What are the top trends that every PR pro should know for 2022?
As 2021 comes to an end, public relations agency owners and leaders share their thoughts on what the communications landscape will look like next year. These valued insights offer PR pros guidance for setting their focus for the new year.
Kristie Kuhl, Managing Partner, Global Health Practice Leader, FINN Partners
“Communications is an art and science, and the trend in 2022 will be to use both to achieve individual inclusivity in our campaigns and messages. We’ll shift from trying to reach an audience, to connecting with many people with distinct information needs. Communicators will marry historical research with predictive AI to develop the authentic messages that build relationships.”
Jason Spark, Managing Director, Canale Communications
“What really stood out this year was companies becoming better storytellers – a trend we will certainly see carry over into 2022 and beyond. Media relations will continue to be a key component in maintaining mindshare; however, companies are now leaning into their own channels to complement media efforts. We’re seeing new and creative communications strategies for companies publishing their own stories, especially with video, corporate websites, social media platforms, webinars and more.”
Rebecca Weiser, Vice President, Moxie Communications Group
“In 2022, public relations professionals need to think of themselves as an extension of every core function of their clients’ business. While typically reporting into marketing as the organic brand narrative resource, PR should also ladder up to human resources, finance, and operational leadership. Because it is harder than ever to reach audiences through earned media, PR should also be owning paid marketing efforts like affiliate marketing and influencer relations to drive consistent results. As poor internal communications is one of the leading causes of negative company press, PR should have a pulse on everything that’s going on including what’s being said on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and even TikTok. It’s no longer enough for a PR team to be focused solely on corporate comms or consumer comms, because if PR isn’t being run with every stakeholder in mind, it isn’t accounting for how information is spread and how reporters are getting their ideas. The role of PR in 2022 will be significantly more expansive and influential.”
Rachel Kay, Founder and CEO, Rachel Kay Public Relations
“We believe that in 2022 a heightened synergy between ROI and public relations efforts, particularly for consumer brands, will become more of the expectation and the norm. Today’s communications programs are far less siloed between paid and earned media, and strategies should embrace a multi-pronged approach that drives consumer action. With tools like affiliate publisher programs and paid social integration it’s a lot easier for communication pros to demonstrate the bottom line impact our work has in a way we haven’t been able to in the past.”
Maura FitzGerald, Partner and Co-founder, V2 Communications
“Effective internal communications within organizations will continue to be crucial in 2022. CEOs are being held to a high standard by employees when it comes to social responsibility and understanding their desire for a balance between work/life issues. Transparency and dialogue are key in this environment.”
Susan Thomas, CEO, 10Fold Communications
“Technology is not just for IT departments anymore, it’s part of every aspect of our lives. We have seen how tech has improved healthcare delivery and made consumer mobile banking and financial transactions a no-brainer. We’ll see exciting advancements in smart cities that protect and make communities more convenient to live in, we’ll see more implementations of virtual reality-based business processes, and we’ll see an even bigger push in crypto (as we continue to move towards a global currency). Also, technology that connects business partners and allows for collaboration and more insights will be important to enable business agility. If you are one of these innovative new tech companies, look for agencies that offer specialists for vertical markets that can speak to the specific buying persona you are trying to reach.”
Darren Brandt, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Sloane and Company
“If ‘content is king,’ ‘data is emperor.’ Getting the message across to the desired audiences is great and essential, but with more companies and more people talking and competing for mindshare, proving efficacy and impact will become increasingly important. This goes for traditional, integrated and digital comms.”
Jennifer Gehrt, Partner, Communiqué PR
“In 2022, there will be more worldwide collaboration. With the increased adoption of Microsoft Teams and Zoom, collaboration with colleagues around the globe has never been easier. In the past year, we've seen an increase in global PR campaigns with teams in Australia, Singapore, France, Germany, India and Japan, which has been beneficial in driving brand awareness and thought leadership for our clients. We expect this trend to continue and are grateful for Business Wire's global distribution of news.”
Binna Kim, President, Vested
“In 2022, we'll continue to see a number of critical communications trends. One, a continued focus on ESG and DE&I and ensuring that brands are upholding mindfulness and corporate responsibility in how and what they communicate to their stakeholders. Two, a need for authenticity in communications. Gone are the days of faceless behemoth brands spouting corporate jargon. Consumers want to hear from real people in real ways. Third, the rise of technology and the new tools, data and platforms communications professionals have at their disposal, like Qwoted, which is revolutionizing how media and comms professionals interact.”
John McCartney, Director-at-Large, PRSA-LA & PRSA-SF Bay Area chapters; Principal, Jmac PR LLC
“The ongoing pandemic and recent racial injustices have laid systemic inequities bare. Now more than ever, companies are recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, and genuine social consciousness will only become more pronounced in the PR world in 2022. With its emphasis on effective storytelling, the industry is in a unique position to amplify voices that have historically not been heard. But diversity by itself is not enough – it’s equally important that business take a conscious step toward equity and inclusion as well. In 2022, there will be fresh efforts to define terms and generally clarify language around these three concepts. This will be part of a general trend toward a more holistic perspective on DEI. Businesses will work harder to meaningfully integrate DEI into their operations, rather than simply using it as a messaging strategy for internal communications. Diversity, equity and inclusion all matter deeply, and policies genuinely supported by these three pillars lead to better outcomes for everyone.”
