Five ways PR will change in 2021

For PR professionals working in both consumer and B2B/corporate teams, 2021 promises to bring further change to the public relations industry. With face-to-face client meetings, networking and coffee catch ups with journalists all, understandably, put on hold for the foreseeable, this year will bring many changes to the way the industry operates.

But it’s not all bad news! The restrictions imposed on the industry due to the pandemic have also welcomed many new positive developments in the PR sector.

Below are just four ways that public relations will change in 2021, with some practical tips for PR practitioners to help them to continue getting the best results for their clients as Covid-related restrictions continue.

1. Getting journalists on the phone will be harder in 2021 – but not impossible!

Working from home has meant that a lot of people are having to juggle work and family commitments – not to mention homeschooling – and journalists are no exception!

Whilst it was once possible to call a newsroom and speak to almost any journalist on the phone, this has now changed. Now they are sat at home, having to manage writing and researching, as well as caring for their own families. This means that many journalists are less likely to pick up the phone in favour of replying to an email instead.

For PR professionals, this will make media relations a little bit more difficult this year. However, there are still ways to entice journalists if phone communications are limited.

Sending a product to a journalist’s home address can help to make your story more memorable. Alternatively, building on previous connections with these contacts can ensure the relationship is maintained. This will hopefully increase the chances of your story being of interest.

Another approach is to monitor journalists’ social media accounts, and responding to journo requests that they share. It’s also more important than ever to have a thorough awareness of their previous pieces of work and specific areas of interest.

All of these techniques demonstrate an active interest in and knowledge of their work. These methods can help to mitigate any negative implications of being unable to chat as often on the phone.

2. Broadcast opportunities will be more achievable if your client will do Zoom a interview

Before the pandemic, broadcast and radio interviews often meant that spokespeople had to travel to be interviewed in a studio. In-person interviews were often preferred over those done via video call. However, with travel now limited, broadcasters are well-accustomed to carrying out these interviews via Zoom.

This is a great development for those that work in PR as the chances of getting your spokespeople to appear on top tier channels will naturally increase. This is because limits associated with travel, time and location are immediately removed.

If your client is comfortable doing Zoom interviews, this can be another point of focus in your 2021communication strategy. A brief synopsis and an explanation of why your spokesperson is best placed to discuss the topic should be prepared. Then it can be sent to several producers via email. Once an opportunity is secured, making sure your client has key talking points in front of them is essential. Including a reference to the company in their responses will ensure the most is made of the interview once it airs.

If they are unsure, a media training session can make sure they are ready for the small screen. These sessions can give your spokesperson practical tips for responding to questions and advice on how the businesses key messages can be included. This media training can be done remotely and is something the team here at PR Agency One has lots of experience in.

3. Follow links will be harder to come by in digital PR

Last year more national media were opting to add no follow attributes to links which has had a detrimental effect on the SEO value of links.

Digital PR teams have had to explore new media sectors to target such as lifestyle titles in order to earn links for clients. As a result, the digital PR landscape has become much more competitive.

More publishers have also dropped affiliate tracking codes on links (which makes links invalid from a SEO perspective due to redirects in the link chain). We have even seen our own clients affiliate campaigns cannibalising organically earned links. This problem with affiliate marketing is often missed by clients and really is a classic example of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

In 2021 digital PR people will have to work harder and smarter to earn their links. While the playing field is the same for everyone, we will no doubt see digital PR teams finding it harder than ever to deliver their KPIs.

4. Newsjacking can help to get strong PR results in 2021

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the news agenda may seem heavily related to all things COVID. However, there are many opportunities within this topic, and journalists are still wanting to cover other, more positive, news stories.

For example, with the roll out of the vaccine this year, as well as ongoing restrictions, there are many different groups of people that are affected. From children at schools, those entering work for the first time, as well as consumers being unable to do certain activities, the implications are wide ranging. Identifying where your client can add some expertise, is a task you should explore.

Responding quickly to the news agenda is essential in order to boost the chances of getting your client’s comment coverage. Drafting a response, getting approval, and then sending it out promptly to top tier titles and journalists of interest, will increase any chances of it being published. These can be short and snappy but should also include key messages from your client’s communications objectives.

Have a read of our newsjacking and reactive commentary blog. It contains top tips for helping your client’s brand inject itself into the evolving news agenda.

Then take a look at the recent work we did for Langleys Solicitors in this newsjacking case study.

5. Social interaction can still be maintained

The PR and media sectors are certainly fun sectors to work in. From brainstorming creative ideas in the office and celebrating big account wins (for PRAO at least!), to attending the annual Christmas party abroad, social interaction normally forms a big part of the job. So, it is important that social interaction with both colleagues and clients is not forgotten in 2021, despite the ongoing restrictions.

For PR employees, having regular calls with other members of the team as well as attending virtual team building events such as quizzes, can be a great way for employees to socialise and keep in touch with one another. Drop them a message on email, text, WhatsApp or Slack.

Once it is safe to do so, and when restrictions allow, meeting up with your team or your client should not be overlooked. Last year, at PR Agency One, we were able to meet for a socially distanced Christmas conference at the CoLAB working space in central Manchester, that was generously provided by our client, Allied London.

Having these opportunities to meet, in a Covid-safe way, helps to boost staff morale and engagement, and ensure the whole team is still involved in the agency strategy.

The past 12 months have been difficult for many industries, and PR practitioners have had to adjust how they work and interact with journalists. This has had a knock-on effect for how results are achieved for their clients. Whilst the promise of a vaccine hopefully means we will soon be able to meet with clients and return to networking, the PR industry is still an exciting field to be in. 2021 can be another successful year for achieving your clients’ communications objectives.

What changes do you expect to see in your line of work in 2021?

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