By Upasna Dash
On 29th of March 2020, a week after the lockdown began I received 5 phone-calls in a span of two hours that defined the rest of the year. This included four founders who are now well-known in the ecosystem and a leading VC. It was interesting to witness how business leaders wanted to explore PR when in the pre-covid era all businesses could think of was marketing. They needed a communication strategy for varied business functions and decisions – right from crisis management, lay-offs, closure of verticals, pausing of growth plans or entering the Indian market, communicating with stakeholders to handling growing and diminishing startups in the VC’s portfolio. The pandemic in hindsight brought opportunities and also a chance to showcase what powerful storytelling could mean for brands. This was 2020, a massive catalyst that accelerated growth, created new business models and in some cases closed the door on existing businesses. What remained common across all these was the need to carefully articulate themselves to internal & external stakeholders.
As the world woke up to an unprecedented time, the need for clarity, transparency, trust and conversation became a top priority for businesses all over. A KPMG report suggests that the Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector is expected to contract by 20% in FY21 with major segments like TV, films, and print all seeing major declines. On the other hand, an extended lockdown accelerated digital consumption, and segments such as digital media and gaming saw rapid growth in user penetration and engagement levels. The M&E sector is expected to bounce back in FY22 however with a growth of 33.1% over FY21 to reach Rs 1.86 trillion with gaming and digital being the fastest growing segments.
So what does this mean for communication in 2021? What role could public relations play as we enter another unprecedented year? Here’s my take:
With digitisation playing an important role to continue to stay connected with relevant audiences, consumers, and stakeholders, there has been a massive shift in modes of communication leading to a newer format of daily news consumption. Analysis and statistics have proven that Indians majorly residing in urban cities are now spending less than half the time reading newspapers and watching television as compared to a period 3-4 years ago. Media consumption is witnessing a significant shift in consumption patterns, and a digital-first approach is rapidly taking over.
This shift has led to some already in place and anticipated trends that will shape communication in 2021. Here are a couple of PR trends listed down below that can act as a ready reckoner for PR and communications professionals to include and use in their strategies for brands and consumers:
PR will have to be more integrated than ever before
Today’s new-age consumers do not prefer to have one, but multiple platforms for their daily share of news and developments across industries. This leads to a need for PR and communication strategies to become omnipresent and be a lot more integrated. The job of us PR professionals is now to move towards making a transition to wider platforms happen seamlessly, without consumers having to rely on any one particular source to obtain news and updates on their choice of brands or industries.
Credibility is key
The availability of more platforms also leads to an important point, that is making credibility a key focus area. The availability of news and information on multiple platforms also means that they should be coming from trusted sources and ensure authenticity. This brings to making another strong point, that is credibility can be achieved with personal communication touchpoints, to be able to create an impact and influence people’s patterns, behaviors, and thoughts. Credibility is best defined as the quality or power of inspiring belief. Credibility is an intangible asset that can be built successfully with real efforts and focus towards creating a strong presence in the relevant consumer space.
Purpose-driven PR will be seen to take a lead
Purpose-driven PR and communication will further take an important place. It is time to change the narrative and navigate towards communication that comes out from a place of purpose. This will not only help in better communication but also slowly help build a third-party validation, which goes a long way in building credibility in any brand’s communication and strategies. The availability of newer platforms is rather an opportunity to reach out to a large audience, voice opinions, and views. Word of mouth at this stage of changing PR trends is what will help communication strategies sail through with an effective recall. It will ensure that consumers’ reliability and trust in brands and leaders is built and sustained.
Cross-pollination will help derive meaningful conversations
Communications from the past year have completely moved to a digital platform. With events moving from a designated hall to people’s homes, this is a great opportunity to bring focused attention to a brand’s communications. For example, closed-door events and seminars have now moved to an open digital platform that is attended by a fairly larger audience base. Cross-pollination in terms of audiences here plays a crucial role as various brands and stakeholders can leverage the same platform to share views, opinions, news, and developments.
Value-based branding and storytelling will be an area of focus
Post the pandemic hit a year, the consumers have grown to start trusting brands that communicate about social causes that they care about. The year 2021 is set to see PR campaigns and communications strategies that aim to resonate with consumers based on social, economic, and health issues of importance. Leaders must make good use of the follower base that they have to showcase the change they are making for their society and consumers alike.
The year has begun and while there is excitement to embark on new journeys, there is a lot to look out for, it will be particularly interesting to see how brands devise communications strategies that are crafted to cater to the right set of audiences, and on the right platform in this ever dynamic world.
The author is founder and CEO of Jajabor Brand Consultancy.