PR is all about sharing the correct information at the right time to the right audience. Its purpose is to build relationships between organisations and the public. With that in mind, PR pros need a strong strategy to improve brand reputation, enhance their brand image and increase profits.

Therefore, a strong game plan for you to achieve that desired goal would be following up on the newest PR trends that are applicable to your own brand.

By doing this, you are not just following all of the right practices but you are also winning major opportunities for growth and prestige in the PR sector.

With that said, here are the four PR trends that will dominate in 2021:

1. All things digital

With the rapidly changing world, the revolution of technology has caused a shift in the PR industry with more agencies having a focus on digital public relations. The increase in new tools, software and online offerings has made the call to digital a whole lot more tempting for PR pros.

The benefits of moving towards digital PR includes the improvement of visibility as well as the establishment of an online presence. That is why PR pros need to incorporate online platforms into daily tasks, as this could help you to keep tabs with competitors and engage more with other professionals in your industry. There is a wide range of Internet-based tools that can help your brand thrive, which includes online publications, social media networks and more.

In the digital age, online platforms have become a vital part of PR as they help your client’s brand to improve its reputation, exposure and SEO. They do this by sharing press releases and newsworthy content with online reporters and editors. They can also publish content on their blog or via their social media platforms to gain more followers.

As a PR pro looking to grow your own brand, you can offer expert opinions and industry insights. You can also share breaking news content, as well as professional advice on social media networks. This will present your brand to the public as a thought leader and expert within your industry, making your brand an entity that the public will look up to and want to follow.

The digital space is becoming an integral part of PR professionals’ working environment, as brands have been led to engage with their audience through different channels and in real-time. PR pros, therefore, need to utilise this space to directly connect the brand to its consumers.

2. Innovation

Trying some unique or risky ideas is crucial for the success of your client’s brand. PR is becoming more and more competitive, and it can be very difficult to showcase what sets you apart from your opposition in the industry.

This is why your brand needs to consider this trend. Innovation will always make an impression, especially with the digital world bringing so many opportunities for creativity.

Take, for example, the Burger King’s Proud Whopper 'New' Product Launch. The reason why the launch gained so much traction was because the PR agency invited people to try the 'new' burger during the San Franciso Gay Pride Week. It was wrapped in a rainbow coloured paper with the message "We are all the same inside". In reality, it was the same whopper burger that just had different packaging.

Burger King's reputation was improved as it was seen as a forward-thinking brand. This is because they highlighted one of the social ills, which is gender discrimination towards queer people. The message they were trying to communicate was that, regardless of their sexuality, which is seen on the outside, they are human beings like everyone else. The rainbow coloured paper was a symbol of unity, emphasising that we should accept them and be one.

Because of this, the launch gained exposure, significant media coverage and impressions. It was a trending topic on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for quite some time because the general public supported the innovative message behind the launch.

3. Crisis communications

The COVID-19 pandemic was a call to action for many businesses to have detailed and effective crisis communication plans in place. With the influx of information being sent on media platforms, your audience can get ahead of you when it comes to the spread of fake news or rumours about your brand. And when this happens, it can be very difficult to make your voice heard when addressing the issue. Reputation and image are crucial assets for your business, so the key for your brand's success is to adapt and act immediately to crisis.

For example, Ford South Africa was forced to recall more than 4 000 Kuga cars that had engines that were prone to setting alight or exploding. The company announced the recalls after 40 such cases and one death had been reported. Ford was attacked in the media, with some of its customers even taking the brand to court as it had not acknowledged the problem with its cars immediately. Ford also didn't answer and engage the media and its customers empathetically and honestly, creating a more aggravated response from the public.

A crisis is an unexpected event that threatens business operations and that can cause harm to an organisation and its employees. To overcome any crisis as a PR pro, you need to communicate effectively, especially with the variety of online outlets available today.

You could do this by following these PR communication tips:

Predict the crisis: Things can go wrong anytime; therefore, you need to preemptively brainstorm ideas in case a crisis occurs. It is always better to plan than to solve a crisis in the moment.
Identify a spokesperson: Your brand needs to have authorised people who respond or address issues on its behalf. These people should know the brand, its procedures and its audience well enough to know which route is the best way forward.
Protect your stakeholders: Always remember that employees are the most important stakeholders as they can be regarded as PR ambassadors for your brand. If you look after them when the going gets tough, they are more likely to have your back when you need them.
Maintain effective communication: Lower level employees should be able to communicate critical issues with management to overcome tough situations. Therefore, maintain open communications across all levels to ensure effective interaction, which can then promote faster action when resolving a crisis.
Be quick in making decisions: There are a lot of media platforms available, which mean that there is a higher expectation of your brand to respond quickly and effectively during a crisis. The faster you respond to your audience and provide clarification, the less chance there is that the crisis will escalate.

4. Influencer culture

Finding influencers who are popular with your audience and who recommend your brand is the 'in' thing now — and many PR pros haven't caught on to the power that it has. These individuals are very popular on social media, especially Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok.

The reason why they've gained so much popularity, and are still continuing to do so, is because potential consumers generally warm up to the idea of buying your brand when they see it regularly on an influencer page.

For example, Nomzamo Mbatha, who is an actress, TV personality and businessperson, endorses PUMA clothes on Twitter. There is more visibility of the PUMA brand because she has a large following on Twitter, which consists of more than two million followers. The audience will be influenced to buy the PUMA product because they want to look exactly like her.

As a PR pro, you should always identify your target market and consider what the best platforms are to use when reaching out to your audience. For example, a tekkie brand could go for an influencer on Twitter as it is used by the working class and young males and females.

Generally, influencers with more followers will spread the word for you to many people, but the noble ones with few followers are generally trusted more and they can improve your brand's reputation.

What other trends do you think will be making waves in the PR industry this year? Share with us in the comments section below.

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