Curtis Sparrer, Principal, Bospar PR
“The profound polarization across politics and social institutions will boil over again as the U.S. 2022 midterms approach. Businesses and the communications teams that represent them will increasingly find ‘neutrality’ impossible because core democratic values like voting and basic human rights will be aggressively chewed up in widespread, digitally driven propaganda. The best PR strategies live in authenticity, and since ‘silence encourages the tormentor,’ communicators must be ready to discard milquetoast verbiage, appeal to reason, and back words with socially responsible corporate action.”
Jim O’Leary, U.S. Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Affairs Practice Chair, Edelman
“In 2022, workplace tensions related to the global pandemic and increasing expectations for engaging on an unrelenting series of economic, social and geopolitical issues will continue to make the role of communications more important than arguably any time in modern history. To help navigate this complex environment, CEOs will need to rely more than ever on communications leaders as they work to address a litany of pressing challenges ranging from return to the workplace and the growing war for talent to supply chain stressors, rising inflation, an expanded focus on ESG and a looming climate crisis. With executives recognizing the benefits — and necessity — of engaging a wider variety of internal and external stakeholders, we will see more opportunity than ever for communications to make a material impact on the business.”
Patrice Tanaka, Founder and Chief Joy Officer, Joyful Planet LLC
“2022 will be the ‘Great Realization’ that living in a state of an ongoing, global pandemic is the ‘new normal,’ causing more of us to re-evaluate our lives and search for greater fulfillment at work and at home. Increasing polarization in the U.S. will impact Americans and the world, including the quality of our daily lives, politics, government, business, news and entertainment, the justice system, our commitment to diversity/equity/inclusion, the growing economic divide, immigration and trade policies, and how we address climate change. This clash and chaos will force more individuals and organizations to re-think how they will still manage to flourish and thrive, inspiring many to live their ‘life purpose’ and leverage their talents, expertise and passion in service of people of planet, or operationalize their ‘business purpose’ to create value for all stakeholders and serve the greater good.”
Chase Warner, Senior Director, Internal Communications, Real Chemistry
“In 2022, I think we’ll see a doubling down on internal and employee communications as businesses seek to mitigate pressures of a market that highly favors job seekers (versus employers). However, it won’t be enough just to communicate more and businesses aren’t going to be able to get by just by ‘saying the right things’ since their own people will be able to sniff out the BS. More than ever, employees must be viewed as a powerful stakeholder that must be heard and addressed thoughtfully if companies hope to thrive.”
Phil Nardone, President & CEO, PAN Communications
“We are at a critical juncture in our industry. At PAN, we have always preached a ‘People First’ approach. That’s a trend we’ll see continue across the industry in 2022 as businesses focus on employer branding and igniting true brand advocates across the organization. For this to happen, stories need to reflect a balanced approach — leaning more aggressively into talent acquisition and retention strategies and demonstrating shared values and purposeful work (DEI, ESG) that your teams will enthusiastically support. In addition, PR must remain in a key position to impact revenue and lead gen efforts by aligning with client business goals and growth journeys, integrating fresh, modern approaches to brand visibility initiatives. One example we see in 2022 will be more companies focused on building environmental, social and corporate governance values into their fabric as a brand..”
Heath Meyer and Kim Ziesemer, Principals and Co-Founders, ZM Communications
“2021 was a year unlike any other for public relations professionals. The global pandemic has significantly shifted how we think about developing and strengthening relationships with key media. Gone, at least for the short-term, are the days of in-person events, deskside briefings and media tours limiting the invaluable facetime we have all benefited from in the past. This trend will continue into 2022 as the ‘Great Resignation’ is also adding complexities with more media moving from outlet to outlet, starting a freelance career or even launching their own publishing platform or blog. It’s mission-critical for PR pros to be clever about how you build and sustain relationships in the New Year: take the time to follow and engage your MVP media on social channels, read and acknowledge their editorial coverage often and even offer up a 15-minute Happy Hour via Zoom every once and a while to not lose out on the valuable facetime we grew accustom to in the past. These small steps can go a long way in our new normal and during a season of massive shifts and change.”
Tracy Williams, CEO and Founder, Olmstead Williams Communications
“‘The Great Resignation’ of 2021 will continue into 2022 as employees and leaders face the challenges of burnout resulting from uncertainties that include constant shifts in back-to-work plans, hybrid options, virus variants as well as ongoing political and social unrest. All companies, regardless of size, must provide more empathetic leadership and benefits that help employees build resilience during difficult times. Top companies are providing therapy and life coaching to support their existing workforce and should communicate these offerings through thought leadership campaigns on the changing workplace landscape, ‘Best Places to Work’ award programs, and announcements celebrating company milestones and achievements through all media channels. Expect demand for wage increases. Savvy companies will get in front of these shifts in their external and internal comms. It’s going to be another busy year for communications pros, so be sure to take care of yourself and your team too.”
While next year will likely see some trends from 2021 continue, such as working in a hybrid/remote environment and the continued focus on DE&I efforts, keeping these predictions in mind may help you as you start a new year of PR efforts and campaigns. What will remain the same? The importance of communication in our world and the safe delivery of your news to your audiences.
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