for those in the PR industry – it kept us on our toes and working to continuously innovate and evolve. I’m eager to see what’s next. Are you?

Bring it on, 2021.

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