2021 and the Shift from Traditional PR to Integrated Marketing
If there was one word to describe the year that was 2020, that word would be “adjustment.” The past year proved to be one that would be forever remembered as a time where brands, agencies and the media industry as a whole had to adapt to a “new normal” and abandon the tried-and-true tactics of media relations past. Considering the road ahead for PR and integrated marketing in 2021, the only guarantee is that there is no guarantee. Communications professionals will have to future-proof themselves by proving their value with concrete data to backup up the fruits of their labor, arming themselves with a deep understanding of the media landscape and embedding their influence deep into the inner-workings of their client department structures.
Show Me the Numbers
The idea that things are going to be right back to normal as soon as the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021 is foolish. In reality, clients of all shapes and sizes will continue to feel the effects of the pandemic; and as a result, will be keeping a close eye on PR spend. This places an increased amount of pressure on PR pros to think like a CMO to prove their worth and show how their efforts are “moving the needle” for the brands they represent.
While PR has for many years been misunderstood as an “unmeasurable” practice, the industry has developed methods to reinforce the art of media relations with data to back up the impact of stories created. One of the strongest metrics communications professionals can leverage in 2021 is share of voice. Simply put, share of voice (SOV) is the number of times a brand is mentioned on the web in comparison to its competitors. This metric is strongly correlated with brand awareness and any savvy communications professional will tell you building this brand awareness is a critical component to establishing trust among your audience.
SOV will be the strongest metric for brands to track in 2021 because it provides a comparative benchmark for campaign success that can easily communicate a brand’s relevance within a target market.
The Deskside Days Are Over
It’s no secret that the media industry is going through its own version of a mid-life crisis. Newsrooms are in a constant state of consolidation and reinvention, causing reporters to be stretched thin. The reality of the shrinking newsroom is fewer reporters means they have even less time to waste on calls, grabbing coffee and reading long-winded emails that are unrelated to their immediate coverage. Unless you have a truly breaking story to share or are offering an exclusive interview with the CEO of Apple, the likelihood of a reporter taking the time to sit on an introductory call with your client is slim to none.
That being said, the need for interesting stories and valuable expert sources has not gone away. Media relations professionals can best be an asset to journalists by contributing to their overall efficiency. Some tactics to consider include:
- Providing journalists with media-ready soundbites that can be easily cut and pasted into an article they are working on.
- Keeping communication concise and using bullet points whenever possible. Of course, you can always offer your client as an expert if the journalist wants them to expand on the topic at a later time.
- Offering the editor a contributed article that presents a unique point of view and a clear value to readers.
With traditional media outlets in a state of uncertainty, another option for communications professionals will be to reach out to more alternative media channels. For example, the rise of podcasts in 2020 paved the way for the momentum to continue in 2021. In the next year, popular media database services will add more of these contacts and make them more accessible.
Long gone are the days when an agency can tout their integrated marketing capabilities as a way to stand out against competitors. In 2021, this will be the standard expectation across the entire industry. As more agencies develop this integrated model, communications and marketing practitioners will expand these expectations to their clients. 2021 will be the time to continue educating clients on the importance of breaking down the silos between marketing, sales, and product development teams to encourage regular collaboration. It is this regular collaboration that will result in richer stories that break through the media wall and catch the attention of the busy reporter or editor.