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5 powerful PR trends for 2021

Are you prepared for what comes next?

Which are the five main PR trends for 2021?

Tradition dictates that any self-respecting PR blogger better publish a post on the most interesting trends for the upcoming year.

Overall, I think we’ll see a general movement inwards, were more and more organisations will be looking for PR strategies from the inside out.

Next year is going to be exciting — but also tough.

1. ESG

ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (often interchangeably referred to as sustainability), is my first of five major PR trends for 2021.

Why is this trend powerful?

The political landscape is continuously being polarised with loud voices both on the far left and the far right — and a growing silent majority. Cancel culture, deplatforming, alternative facts, and brandcalling are used as powerful tools for applying pressure on organisations and individuals.

Along with mounting pressures, the need for more sustainable strategies and narratives, especially in light of the Greta Thunberg movement and the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations will have no choice but to adapt.

How will this trend affect PR?

Communication departments will have to find brave new PR strategies to deal with these unparallelled pressures of the outside world.

These new strategies will have to balance a razor sharp edge between ESG compliance and brand integrity — both equally important but not necessarily compatible.

2. Communication maturity

Communication maturity is the the development level of common perceptions amongst leaders, communicaticators, and coworkers and is my second of five major PR trends for 2021.

Why is this trend powerful?

As society deals with the continuing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations must look inwards to ensure that the organisation, and not just the communication department, is accountable for processes, results, and advocacy.

This trend is the organisational outcome of the ESG trend; the biggest challenges next year will be strategic, so the countermeasures must be met at a strategic level within the organisation as well.

How will this trend affect PR?

There will be an increased focus on communicative leadership, advocacy and coworker communication responsibility, and the continuous measurement of internal attitudes and narratives.

The communications department will also have to seek a closer relationship with the HR department — especially in larger organisations.

3. SEO

SEO, the strategies and practices for attracting organic traffic from search engines, will be a key focus for communicators and is my third of five major PR trends for 2021.

Why is this trend powerful?

With social media algorithms being so volatile and risky, and the media noise being so paramount, many organisations will be forced to take a step back and look at how they can have the audience come to them — instead of the other way around.

So much corporate content doesn’t even make it into SERP top 100 — despite the content itself being relevant in many cases.

How will this trend affect PR?

Well-developed practices for inbound marketing alone won’t be sufficient in 2021. Being able to earn top SERP positions for relevant search phrases won’t just be great PR — it’ll be a core business asset for any organisation.

Communicators will have to team up with SEO specialists and start to work closely together — for the long-term.

4. Reputation management

Reputation management (sometimes also referred to as issues management) is the proactive aspect of crisis communications and is my fourth of five major PR trends for 2021.

Why is this trend powerful?

In the wake of the the techlash and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and followed by political pressures on social networks along with critical views presented in documentaries like The Social Dilemma and, social media seems to have become the primary battle ground for changing hearts and minds.

With mounting political polarisation and social media pessimism, the internet functions as a catalyst by forcing organisations to adapt rapidly. This is likely to be a continuous challenge for PR professionals across the world next year.

How will this trend affect PR?

The key to successful reputation management is to take advantage of being first to detect and to act on potential PR issues.

Communications departments will have to revisit and upgrade their existing solutions for media monitoring and make better use of data warehouses, advanced filters and machine learning.

5. Brand communities

Brand communities, building and maintaining an online community of actively engaged customers, is my fifth and final major PR trend for 2021.

Why is this trend powerful?

With influencers transitioning to build and promote their own commercial brands, organisations must build audiences of their own. The number of organisations who have actually succeeded in nurturing a community of true fans are dwindling, but the rewards for those who succeed can be enormous.

Quickly growing an online community and keeping it engaged is likely to be regarded as the real “viral marketing” of 2021 which is looking to be the biggest year for algorithms yet.

How will this trend affect PR?

The idea of “brand communities” is an old one and it has typically resonated with ideas of loyalty memberships or online forums. With inspiration from how influencers build their communities, this might be about to change.

I might be jumping the gun here, but 2021 could be the year when organisations adopt a strategic approach to building a real community, as opposed to creating just another reward program or launching a new platform.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.

Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer/
Jerry Silfwer aka Doctor Spin is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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