- The year 2020 has been an unprecedented one, but it's been a great teacher.
- And as we inch closer to 2021, we at Ad and Media Insider, want to enter it with a few learnings from 2020 that will help us navigate 2021 better.
- In our latest series, we look at different industries to understand what was 2020 like for them and to crystal gaze into the upcoming year, and identify some of the trends that will set the tone for 2021.
- In our first story, we discuss how Public Relation firms are helping Indian companies navigate the coronavirus pandemic and some of the trends that would take the centre stage in 2021.
As brands stepped back from overt selling and their communication focused on making consumers feel more comfortable with the changing environment due to COVID-19, they finally started understanding the importance of Public Relations. The industry has finally taken on newfound importance and is in a position to spearhead brand creativity rather than being consigned a supporting role.
During the COVID-induced lockdown, CEOs of all companies were scrambling as they tried to manage internal damages and address their stakeholders’ concerns. However, 2020 has given brands an opportunity to prove that they are doing good by their employees and society. Marketing campaigns had to be done with genuine sincerity, compassion and humanity but treading that line between genuine and opportunistic has been a difficult task and many brands turned to their Public Relations firms to navigate the challenges.
Throughout 2020, the headlines were dominated with COVID-19 coverage and the media industry was hungry for positive stories. Brands that managed to offer a light-hearted story that felt genuine, were recognised in the industry and won their consumer trust by being in the news, which is where public relations came into play.
At a time when how companies treat their employees could affect their ability to attract and retain stakeholders and a slightest miscommunication could damage their public image for years, PR will play a key role in 2021.
So, while 2020 was PR’s year to shine and 2021, as experts predict, will be when PR flourishes.
We reached out to experts to understand what kind of role will PR play in 2021. Here is what they said:
Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner and Founder, Perfect Relations:
Among the many big changes expected in the world of Corporates in the coming year, is the new recognition of the power of dynamic messaging. This is a complex business but simply put, it's the ability to listen and respond on multiple platforms simultaneously. Static messaging will gradually wither away and more dynamic messaging will instead dominate. Voice may be the new surprise entrant. Modulated, translated and if needed enhanced, watch for how this changes, communication techniques this next year.
Archana Jain, Managing Director, PR Pundit:
No one knows what a post-Covid-19 world might look like, but what companies, brands and institutions have done to support jobs, communities and societies in rebounding successfully, will be with us for quite some time. The time has come to make capitalism better. Companies, brands and institutions of all kinds must connect with their communities through truthful, authentic human acts.
PR in 2021 will have to guide organisations to exhibit authenticity, help articulate and manifest the purpose of the organisations as an extension of their values, and then communicate this to both internal and external audiences.
Purpose-driven customer playbook has to be adopted to demonstrate true purpose. Brands are going to be left behind if they don’t have purpose. Thus we have to broaden our definition of what makes the world better. We have to put a human face on campaigns that leverage cultural flashpoints to form an emotional connection with consumers. It is an opportunity for companies to take action that matters — to help solve real societal challenges."
Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live, MullenLowe Lintas Group:
REIMAGINE AND COLLABORATE
The PR agency ecosystem has been in need of a significant evolution for some time in order to keep up with rapidly changing realities. There has been a complete shift in the media landscape and the pandemic has further accelerated this change, especially the move to everything digital. More consumers are searching for information and sharing opinions online than ever before. Shifts we had imagined happening over a period of years have panned out over months! Even though the ecosystem has known about these big changes, this sudden shift in momentum has caught many in the PR agency off guard. All this has made the need for reimagining PR agency models even more critical. There have been so many attempts to get this right for PR firms but this year was the first time many management teams and leaders in the industry have had a chance to actually think this through and some have taken bold action. This is giving rise to innovations that weren’t even imagined before. We already are seeing such wonderful hybrid work models emerge as completely new opportunities for employees; this is just the beginning.
The next big issue is the scramble of PR agencies to be everything, and to expand offering with allied competencies like creative, experiential and social media capabilities. Agencies can be good at what they do, not at everything they would like to do! Therefore, in my view, new collaborative models will emerge fueling a more consolidated agency ecosystem of partnerships that will be centered around client needs and consumer truths.
Akshaara Lalwani, CEO & Founder, Communicate India:
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity,” said Albert Einstein and this year has taught us just that if nothing else. As the world went through rapid modifications, we identified the need to better understand the evolving milieu of clients and markets across sectors. Throughout history, the crisis has caused paradigm shifts and galvanized new innovations to suit the new order.
In such situations, it is critical to have a young and proactive workforce that is agile, talented and willing to go the extra mile. With a strong understanding of traditional media one also needs to adapt to new age media and strategy to deal with the constantly changing competitor landscape. Market intelligence is imperative to build and sustain client relations especially in a world where one needs to navigate uncharted waters like social distancing and remote working.
Tarunjeet Rattan- Managing Partner, Nucleus PR:
The PESO (Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned) model has been whispered about in the shadows for the last couple of years. With the current state of the media industry, this work and business model of working will come out of the fringes and take prominence. PR professionals will have to upskill and evolve with the model if they don’t want to finish familiar.
Sonam Shah, Founder and CEO, Treize Communications:
The year 2020 has surely seen an upward trend in the demand for PR services and clients too have started realizing the value of earned media and the long-term benefits of having a sustainable PR strategy in place. This demand is definitely going to continue in 2021 and one of the key trends I foresee is the importance of Focused PR.
With the media landscape evolving drastically, and the consumption patterns of news changing rapidly, agencies will have to come up with a Focused PR approach to provide value of money to clients. Since ROI is not easily measured in Public Relations services, and budgets are stringent, following a Focused PR strategy will be a win-win for both sides. Having a Focused PR strategy implies two things: Concentrating on building thought-leadership and expertise in the respective field and/or concentrating on any campaign and getting media coverage around it.
Transparency and clarity will be very important and PR agencies will have to come up with time-bound solutions, with a focus on long-term strategy.