GUEST COLUMN: What does future hold for PR and communication industry?

GUEST COLUMN: What does future hold for PR and communication industry?

The pandemic has changed the way professionals interact and communicate.

Anindita Gupta

Mumbai: The pandemic has impacted nearly everything that we do in our personal and professional lives. But if there’s one thing that it has affected the most, it is undoubtedly the way people interact and communicate. And unsurprisingly, the public relations (PR) and communications industry witnessed significant transformations to that effect.

Businesses felt a need to rethink their communication strategies as consumer behaviour and patterns changed suddenly with the pandemic altering our daily lives and routines. The PR industry had to cope and adapt its approach to helping businesses communicate their messages in a context that’s relevant and meaningful for all stakeholders.

The acceleration in digital adoption has led the PR industry to take an integrated approach as opposed to the traditional approach that was largely in practice. The industry as a whole is up for some new changes and going forward PR agencies would need to adjust to the emerging trends to stay competitive and relevant. By the end of 2025, it is expected that the global PR industry would surpass a value of 129 billion dollars at a CAGR of 7.4 per cent.

Listed below are a few of the key trends that give insights into the road ahead for the industry in the near future.

 1.  PR to evolve as a holistic marketing function

Gone are the days when PR used to be limited to publishing a few press releases or conducting events. PR has evolved to become a much broader term now as opposed to a few years back and this can be partly attributed to the proliferation of digital platforms. PR agencies today have an arsenal of services under their umbrella that include everything from press releases to advertising and paid/affiliate marketing techniques. A holistic program is more in demand, clients need to see tangible results in the form of numbers and PR agencies have extended their expertise to all areas of communication that would help businesses rise and position themselves above the noise. Relying solely on earned media isn’t practical in today’s competitive age and PR is now shifting towards a blend of earned, paid, and shared media to accommodate the growing needs of result-oriented businesses.

2. PR to cater to added business functions such as HR and investor relations 

PR agencies are now expected to cater to added business functions like HR, finance, and investor relations. PR traditionally used to be associated with only marketing and brand building. But it’s high time that PR agencies act as an extension of their client’s business and not a separate entity that solely deals with marketing or brand building. The employees in an organization as well as other stakeholders such as investors play a vital role in building an image. Going forward, PR agencies would become deeply involved wherever communication and reinforcement of company values are required. Right from what employees think and feel about the company to how to maintain a positive, healthy relationship with investors, PR will go on to become more than just a marketing or brand-building tool.

3. Digital PR and content-driven engagement takes center stage 

Though digital platforms were quite popular even before the pandemic, it was during the pandemic that its use exploded like never before. Like every other industry, the PR industry too is adapting to this new trend and has shifted focus towards the inclusion of digital in their PR strategies. PR is taking a more focused approach with content-driven engagement at its heart. As consumers are exposed to a plethora of content on a daily basis, cutting through the clutter seems to be a gargantuan task. Moving forward, PR agencies will channel their efforts towards exploring the digital domain and establishing a strong presence with creative, informative, and authentic content. Measuring success and crafting PR communications driven by data would lead the way in 2022. As content consumption patterns of consumers have changed over the past years, there is a growing need for PR agencies to resort to digital tools and techniques.

4. PR agencies become a mouthpiece for ethical positioning of brands 

Modern brands are always under scrutiny and consumers cannot be fooled anymore with marketing that isn’t in line with the brand’s values. People expect more than good products/services from a brand. A brand is expected to be socially responsible and take a stand on issues rather than just promote itself on a host of platforms guided purely by profit motives. PR agencies need to craft strategies reflective of the brand’s values and ethics. PR agencies will need to consciously weave the brand’s values so they are evident across every interaction with consumers and stakeholders. Responsible and ethical communication would be a dominant trend ruling the PR landscape.

With pandemic disrupting businesses like never before, PR became a key business communication tool as its role in navigating crisis situations assumed more importance. The PR industry saw several challenges emerging during the pandemic but it has shown remarkable resilience and adapted quickly to fit into the modern expectations of businesses. The industry is evolving faster and the trends discussed above are indicative of the industry’s future ahead. Partnering with the first movers will help you capitalize on these trends and leverage them to your advantage.

(The author is co-founder of Scenic Communication. The views expressed in this column are personal and may not subscribe to them.)