The year 2021 was full of uncertainty and evolution which reshaped the PR and marketing landscape and business agendas alike. The world had to face a continuation of a global pandemic, climate change challenges, supply chains issues, and remote working – and PR agencies in addition had to step up to the plate to ensure their clients stayed on top of everything.

So, what can we expect in the next 12 months? IBA has looked into the future to analyze some of the top trends and predictions for the marcomms sector.

  1. Content is still king – but it wears an SEO crown

According to the most recent Cision Global Comms Report, content creation is currently at the top of the list of priorities for communication leaders. Credible content from year to year goes down well not only with journalists, customers and prospects… but also with the robots that rule search algorithms. It’s no secret that nowadays content containing just key phrases is not enough.

HubSpot confirms this view, predicting that in 2022 more businesses will use SEO to concur search traffic. As SEO becomes more ingrained with marketing strategies, many brands are weighing up whether to invest in SEO experts to gain expertise into everything from search insights reports to multimedia optimization. As a result, PR agencies must assess how to level up their content strategy and demonstrate the power of integrated SEO for their clients.

  1. Brand stretch in 2022 – for customers, employees and investors

In its marketing trends for 2022 Deloitte has found that, in light of societal shifts such as workforce diversity, consumer sustainability pressures, and safeguarding customer privacy, many organizations are redefining their messaging to demonstrate their purpose beyond simply driving sales and profitability. In fact, Deloitte reports a correlation between high-growth brands and those actioning their brand purpose to inspire everything from new product and service delivery to guiding employee decision-making and driving CSR investment.

Demonstrating an explicit and authentic brand purpose will be key for marketing and PR strategies in the year ahead, as this will become a competitive differentiator for organizations to attract new customers, employees and investors alike.

  1. Artificial Intelligence – less artificial, more intelligence

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation World Report 2021-2022 predicts that the most impactful technology for PR practitioners in 2022 and beyond will be artificial intelligence. No surprise there but it found that in the PR industry, AI and other new technologies will mainly be used for measurement and analytics or research insight and planning, to help inform campaigns, and benefit overall organization performance.

Media relations was the joint lowest PR process likely to be impacted by new technology – so the machines won’t be taking over content creation and media pitching just yet!

  1. Experiential marketing could be set for a comeback – albeit in a virtual way

A common tactic from previous years may be set to stage a comeback in our final prediction, with the return of experiential marketing. This could be in terms of physical experiences but also through the growth in use of virtual and augmented reality. As public areas begin to reopen, and digital platforms for VR/AR continue to get more affordable and accessible to larger audiences, experiential marketing is back in vogue for comms professionals in 2022.

HubSpot reports that: “58% of marketers who currently leverage experiential marketing call it an effective strategy, while 48% of this group plans to increase experiential investments in 2022.”

At first sight, when we look cross-sectionally at all these trends, it can be difficult to find a single common denominator here, but all are essential parts of a good overall marketing and communications campaign. There are many options ahead for marketing leaders and their supporting PR agencies – prioritizing the ones most applicable for their business is the task ahead.

Angelika Winiarz is PR Executive at IBA International.

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