2020 was a year full of business disruption, but as our market research shows, with uncertainty and budget cuts hopefully in the past, we can all start to look to the future with some degree of optimism.

PR gets technical

PR and communications as an industry hasn’t always been the quickest to embrace transformational technologies, but the digital acceleration caused by Covid-19 means this can’t go on. Remote working forced many PR pros to rely on digital tools to keep campaigns rolling throughout lockdowns and the positive impact on productivity – and even results – means this reliance is likely to remain well into 2021.

There are many tools available to PR pros from simple tools for scheduling social media posts, to more advanced solutions that offer in-depth media analysis, specialized list-creation, keyword tracking and even email tracking functionalities to answer the question on every comms professional’s mind: how many people actually opened my pitch?

Whether you’re willing to invest heavily in technology or just want to get started, digital innovation will be an essential part of every PR pros’ toolbox in the coming year.

Journalism is changing – your PR approach should too!

Journalism was changing well before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these changes have definitely accelerated. Newsrooms are not what they used to be – and with COVID-induced budget cuts continuing they’re only going to get smaller. In the first 6 months of 2020 it’s estimated 11,000 US journalists lost their jobs.

Win-win situation – enhance a journalist’s career, promote your business messages

But what does this mean for PR pros? Topical and timely content will be even more appreciated by journalists. With newsrooms dwindling, delivering relevant copy right into the inbox of a stretched journalist is a clear path to securing some valuable media coverage. Content-led PR will be the key to success in 2021. And that means placing content relevant and enticing to your target media – remember, the more ground-breaking or visionary the content, the more that journalist’s career is enhanced. But don’t forget, the content must be relevant to your client’s key sales messages. That’s the happy marriage.

You’re only as good as your contacts – a 2021 refresh is essential

Outside of media relations tactics, keeping up to date with newsrooms closures is a habit that will benefit any PR pro in the coming year. A comms professional is only ever as good as their media list, and a list full of redundant contacts won’t yield many placements.

Campaign expansion is on the cards – if agencies are up to the challenge

In August we conducted some market research to gauge how B2B organizations planned to navigate their way to economic recovery following COVID lockdowns and the Brexit trade deal. The results were optimistic. 26% of organizations wanted to venture into new geographies during economic recovery, and a further 28% wanted to explore new industries. But with only 11% of organizations claiming they were satisfied with their agency support, the traditional agencies are going to find it difficult to support these desired expansions.

50% of organizations think that agency costs are just too high and a staggering 88% felt some of their budget was wasted. When asked to elaborate, PR and marketing agencies were criticized by B2B marketing managers for high agency staff churn (19%), false project starts (20%), disconnect with regional offices (33%) and prioritizing media engagement rather than media placements (41%) among other things. These results show that marketing and PR agencies need to transfer to a more affordable and results driven approach to PR in 2021 or risk falling to the wayside.

Adapt to succeed

Journalism is changing, technology is accelerating, and the traditional PR agency model is becoming outdated. PR professionals need to adapt to these changes in the coming year to achieve success in the coming year and beyond.

2021 – a year to practice what we preach?

Eleanor Rhodes is a PR Account Executive at IBA International.

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