Shiv Devraaj

February 10, 2021

We have tremendous expectations from 2021 – from a vaccine to a better ecosystem, we’re hoping for renewal and vitality everywhere. We are charged up and ready to embrace a world that has changed beyond measure due to Covid-19 because embracing change is the only way
to move ahead.

Considering that the economy is on the path to recovery, the business outlook has revived and the fiscal year is expected to close on a positive note, it is time to observe closely and plan for a future that is likely to be volatile, especially from a PR perspective.

In the past one year, businesses have had their radar tuned to signals of change as we witnessed unexpected twists and turns; this pushed organizations faster towards digitization.

What did we learn from 2020, and how do we use this lens to apply it to business in 2021 and beyond? Let’s look at what it means for PR agencies:

1. Creativity, good content with action (speed and agility) will be key elements of PR. We need to tell stories with critical tools like thought leadership, earned and owned media to strike the right chord with our audience. As social and digital becomes more accessible and inclusive,
we need to stay relevant and find a niche, then have the best content out there that keeps the audience hooked.

2. Overall online communication will become the lifeline of companies. We are no longer in the era where PR was about facsimile copies moving to email! Press releases will become more than just printed copy. Today it is about Twitter flashes, e- press meets and webinars, Telegram, and Inshorts!

3. Social media will play a larger role but with an emphasis on target marketing. Influencer mapping has become key for brands, with digital and social media leading this. In this ever-evolving digital world, agencies should drive a holistic approach to support clients, be agile, and
more flexible.

4. New technologies mean the birth of new crises. Preparedness is key. Due to privacy and encryption issues with instant messaging apps, people are switching from WhatsApp to Signal, while homegrown-apps like Zoho Arattai enter the limelight. As organizations re-think strategies on how they operate, agencies need to be a solid support system and re-emphasize their relevance.

5. Publications are banking on a subscription model. Traditional media has taken a backseat as many publications have adopted a digital subscription model. The PESO (Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned) business model is all set to take prominence. The next five years are going to be a critical time for collaboration: how will PR align with classic marketing to grab eyeballs and land more customers? PR professionals will have to upskill and evolve too, as the scope of public relations services expands.

6. Corporate companies are seeking structured content or information. PR is not just messaging anymore. Going ahead, media stories will not yield long-term outcomes. We need to be a tether between clients and the media. We will now see paradigm shifts and new collaborative models fueling a consolidated agency ecosystem focused on client needs and outcomes. Structured CONTENT and RIGHT media information flow will be the focus of PR agencies.

7. While media relations continue to be the biggest service, non-media relations services and strategic input will see a growing relevance for PR firms – which is our opportunity! The next scramble is to be “everything”, and have competencies like creative, experiential, and social media.

It is time for agencies to do a rethink too. The idea is to step up and not just be a PR agency. The role of PR is to be closely attuned to the client’s goals and be an active pillar of brand relevance. And this role evolves to empower the client.

It is not just about issuing a press note or enhancing visibility; it’s about disseminating the right messages on the right platforms at the right time.

While Covid-19 may have hastened it, disruption was always on the cards. Agencies who understand this will not just survive but thrive, because disruption is the opportunity for the future!

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