PR TrendsOn the second day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you two PR trends and one mindset shift (in a pear tree).

Yesterday, we started you out with the one mindset shift you need to make as you go into next year.

On this second day of Christmas, we have two PR trends for you to accept, envelop, and work to death.

No matter where your communications role lies, you can go into the new decade strong if you embrace these two PR trends: resiliency and the PESO Model.

PR Trends: The Rise of the Communicator

Yeah, baby! That’s right! Our time has come!

According to this year’s Trust Barometer from Edelman, 65% of employees expect their leaders to address the current situation and impart information, both internally and externally, versus waiting for governments to do so. The report shows that leaders know there are great expectations from their teams and their customers—and they’re aware of the overall perception that businesses can be an impetus for change, but lack competent delivery.

It’s no surprise. For, well, pretty much ever, leaders have been told to keep politics and social issues and anything else that might be polarizing close to their vests. This year, however, has forced organizations to not just take a stand, but do so in a way that could create an entire section of customers to abandon them.

It’s absolutely the right thing to do, but it’s also risky and very scary.

The Trust Barometer also shows:

  • 76% of consumers say that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for governments to impose it;
  • 71% of employees expect their employer to deliver greater purpose;
  • 84% of investors say that maximizing shareholder returns can no longer be the primary goal of the corporation; and
  • 98% of investors think public companies are urgently obligated to address one or more societal issues.

These factors have led to a rise in demand for a communicator or communications team.

Business leaders have begun to see that having strategic communications counsel at the table allows them to understand how their business decisions can affect their customers. There is a necessity to tie perception with reality more today than ever before.

Earn a Coveted Seat at the Table

This year has definitely been one for the history books. We’ve had four crises in a matter of only nine months—health, political, social, and economic. The role of every communicator has become one of crisis communications, even if they didn’t before specialize in it.

Many of us haven’t had time to breathe because, just as one thing begins to fade into the woodwork, something new pops up and we must respond.

As business leaders have struggled with how to respond, especially with years of NOT responding at all behind them, it’s also required them to change their internal organization systems and processes to be able to activate change externally.

Not a small undertaking—and one that requires consistent, transparent, and authentic communications, messaging that has to be scripted by a professional.

While all organizations have always needed to be able to explain their purpose or why they exist, this year has required them to demonstrate how their purpose helps employees and customers.

This requires the work of risk management professionals, policy specialists, attorneys—and yes, communicators.

So the first PR trend for 2021 is the rise of the communicator. Assuming you can prove your value and demonstrate results (see the second PR trend below), you will have a coveted seat at the table to help your executives or your clients make change—both internally and externally.

PR Trends: The PESO Model

And now the second trend for 2021: implementing the PESO Model.

If you’re been around these parts for a bit, you know what the PESO Model is and hopefully have started to experiment using it in your communications efforts.

If we’ve learned anything from this dumpster fire of a year, it’s that traditional communications are no longer going to be enough.

Last year, AdAge published an article on this very topic, and not only could I not agree more, but it’s also still applicable today.

The PESO Model, for those of you who are not familiar, is the integration of paid, earned, shared, and owned media.

Traditionally, PR falls under earned media—media relations, publicity, whatever you want to call it.

Today, even if we’re not asked to do more, it’s our responsibility to start to add in the other media types.

Not only has media changed enough that it affects the E in the PESO model, but it’s hard to measure it beyond brand awareness and reputation.

Not that those aren’t important—they are.

But a survey by the Annenberg Center for Public Relations at USC shows the majority of CEOs want PR to result in measurable outcomes.

This is also known as, driving revenue or cold, hard cash.

You cannot do that without an integrated PESO Model.

Earned Media Can—and Should—Ultimately Drive Sales

I’m going to ask a rhetorical question, simply because I cannot see you to know if you’ve raised your hand…but how many of you have pitched a story in recent months only to have the journalist come back to you with an introduction to the publisher or providing the ad sheet so you can buy space? 

It’s happening more and more often and, while I do think advertising and earned media are two entirely different things (church and state, if you will), it’s getting more challenging to get earned media without some sort of media buy. 

Consider things such as native advertising, sponsored content, and certainly paid social.

These are all things that can—and should—fall within your bailiwick.

When your executives or clients want you to focus on earned media, start to request a budget for some paid media, too.

We’re not far from not being able to get any earned media without paid. Start greasing those wheels now.

In the aforementioned study out of Annenberg, they asked thousands of marketers which media type they thought was most credible—and earned media still came out on top.

Which makes sense.

It’s third-party validation, after all.

But it also has to be measured to real outcomes—and not just impressions or media value or website traffic.

To do that, it must be integrated with the other media types. 

Shared Media Continues to Evolve 

Shared media is going to continue to change.

This year has introduced a massive shift in social media as we all sat at home with nothing else to do.

It also has created a toxic environment that many people (including your customers) have either shut down their accounts entirely or promised themselves not to check in.

While shared media is still one of the very best ways to engage with your audiences, if your communications plan depends on it, you have to start to plan for eventual changes.

Do it now.

Integrate the other media types so you’re not reliant on one thing and can be fluid as changes happen.

Be the Teller of Your Own Story

And last, but definitely not least, is owned media.

This is where every communications plan should begin. Without owned media, someone else is telling your story for you.

Don’t let that happen!

Tell your story. Tell it well. And definitely tell it often.

And then let the other media types help you disseminate it. 

The PR Trends for 2021

So there we have it on the second day of Christmas at Spin Sucks: two PR trends with the rise of the communicator and working the PESO Model into your communications plans

Of course, it’s challenging to limit to only two trends.

There are lots of other things on the forefront, such as ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), DEI, continued work-from-home, livestreaming becoming the way to enjoy events, new technology, and more. But I could only do two trends so I chose my favorites!

With that, I’d love to know what you think are the PR trends for 2021.

The comments are yours.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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