Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022
Where the PR industry will go from here

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

Where the PR industry will go from here
  • 2021, a year full of controversies saw brands turning to Public Relations and Communications experts to save their reputation and regain consumer trust.
  • We look back at how PR evolved in 2021 and catch up with a few experts to discuss the trends that lie ahead.
This year, we witnessed many brands become a victim of the boycott culture on social media and each of them adopted a different Public Relations and Communications strategy; while some decided to give in to the pressure, pulled off campaigns and maintained a low profile to cushion the blow, a few others stood their ground and fought back. Gone are the days where a brand could hope for social media controversies to die a natural death and wait for consumers to move on. Now, a small tweet can snowball into a boycott trend and a little bad PR move can cause a company’s stocks to plummet drastically or lead to a huge amount of audience permanently boycotting a brand. At the same time, some experts also advise that brands should not feed the trolls. So, in a year that saw numerous controversies, Public Relations and Communications experts proved their prominence yet again. They acted as the brand's anchor when needed and also helped them reach the shore successfully through tumultuous seas.

During the initial stage of the lockdown, PR agencies had to think on their feet, engage with editorial media to help brands share their side of the story with interesting nuggets, offer positive stories, work on personalised pitches, ensure internal and external stakeholders were updated frequently with utmost honesty and transparency. PR experts also pushed brands to connect with their communities on a personal level through truthful, authentic human acts.

The crisis also caused paradigm shifts in the industry and digital PR took the center stage. Experts were required to monitor trends in real-time, find various consumer touchpoints through social listening and offer predictive analysis. As we move forward, PR agencies are working towards expanding their offerings with allied competencies like creative, experiential and social media capabilities. They have also been helping brands to find the right balance between profit, people and the environment. So, the future of PR is in strong storytelling in the digital world.

The future is also unpredictable and PR professionals can’t rely on annual calendars anymore. With the news cycle changing every day, PR experts are required to be more flexible and agile.

We reached out to experts to look back at 2021, discuss a few trends that lie ahead in 2022 and understand what kind of role will PR play next year. Here’s what they had to say:

Archana Jain, Managing Director, PR Pundit

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

The sway of top celebrities has diminished as was the case back in the days. With the advent of digital and social media, people have begun to trust recommendations from peers far more. Audiences find authentic content or recommendations by actual consumers to be more honest and believable than other forms of promotions and advertising by brands. This is reason enough for brands to actively nurture a community of advocates. PR will be required to work with brands to shape and foster a community of brand advocates. A set of loyal and vocal customers who can help humanise the brand in addition to boosting brand appeal & trust, promoting its products & services to new cohorts, providing invaluable user-generated content (UGC), word-of-mouth recommendations, and social media chatter. Community-led storytelling is more acceptable and authentic rather than a direct brand-led communication. Community advocacy will need to be consciously harnessed and not left to chance. 2022 will see many more brands structure a meaningful brand advocacy strategy.

Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

My biggest takeaway from 2021 is that agency brands and professionals have learned to be resilient and this is based on the multitude of challenges everyone has faced. Smart PR agencies have managed to reinvent themselves with offerings that are built for new realities and collectively have made sure that the relevance of PR is as strong as ever. While a move to everything digital will continue and a lot has been spoken and written about that, I feel that ‘collaboration and consolidation’ will be one the most important trends in that will emerge in 2022. This will be fueled by a few factors, first, resources will be deployed judiciously and talent will continue to be in short supply, the churn agencies have been experiencing at mid and junior levels will continue in 2022. This will lead to a need for agencies to find collaborative ways to deliver on client briefs and they will tap the vast pool of independent talent and specialized agencies and we will see newer collaborative models emerge. Second, clients will be in a hurry to get solutions from agency partners that can get their brands back in the mindspace of consumers and other target audiences. They will want to deal with fewer, better established partners which will lead to a need for consolidation.

Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer, Genesis BCW

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

If there is one word that will be at the centre of everything in 2022, it is ‘people’. With the world—India included—teetering between recovery and anxiety around ever-evolving COVID variants, people will need to be communicated with, engaged, assuaged, motivated, retained, developed, and more. These people include every stakeholder a company has—customers/consumers, employees, partners, the government, the community at large. And public relations is the only marketing discipline that touches all of them.

Digital will continue to be the medium of choice, and within that, metaverse will be flavour of the year. While the Indian industry still has some distance to cover in that, there is curiosity about this next big thing. No matter what the medium though, the message will have to be aligned to the company’s purpose. And delivered creatively, with authenticity.

