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PRGN’s Public Relations Predictions For 2021

December 14 2020

It’s that time of year to look into the crystal ball for the future. 2020 has by all accounts been one of the most challenging years (at least in my lifetime). I think we’re all looking forward to some positive change. So, for 2021, what is the future of communications, the future of PR and the future in general? As I like to do annually, I asked a sample of our Public Relations Global Network colleagues from around the world for their thoughts. Here’s a summary:

“While I think there will be some early uncertainty in 2021, I believe we’ll start to see a stabilization of public sentiment, which should translate into confidence for companies to either restart or reinvigorate their communications efforts.  We may also see brands aligning themselves with specific societal issues on a more widespread basis.” – Scott Hanson, HMA Public Relations, Phoenix, Arizona

“In a world with increasing uncertainty, PR is more valuable than ever: it manages vital risks for the business with strategy. These times are a huge opportunity for training and human relationship management in a broken and fragmented environment. Covid and isolation can be treated with communication.” – Dominique Biquard, Identia PR, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“As global issues – like the constant warming of our planet, the growing gap of inequality and no existence of global agreements from governments – threaten our lives, corporations will have to step up. They need to prove they can make a difference and report on their progress of ESG (environment, social and governance) matters.” – Michael Diegelmann, cometis, Wiesbaden, Germany

“I predict there will be three strategic imperatives for businesses and brands to reimagine themselves for the new marketplace in this Covid-19 era, namely: digital transformation (go digital or be wiped out); health and safety agenda (storefront and workplace); and purpose-driven narrative (The power of Why).” – Andy See Teong Leng, Perspective Strategies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“Though likely later in the year, 2021 will be a time of challenges for enterprises working to restore internal operations after the pandemic has been largely conquered. Identifying current and future staffing needs, restoring positions that had been eliminated through furloughing, determining where team members will work (virtual, physical or hybrid?) and redesigning or reestablishing elements of internal culture impacted by Covid-19. These and other critical actions will require communication for success.” – Blake Lewis, Three Box Strategic Communications, Dallas, Texas

“Predicting 2021 is extraordinarily difficult, as the pandemic will stay for more months to come. However, we have been learning how to co-operate with and be very creative in our personal lives as well as in business. Japan had been one of the developing countries that was not used to teleworking before the pandemic, but now it is normal. How about the PR industry? We see a number of media shrinking and the opportunities of meeting press in person is almost zero for the last six months – and it may continue. I see the world getting smaller these days, maybe because we have a thing in common – pandemic – so topics are similar around the globe. Because we are now living in such a limited access of the world, communication is more needed than ever. Quality content is valued amidst fake news and gossip. So, we PR pros must improve ourselves to offer new stories and trustworthy content to media or deliver that content directly to the audience through owned media.” – Judy Kuramata, Integrate Communications, Tokyo, Japan

“2021 will be a year where what a brand stands for continues to matter. This creates proactive, creative and authentic communications opportunities, and it will also spark many brand/reputational crises. Companies need to be thoughtful, sincere and confident in their communications.” – Sandy Lish, The Castle Group, Boston, Massachusetts

“People will more than ever prefer to stay within their resonance rooms and opinion bubbles, making it more difficult to raise awareness for topics or sell products and services. As this behaviour is deeply rooted in our time with its rising awareness of political, economic and social uncertainty and complexity, PR won’t change that longing for consonance. To be successful, communications professionals will more than ever need to understand the underlying needs and psycho-tectonic shifts in our societies to provide relevant content, using channels that reach into those resonance rooms.” – Robert Bauer, accelent communications, Vienna, Austria

“Family, friends and community will seem more important in the more human-centric world that emerges post Covid-19. For PR pros, this means crafting narratives for brands and companies about people-led purpose. Do we save the planet from climate change? No, we save ourselves from climate change (or the next pandemic). Messages that make us think of the people we know will be more salient than ever.” – Mark Paterson, Currie, Melbourne, Australia

“I believe the power of PR is going to come back in full force in 2021. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must consistently communicate during times of crisis. We must truly listen to our stakeholders and think through how best to communicate with them where it builds trust, loyalty and respect. I believe organizations will have renewed energy around ensuring their messages are on point, timely and relevant for all of their audiences.” – Natalie Ghidotti, Ghidotti, Little Rock, Arkansas

“The communication sphere will continue to blur. The divide between marketing, public relations, social media and other elements will blend into a wide variety of mediums. Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) practices will continue. Social justice, ethical management and environmental protection have become key factors in appealing to consumers, most importantly, millennials. Companies should share their sustainability strategies throughout targeted marketing materials or by showcasing improvements in employee diversity, labor conditions and charitable work. Technology will continue to evolve as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) become more common and less expensive. And data will continue to be a huge driver in communications. As a result, we have the ability to create very targeted, trackable programs – more than ever before.” – Leeza Hoyt, The Hoyt Organization, Los Angeles, California

“Let’s hope that 2021 is the year of hope: hope for a Covid-19 treatment, hope for a better economy, hope for the U.S. rejoining the rest of the world, hope to help end systemic racism and hope that our yearning for climate change will become an actuality. Then, the PR world will have great stories to tell!” – David Landis, Landis Communications Inc. (LCI), San Francisco, California

