PR Trends set to change the rules in 2021

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We've had Graphic Design TrendsWeb Design TrendsAnimation Trends and even Colour Trends for this groovy and newborn 2021. Truth is that there's plenty to be excited about for the next 12 months, despite of what these bleak beginnings may seem to anticipate.

With the world slowly coming back to normal, brands will do so too and they will need the sharpest public relations teams to handle their communications effectively.

Not knowing too much about PR ourselves, we decided to reach out to Neil McLeod, Director of Strategic Communications at The PHA Group, to learn more about what to expect from public relations this 2021.


Brands prioritising people

Last year was a year of unprecedented crises and news – a global pandemic, racial injustice and election conspiracies to name a few. All of this, has made the public more attuned than ever to the businesses and brands they associate with. With this reaction to turmoil and changing behaviours, we can expect that 2021 will demand yet more from PRs in terms of supporting their clients to expand their focus away from purpose and on to action. Brands need to focus on building ethical, sustainable and socially responsibly approaches – this is what retains customer and business loyalty in the years ahead.

Continued disruption will provide opportunity

The economic fallout from the pandemic is going to be a rough ride – much of the pain is still int the pipeline. Naturally this will mean a challenging environment for the communications sector itself. But good comms is borne out of difficult times and the landscape will present opportunity for PR professionals and clients. It’s during these times that comms advisers can really show their value by helping their clients to navigate  waters. This was certainly the case throughout 2020 and with the pandemic raging on, against the backdrop of Brexit, it’s a trend which will continue. The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before, so good communications will be invaluable as society and the economy adapt to life after Covid-19.

A focus on diversity and inclusion

Throughout 2020 we saw a renewed energy when it comes to change on diversity and racial inclusion. Hopefully, this will continue into 2021, with brands and organisations not only improving their commitment to building more inclusive internal environments, but also ensuring both their products and services, along with their marketing and communications, are fully representative of the diverse society we live in. For PRs , this will mean doubling down on the strategic element of our practice and ensuring we help our clients demonstrate tangible action. This year communications must focus on values and movements, not just messaging. 

The fake news war – and social censorship

Fake news continued to be a buzz word last year, with the global pandemic and latest US election giving fertile ground for misinformation to spread. With 2021 just a few weeks old, it’s clear the war on misinformation – and an increased role for professional news outlets - will continue. 

But this landscape is about to shift even further; the reverberations of the move by Twitter and Facebook having clamped down on Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol Hill riots, and the ongoing stance of the two and other platforms to counter fake news, propaganda and extreme views, will be felt in 2021 and beyond.  

Not everybody was happy with the implications of the for banning the departing President. Even Angela Merkel criticised Twitter’s move as ‘problematic’, suggesting such decisions should not by solely made by social media sites – or are they now finally conceding they are publishers? – and that legislators should take more responsibility. The debate will continue.

PRs will need to consider their role in this issue and now clients are advised, and to ensure the information shared on behalf of clients is from a reputable source – in an period of heightened sensitivity and scrutiny, being a source of disinformation will do nothing for the reputation of your clients. Expert handling will be needed. 

Moments of lightness

We’re not out of the woods yet, but things are definitely starting to look up. It’s a point made many times but it is worth remembering that 2020 was a year in which organisations and brands connected with people through messages of togetherness and demonstrations of shared experience, and in different ways. As life slowly returns to some kind of ‘normal’ in 2021, brands will be changing their tune, to one of enjoyment and fun, helping their audiences to celebrate life’s joys again. After the Dark Ages came the Renaissance, after Spanish Flu came the Roaring 20s. 2021 will give brands the opportunity to shape their own post-pandemic image and PR professionals will be instrumental to their success.

Image credit: Lufthando Mfabe


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