This past year has continued to push our industry in ways we couldn’t have predicted before 2020.
In many ways, the pandemic has put the importance of strong communications skills in the spotlight. PR and leadership proficiencies traditionally reserved for reputation and crisis management have become daily imperatives for leaders in nearly every business across the globe.
It comes as no surprise that the continued focus on empathetic communication as a top skill for effective leadership is our first PR-ediction for 2022. But what else does 2022 hold for the PR industry?
1. Empathetic communication from the top
I have talked a lot this year about empathy and compassion as must-haves for effective leadership. As we emerge from the pandemic (and we will), leaders will not only be judged for their ability to steer the ship, but also how they made sure their crew was okay at the same time. Were they treated with compassion and humanity, or merely as a resource? Employees will evaluate their job satisfaction on many factors, not the least of which is whether they feel their leaders truly care about their team.
2. Increased focus on channel strategy
Canadians are bombarded with news and information like never before, which has led to increasingly fragmented attention spans. For communicators, this means there is more waste in trying to reach a specific stakeholder audience with a generic approach. In 2022, we will need to achieve engagement and impact by using the right channel to reach each target audience. This approach means looking at all the avenues available to us as PR professionals and determining the right mix to ensure our clients messages are told to the right people in the right place and at the right time.
Of course, this is all predicated on a knowledge of WHO your audience is and HOW they consume information. Customer and audience profile data matched with channel data insights can provide the confidence that more of your efforts – and budget – are reaching their intended targets.
3. Data and its use in PR
If we’re being honest, our profession hasn’t historically been top of the list for innovation. But this is changing more rapidly today than in the last 20 years. The availability of data and understanding how to use it has allowed PR to design smarter, more impactful and efficient communications programs. Without disclosing any of our own trade secrets, we predict strong data will be at the heart of all PR programs, from identifying opportunities, to strategy and audience identification, to execution and proving the value of PR as part of the marketing mix.
With our agency’s focus on building trust and credibility, I would be remiss to not mention the importance of fact-checking when working with the media in 2022. Journalists, as key stakeholders of our profession, need to rely on us to uphold standards for truth-telling and data-backed insights to help with the rebuilding of reputation amongst media and information sources.
4. Accountability for DEI initiatives
While there is undeniably still much work to be done, we applaud the many initiatives to advance conversations and take action on diversity, equity and inclusion in Canada. We believe 2022 will see organizations critically evaluated and measured on how these programs and commitments have made a tangible impact since inception. It’s no longer good enough to just say something; we must DO something. It will be important to prioritize transparency in reporting, especially if there are tough stories to tell.
The PR industry must also hold ourselves accountable, including in areas of talent recruitment and advancement, developing communications programs that reflect Canada’s diversity, using language of inclusion and creating opportunities that make our profession accessible and rewarding to all. Reach out to your managers, or our associations, like CPRS, IABC and CMA (among others) who have also made this a priority in 2022.
5. Revisiting what it means to be prepared for a crisis
For all our talents and training in crisis communications, there was no playbook for managing the pandemic. That said, the core principles of crisis communications management held true: respond quickly, show empathy and concern, be transparent, accessible, lead decisively – these are just some of the qualities that helped organizations navigate the last two years.
As we look ahead to 2022, our last prediction is that companies will find the space and capacity to dust off their old crisis response plans and evaluate what has changed and needs to change. Many pre-2020 crisis manuals didn’t consider virtual-only environments or highlight just how important trained and effective spokespeople are in high-anxiety situations. Savvy companies recognize the value of crisis preparedness as part of their business continuity plans. At K&P, we’re already underway with many of these projects and predict even more support in this area in 2022.
There you have it. We are choosing to head into 2022 with an optimistic outlook and invite you to do the same. We look forward to all the great accomplishments and advancements at the hands of our staff, agency, peers and industry.
From our team to yours, wishing you a safe, happy and prosperous 2022!