Looking forward to 2021: PR & Marketing Trends

EMGblog_2021 Trends_website

By Rachel Peck

One year ago, we wrote a blog on marketing trends for 2020 and predicted a renewed focus on creative content, social media becoming the new shopping mecca and the downgrading of vanity metrics. How quickly those trends changed and, if nothing else, we learned a lesson in just how quickly trends can shift.

While the pace of life has slowed, the news cycle and the turnover in terms of “what’s trending” has only accelerated – evidence of our voracious appetite for content and the need for our devices to connect us. If anything, the full power of social media to collectively bind society together in an experience has been realized this year – often making channels like Instagram feel like one collective therapy session. Simultaneously, as individuals are experiencing withdrawals from society, fueled by collective grief and confusion, many more have turned to social media as an outlet to safely provide non-constructive commentary – a new age “keyboard warrior.”

So, how do you anticipate trends, when we’ve learned to take things day-by-day? In the case of 2021, two major trends will be the main focus for the year.

Internalize it (your communications plan)
Our last day in the office before shut down was March 13, 2020 and then it was as if the world stopped. I went to lunch with a friend on Saturday and on Monday was working from my bedroom – where I spent the next four months. In the confusion and fear, it became quickly apparent that many who were also in my shoes looked to their leadership for guidance, new protocols and at times, reassurance. This put the responsibility on employers to prioritize employee health and wellness, as well as transparency and authenticity. The brands who acted quickly, moved to remote work and approached the situation with empathy and flexibility earned the most trust from employees and the public. As we head into 2021, this emphasis on employer/employee communication will continue to be a priority, as businesses prepare to decide whether they’ll return to the office, stay remote or offer a hybrid to employees. They’ll also be responsible for clearly communicating any new protocols – such as mask requirements, etc.

Video takes it all
If we thought visuals, specifically video, was trending upwards last year, nothing prepared us for the cataclysmic event that was TikTok. In a way, it felt like video, while already wildly popular, was made for a moment such as 2020 and this year we were gifted with millions of TikToks and the addition of Instagram Reels. While it’s easy to imagine TikTok being popular without the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to believe it would’ve taken over the content world in quite the same way. In 2021, we’re anticipating this to continue to trend upwards, as well as continuing to drive other social media channels to focus more on video content. One important lesson for marketers and PR professionals to keep in mind is that you don’t need high production value to go viral – or to even create valuable video content. Authenticity will win the day.

Overall, public relations and marketing professionals can expect 2021 to be a year of fast-paced change and shifting trends – as far as the industry goes. The news cycle won’t slow, nor will the constant stream of content. Though it seems counterintuitive, it’s best to only plan a week or two in advance and to focus on creating authentic, transparent content – with maybe a few interactive videos included. Get out your (TikTok) dancing shoes – it’s going to be quite the year!

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