2022’S PR TRENDS: WHAT’S NEXT FOR BRANDS?

After the Corona-coaster of the past few years, I’m a little reluctant to predict anything that the future might hold, let alone the PR trends ahead. That said, I think that 2022 is a really exciting time for the comms industry with ‘change’ being at the heart of everything we do as PR pros.

Values and purpose will become even more integral to brand communications, as customers – and society as a whole – expect more from one other. Those trending topics of diversity, mental health and climate change will continue to dominate headlines, being joined by the debate around what the metaverse really means for marketers.

Since March 2020, PRs have been reaping the benefits of strong brand storytelling, and I think the true value of what we do will really come to light as we enter into this next-normal of “living with Covid” and navigating the new digital landscape. So, with a little hesitation over trying to predict what’s next for us all (Mystic Meg, where are you when I need you?!) here are my top five predictions for PR trends in 2022.

1. Cutting through the clutter

‘Spin’ has been on its way out for a long time, but 2022 will be the year that PRs, brands and consumers all call-out the nonsense. Gone are the days when fake news and propaganda controls the hearts and minds of people; one of this year’s biggest PR trends will be the need for brands and their comms experts to communicate in open and honest ways. Our information-filled world makes it too difficult to hide behind your own agenda these days: the reality is that no-one really knows the truth, but proactively spinning a line for favourable column inches simply won’t cut it anymore. That means that PRs will have to up their game with journalists who might sometimes be lazy, but certainly won’t copy-and-paste your strategic messaging like they used to!

2. Vulnerability becomes a conversation starter  

The pandemic definitely saw the acceleration of this, but as we move through 2022, it’s safe to say that leaders will continue to use their vulnerability as a selling point. Linked closely to the death of PR spin, we’re seeing more brands hold their hands up when they get things wrong; calling themselves out before their public even has the chance to cancel them. Movements like ‘girl boss’ are seeing a backlash, as people expect more honest recollections of failure and pitfalls. This will be an interesting one to watch when it comes to influencers too; the staged #ad is still a cash cow, but will it lose its impact as loyal communities call for more real-talk?

3. A whole new (digital) world

If you didn’t immediately think of Katie Price and Peter Andre when reading this title, then we can’t be friends! One of this year’s biggest PR trends will, undoubtedly, be the metaverse… and everything that comes with it. Apart from a few forward-thinking agencies who embraced Bitcoin early doors, the industry as a whole hasn’t quite yet delved into what a new digital world means beyond crypto-currency-paying-clients. Anyone not exploring that this year will really be left behind, as we see NFTs continue to rise in value, and more brands carving out their digital spaces for the future. Whilst a little overwhelming to get your head around as a traditional PR, this means that data will be your friend and there will be so many new ways to capture the attention of your organisation’s audience. It’s time to get your gaming colleagues to start sharing trade secrets of this new world, as it’s big business for brands!

4. PR stunts make their comeback

Interestingly, whilst we explore the metaverse, NFTs, cryptocurrencies and everything they bring, one thing PRs can’t do is take their eye off the real-life ball. One of this year’s big PR trends will see the juxtaposition of expecting brands to be in the new digital space, whilst also wanting to engage with them IRL. Here’s where the PR stunt comes in! Boris’ latest narrative seems to be around “living with Covid”, which will hopefully see the end of overnight restrictions and the risk of lockdowns, which means that the floor is open for brands to engage with people in real life once again. Experiences matter, even more so as followers and customers are turned into loyal brand communities, so PRs should look at how they return to that ‘surprise and delight’ nature of campaign planning!

5. The end of the niche?

Whilst the deep-rooted and systemic issues of society remain at large, as a communicator I do think that since May 2020 we have seen a turning point for the media. It’s far from perfect and still full of bandwagon-jumping and virtue-signalling, but we are now seeing far more representation on our TV screens, in advertising campaigns, and when we scroll through articles. It may only be the start of a movement that will last way beyond our generation, but as representation remains the calling of consumers, will niche spaces and publications start to become more mainstream? Racial diversity, LGBTQIA+ communities, and both physical and hidden disabilities can no longer be ignored by brands or the media. One of this year’s PR trends will be niche content filtering into every day mainstream media… and so it should! PRs should stay on top of this and understand when content is meant for safer spaces and when it needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

Not wanting to repeat the mistakes of January 2021 where we all thought “this is our year!” I do truly think that 2022 has some exciting challenges and changes ahead for the PR industry. We’re going to have to continue exploring data and leaning into our SEO expertise, whilst finding the perfect balance of traditional PR tactics versus what consumers have come to expect as part of this next-normal. None of us truly knows what lies ahead – or what variant will come along and change everything – but one thing is for sure: staying on top of the latest PR trends and public sentiment is only the beginning for your strategic brand communications.

It goes without saying, of course, if you want to explore what this looks like for your PR plans, hit up TeamEV and we’ll be on hand to guide you through brand positioning and community building that really shapes that bottom line!

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