PR in 2021

2021 hasn’t quite given us the start we’d all hoped for – with new Covid-19 cases still worryingly high, home-schooling rumoured to persist beyond half term and summer 2021 events such as Glastonbury already being cancelled, it’s clear that the pandemic won’t be disappearing any time soon.

PR agencies and their clients have been adapting their strategies for ten months now and, with almost a year’s experience and some very public brand hits and misses, clear trends have emerged on how best to tackle public relations in a coronavirus context.

Firstly, there is a huge emphasis on social justice – and in the age of ‘cancel culture’, there’s a lot at stake for those who fail to portray it. Parents are juggling home-school lessons with working from home, many don’t have adequate resources, and the recent free school meals blunder did the Government no favours – Matt Hancock’s disastrous attempt to defend his vote against free school meals on Good Morning Britain quickly became the show’s most shared clip EVER. Bad PR travels fast.

Which means brands must be careful, and lead with empathy over exploitation. Campaigns such as Wickes’ ‘Cure Housebarrassment’ risk coming across as insensitive and frankly a bit tone deaf. The campaign included a nationwide survey asking Brits which part of their house they’re most embarrassed by, and a TV advert in which a woman is too ashamed to show her background on Zoom. Rather than misusing the current situation to highlight what consumers are lacking, in an already (let’s be honest) miserable time, focussing on the positive is much more likely to get a better reception.

Companies must adapt on a more practical level, too. With fewer physical industry events, brands must come up with creative new ways to reach consumers and interact with end-users in an adapted, distanced way. This includes hosting and attending online events, creating more digital content and presenting at virtual shows.

Yet, while the PR industry is acclimatising to new territories, now is also prime time for thought leadership. In this period of uncertainty, what everyone is craving is authoritative, expert voices, meaning there’s almost never been a better time for authored articles from industry specialists. A great opportunity to share knowledge and steer the news agenda away from the pandemic.

With the right approach there are still opportunities for PR campaigns to make a difference as ever the PR industry is showing itself to be flexible and adaptable.

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