Published On: 06/01/20214.7 min read

At times during the coronacoaster ride of 2020 it felt impossible to predict anything – many trend reports put out in the early part of the year arguably had more use as toilet paper, such was the seismic shift in almost all facets of life, combined with the scarcity of loo roll.

But reflecting back on the year, it is now clear that while no one could have imagined quite how much of an impact Covid19 would have had on our lives, from a PR perspective it didn’t so much rock the boat as it did attach a jet engine to it. When it comes to the media, by no means has it stagnated over the past decade and there has been a slow evolution into a digital first world, but the fallout of the virus has ramped up the slow demise of certain areas and put sharply into focus where brands need to concentrate their efforts marketing wise. This acceleration into all things online has helped shape our predictions for 2021…


Printed media will continue to fall out of fashion

Even pre-Covid print media wasn’t in its heyday but the potential risk of printed media carrying the virus, combined with the challenge of actually getting into shops at the start of the first lockdown, inevitably further impacted sales.

Weekly magazines were hit hard, with Bauer titles Heat declining by 33%, Take A Break down 21% and Grazia losing 19% of sales. The fact that Hearst, who publish glossy monthlies including Elle, Men’s Health and Good Housekeeping, declined to publish its six-monthly figures is indicative that it also experiences declining sales.

Print newspaper sales, nationally and regionally, have been in significant decline. The industry was already in acceptance that in five years the current print model would be defunct, but the effects of the coronavirus have been catastrophic and what was expected to happen in five years accelerated into a five-week window at the start of lockdown. The medium-term concern became an overnight worry. There has already been a 40% drop in circulation and in a self-perpetuating move, 50-80% of ad sales revenue is down (in part because budgets were pulled as the economic impact took hold, and now in part because the circulations are down). Regional newspapers have been hit hardest, with more than 50 already being forced to close their print editions. Out of necessity people have switched their media habits into the digital world and are now comfortable with getting their news fix at the touch of a button.

From a PR point of view, the decline of print media isn’t all bad news. Monthly magazines have long lead times – often up to six months – so to generate coverage in one of those titles it means campaigns have to be at least six months long in order to deliver. With more public consuming digital media, PR campaigns should focus on them in most instances, which will deliver quicker results and typically a more compelling ROI.


PR KPIs will start to include sales

For a long time, the relationship between a piece of PR coverage and sales wasn’t tangible. On occasion a really great product review would be aired on a primetime TV programme and there was a significant surge in sales that was clearly a direct result of the PR, but by and large PR consultancies have always shied away from linking PR to sales. There were (and still are) very good reasons why this was the case, but with an increased reliance on digital media and a sideways step into social media ‘coverage’, it is now possible to track elements of a PR campaign and demonstrate a direct link from PR to a sale.

As a metric it isn’t perfect: it is possible that coverage could lead to sales at a later time not immediately after a consumer sees the PR. However, for marketing teams that are increasingly pushed to show the sales outcomes of their marketing campaigns, it offers a more robust KPI than AVE ever could.


Podcasts are big business

Podcasts had a little blip in spring 2020 thanks to a shift in consumer behaviour, with commutes being switched for lockdown-enforced home working. However, since then they have come back stronger than ever. It is estimated that podcasts had 15.6 million listeners in 2020 and 24% of Brits listen to podcasts regularly. And with more than one million shows on Apple Podcasts alone (most with many, many episodes) there is a massive opportunity for brands to tap into the medium.

From guest speakers, news, product placement and reviews, there are multiple earned media opportunities which brands should tap into across an incredibly diverse mix of shows.


Influencers keep it real

Anyone that uses Facebook, Instagram or TikTok will know the ubiquitous nature of influencers on social media. Their omnipresence will continue into 2021 but increasingly #ads will feel more authentic and collaborative, rather than one-off posts. Marketeers are seeing the benefits of working on a longer-term basis with fewer influencers, rather than taking a scattergun approach with multiple influencers. For the same reason there is likely to be a gentle evolution to working with smaller micro and nano influencers, who don’t boast large follower bases but have compelling engagement rates. This is because influencers at this scale have a deeper and more real connection with their communities, so going small has big dividends.


The above represent just a handful of trends that we expect in 2021 – drop us a line at if you want a bespoke PR and / or social media campaign plan that taps into the latest trends and tactics.