Akshaara Lalwani, Founder & CEO, Communicate India

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

Over the past decade, PR has been moving away from traditional business models towards a more holistic and integrated approach. Whether it is the shift from pure media relations to content or the migration from print to digital, there is a marked change in the way the PR landscape functions. In 2022, this trend will further solidify its presence. There will also be a blurring of demarcation lines between PR, marketing and advertising, digital and offline, eventually leading to PR & Communication professionals to further value the importance of integrated communications. Agility and the ability to pivot will thus be key attributes that will enable the industry to thrive. Also, since the protracted fight against the pandemic still continues, companies and organisations need to prioritise responsible communication over all else. We live in a world where the spread of disinformation and misinformation is not uncommon, hence, agencies need to be able to work in tandem with their clients to help them steer a middle course between capitalistic desires and ethical communication.

Mayank Sen, Co-founder, Moe's Art

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022
For the longest time, ‘content’ has been the flavour of the season. At first, it began as an accessory, gradually ruling as a king on a kingdom.

In 2020, content and its marketing became an undeniable powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. The evergreen axiom of marketing – ‘delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time’ – took a redefined meaning. And for the times to come, the fundamental aspect of the content ecosystem will be founded on a framework of a performance driven-model, driven by contextual marketing.

Within the emerging framework, data and technology will take a strong precedence. The industry will focus on delivering optimal consumer experience while capitalising on the opportunities in hand. Attention will be paid to provide more personalised and relevant content. Measuring the performance will make sure that the experience is scalable. It will present a continuous assessment of how the content is performing, and from that perspective, make decisions on what to do with the content in the future.

Measuring success, building a cohesive brand story, and fostering a transparent, interactive consumer loyalty will be the ‘WIN-WIN’ strategy for the year to come!

Asif Upadhye, Director and The Dark Knight at SPRD

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it’s that moving forward at a snail’s pace is undoubtedly the quickest way to get left behind. While pre-pandemic, the public relations and communications industry was already making significant strides in technology by analyzing data to craft a better customer experience, the pace of digital adoption and the advent of a digital-first PR approach have been accelerated. From my own experience, a key ingredient across PR strategies, content marketing, corporate communications, and media coverage that will rule the PR roost in 2022 is the crucial need to customize bespoke services and products, every step of the way.

From unified communications (UC) that are employee-centric to personalizing media pitches, customization sits at the heart of nearly every PR and communications trend. Customers are growing tired of the ‘media universe’ and now look for frameworks based on behavioral and business insights that truly put their needs front and center. Eventually, this is what will separate the mediocre brands from the greats. Case in point, the State of PR 2021 report points to the fact that flexibility, agility and attention to detail when it comes to personalizing something as simple as a pitch email is 96% more likely to grab a journalist’s eyeballs, rather than sending out a generic email blast. While consumer habits and employee working patterns that have been developed over the past year and a half are likely to continue well into 2022, hyper-personalization will bear fruit and result in more contextualized communication and inevitably greater conversions.”

Tarunjeet Rattan, Managing Partner, Nucleus PR

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

There are three very distinct trends that we will see in the coming year:

  • While the models of working and mediums will undergo a change, what will remain strong is the need for strong storytelling. What will change however is the degree of authenticity in storytelling. It will take a hard turn towards stark reality …almost raw. Consumers want to know why the brand matters, why they should care about it and what is the brand impact? How are you adding value to the life of the consumer? Authentic storytelling will win over aesthetics.
  • The role of the founding or leadership team will become even more crucial. One cannot hide behind a faceless brand persona or logo anymore. You will have to put yourself out there to create a strong, credible and believable story about your brand that brings out its authenticity. This also brings in a lot more accountability that brands will have to guard their reputation on. Consumers want to pick up brands that walk the talk. You cannot be a CEO that promotes mental health and fire your agency on twitter. You cannot be talking about environmental sustainability and create a toxic work culture for humans. It just won’t fly anymore.
  • Community Building will take Center Stage. We saw a strong glimpse of this across 2020 and 2021. This will gain more ground in the coming year where communities around a brand vision will be created and drive conversation around a challenge.
Sonam Shah, Founder and CEO, Treize Communications

Trends that will dominate the PR industry in 2022

2021 saw high demand in PR, especially in the area of influencer marketing. Brands, big and small, capitalised on this rising trend in the first half of the year. But, once the ASCI guidelines came into place from June 2021, there was a downward slip observed in the engagement. Instagram algorithms underwent a great uphaul as influencers had to win against AI algorithms.

This phase again got brands and companies to focus on creating news and building brand recall. While demand has been high for PR, there have been some apprehensions also noticed when it comes to being out in the open/media.

The second half of this year, saw print media come back, as newspaper circulation started, and people started reading it like before. This behavioural change instigated a need to be present in Print media, via editorial articles, and this will be the biggest trend in 2022. The need to present in Print media.

Print media has always been a factor in bringing in trust and authenticity and clients do require to build that kind of strong trust within their stakeholders to continue businesses in a post-pandemic phase.