“Here are some communications trends we’ll see in 2021: Communications Are Critical: If brands thought communications were important before 2020, communicating to important stakeholders will become doubly important heading into 2021. Greater Emphasis on Health and Safety: it’s something that clients and customers seek in order to engage with companies. Brands Must Lead: There’s an opportunity for organizations to fill leadership voids on important issues. When chaos reigns and more and more people tune out our nation’s leaders, brands with their own channels can communicate messages more effectively to key audiences. Forging New Connections in New Ways: The challenge is how to recreate the in-person experience while also keeping people safe. Stakeholders will expect greater personalization and will have lower tolerance for client experience mishaps. Greater Government Intervention: There will be greater government protections for consumers and employees. Not only will corporations have to evolve public relations activities to meet societal expectations, but they have to transform them to drive business growth. Seeking the Good: We will see storytelling play an even greater role in communications, which will be at the epicenter of this revival moving forward.” – Michelle Balch Lyng, Novitas Communications, Denver, Colorado

“2021 will see a continuation of a stressed economy with certain industries thriving – PPE manufacturers/sales; trade & logistics companies to transport the vaccine; law firms that specialize in bankruptcy, immigration, etc.; and medical personnel such as psychiatrist, psychologist groups and infectious disease physician groups. These industries will need integrated campaigns that include PR/Marketing/Digital now more than ever. And several of these industries have not worked with PR firms previously, so our challenge is to educate and demonstrate the value we bring to increase their sales.” – CL Conroy, The Conroy Martinez Group, Miami, Florida

“2021 will be the year that science regains its rightful place in our world. After four years of attack, rejection, and denial, science will not only be reconsidered, I predict it will be celebrated. Look for scientists to be next year’s superheroes.” – Anne Buchanan, Buchanan Public Relations, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“In 2021, we predict a return to both good journalism and relevant PR messaging. Fact-based and authentic content will experience a revival after 2020, which will certainly go down in history as the year of the most massive fake news. 2021 will separate the wheat from the chaff in the communications industry. Those agencies that had prepared well for the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 are likely to be able to keep their heads above water in 2021.” – Uwe Schmidt, Industrie-Contact, Hamburg, Germany

“2021 will be a decisive year in the PR profession. Generally, PR has always been good taking up new platforms swiftly, so it is not technology that will pose a real challenge for practitioners now. Following a year of dramatic social, economic and political disruption and with clear and imminent challenges for the decade ahead, PR professionals have now an opportunity – as well as a duty – to join corporate decision makers and play an active role in shaping the new strategies companies and organizations choose to respond to the new normal. For this is where PR truly belongs to and this is where it can make real impact.” – Gábor Jelinek, Executive Director, PRGN, Budapest, Hungary

Related articles:

2021 Communications Trends from Novitas Communications, Denver: https://novitascommunications.com/2021-trends/

The Future of PR from The Hoyt Organization, Los Angeles: https://www.hoytorg.com/future-of-public-relations/

Being Purpose Driven: The Role of Business Post-Covid by Perspective Strategies, Kuala Lumpur: https://prgn.com/coronavirus/being-purpose-driven-the-new-imperative-to-reinventing-businesses-post-covid-19/

David Landis
President and CEO, Landis Communications Inc. (LCI)
David Landis is President/CEO of Landis Communications Inc. (LCI) in San Francisco, a longstanding sustainable marketing/communications agency which this year celebrates 30 years in business. With more than 30 years experience in public relations, brand management, digital strategies, social media, positioning, marketing, content marketing, analyst relations, media training, crisis communications, public affairs and community relations, David Landis has lent his expertise to a variety of U.S. and Bay Area-based corporations. These include: financial institutions, real estate businesses, consumer technology businesses, insurance companies, hospitality and travel-related businesses, retailers, consumer businesses, food/wine clients, entertainment businesses, educational institutions, technology companies, broadcasters, fashion businesses, media, cultural institutions, sports organizations and non-profit organizations. Among the prestigious clients Mr. Landis has counseled over the years are: UCSF, Stanford Children’s Hospital, Walmart, California Bank & Trust, Match.com, MetLife, Emirates Airline, Whole Foods Market, NBC Universal, Old Navy, Sony, Cold Stone Creamery, eBates, Port of San Francisco, Tiffany & Co., Pottery Barn, California Society of Anesthesiologists, Planned Parenthood, Stanford University, San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Bravo, Hilton Hotels, Gap, Levi Strauss & Co., Xerox, AAA, AT&T, Harry & David, PIER 39, San Francisco Symphony, Save the Redwoods League, KPIX-TV (San Francisco), KCBS-TV (Los Angeles), Examiner Bay to Breakers and more. Currently, Mr. Landis is a member of the Forbes San Francisco Business Council. For three years, Mr. Landis taught public relations in the MBA program at San Francisco’s Golden Gate University. A recipient of numerous awards, Mr. Landis is a published writer and has been a featured speaker at numerous industry conferences, as well as a guest lecturer at Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, University of San Francisco and Golden Gate University. Prior to launching LCI, Mr. Landis served as PR/Community Relations Director for KPIX TV, the San Francisco CBS affiliate. While there, he was part of a team that won the station two national Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. Before his work in television, Mr. Landis was PR Director of the San Francisco Symphony, where he helped open San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. In his volunteer capacities, Mr. Landis serves on the advisory boards of Project Open Hand (serving meals to people with life threatening diseases) and ODC, San Francisco’s modern dance company, theatre and school. He also serves on the Marketing Committees of the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet. Like every other PR professional, Mr. Landis studied piano in college (at Northwestern University in Chicago) and his first jobs included teaching piano to neighborhood children (at the ripe old age of 12). Mr. Landis lives in San Francisco with his husband, Sean Dowdall (General Manager at LCI) and in his spare time enjoys music, theatre, travel, hiking, skiing, hanging out with his dogs Gaston & Alphonse and partaking in the culinary delights of San Francisco. David Landis’ best celebrity meeting ever? The one and only Stephen Sondheim.

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