The past two years may have tilted the world on its axis, metaphorically speaking, but professionally it has been an exciting challenge ensuring that PR has kept ahead of the curve of the ever-evolving marketing landscape. Campaign ideas and tactics that would have commanded significant exposure five years ago, no longer capture the same attention.
PR now covers a broad church, which on the one hand gives brands myriad options when it comes to investing marketing spend, making it possible to package up a bespoke mix of activities that deliver well against objectives. On the flip side, with multiple options comes more pull on what is often a limited budget. So, where should marketeers be focussing spend this year, so they don’t spread their budget too thinly? What are the PR trends that brands should be riding? This article explores Storm’s forecasts for 2022 to help brands confidently invest in marketing activities in 2022.
Hybridisation between editorial and advertising
Once upon a time in the world of journalism, there were editorial teams who lived a completely separate existence to advertising teams, and never the twain would meet. However, with the advent of affiliate marketing, there now is now a crossbreed which seemingly combines editorial integrity with commercial intent.
This is a trend that will only get more popular in 2022 as publishers have recognised that affiliate marketing is a lucrative revenue stream for them. However, for it to maintain its growth momentum, it is essential that consumers trust that the editorial is truly independent and not swayed by monetary gain.
While affiliate marketing isn’t right for all brands, for most it provides an open door for product PR while driving direct sales – a potent cocktail for any marketeer.
Integration is so last year
Take a look at any PR agency’s website, and they will boast that they run integrated campaigns; it was the buzz term for years, used to reassure brands that their various marketing initiatives were symbiotic and aligned. While there is a lot of merit in this and it will be the right approach for some brands going forward, with the splintering of marketing budgets to cover different tactics, there is an opportunity for brands to be braver and take a channel and audience specific approach.
One brand that has done this with impressive results is Ryanair. They have embraced TikTok, but rather than trying to reach all potential customers with their posts, they have created irreverent content that has singular appeal to Gen Z. It would be potentially off-putting to customers outside of this demographic, but as they have taken a channel-specific approach there is little danger of alienating an older audience, who are less likely to be using TikTok.
In 2022 we will likely see more brands siphon off budget to target discrete audiences rather than take a one size fits all approach; the art will be in knowing when it is right to do this and when an integrated approach would be more impactful.
Trackability – specifically tracking sales as a direct result of PR – isn’t a new concept. Brands have wanted to know the impact of a campaign in terms of sales figures ever since PR was used for commercial gain. Historically it was difficult to quantify, but with newer digitally focussed PR tactics, it is easier to show a direct link to increased website traffic or sales. It is much easier to get a Financial Director to sign off a marketing campaign when there is a clear monetary return on investment.
PR briefs this year will continue to focus on clear, measured campaign outputs with an onus on sales achieved directly as a result of PR. However, while it is now feasible to do this with various tactics, it doesn’t mean ‘old school’ PR methods, such as media relations, don’t deliver significant benefits for brands. A half page feature in The Sunday Telegraph about a brand and its USPs will have a considerable impact on the public’s awareness of it and will undoubtedly lead to sales – just because they can’t be tracked, doesn’t make the activity null and void.
PR with purpose
Gone are the days when an ill-thought-through survey or unoriginal photoshoot could get serious space in the media. The media is dedicating less space to brand ‘news’ and it takes a really fresh idea to get meaningful cut through. However, where companies can still generate strong coverage is through its CSR initiatives. The media and the public want to hear about brands that are going the extra mile to be sustainable and ethical and are willing to dedicate serious space and airtime to those that are doing something unique and inspiring. This will continue to be the case for 2022, as consumers increasingly put more stock in companies who give back.
Two watch outs though for brands: firstly, being more sustainable and ethical is now considered a hygiene factor for businesses, so to generate coverage a company has to be doing something above and beyond the norm – simply becoming a B corp, for example, or switching to solar energy isn’t enough to warrant PR coverage. Be focussed and single-minded on what you want to achieve from a CSR point of view, and channel all energy into that rather than doing a little bit of everything. Secondly, don’t be disingenuous or jump on the bandwagon unless a campaign or initiative is something your company truly believes in and does something about, as otherwise it can backfire from a PR point of view. A good example of this is International Women’s Day, where a lot of brands piggybacked on the awareness day, but their support of women didn’t correspond to how the business was run in terms of gender-equal pay.
Rough and ready video
The issue many brands – especially SMEs – have had with social media is that it is incredibly time consuming and expensive to create content that is professional and polished. Most brands know what a great social media feed looks like, but limited resources mean that it has been a challenge to actually produce it. This was only exacerbated when video became an important medium on social media, because it increased engagement rates.
So, hurrah for social media platforms such as Twitch and TikTok, which provide the ideal melting pots for rough and ready content that hasn’t been produced by experts and edited for hours in a studio. With Instagram now focussing on reels too, there is a real opportunity for brands that don’t have deep pockets, to create their own video content and credibly compete with bigger players.