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Twelve predictions for why 2022 will be a great year in PR

The last two years have not been easy, but PR is always full of optimism, plus it has the power to change the world and make it a better place. That is why our PR pundits are full of positive predictions for a more prosperous, happier and more diverse industry.

1. PR will foster a more positive future for all

Claire Foster, co-author of The Williams Nicolson Trend Index and director at strategic communications and change management consultancy Williams Nicolson:We have a huge responsibility. Our words have the power to change opinions, stir action and - in the context of the climate emergency - save lives. We must also consider how we present and promote virtual products and services, to blended, blurred audiences, in brand new markets.

“On the surface, it may feel like we are living in dystopia, but our industry has the creativity and drive to embrace these tangible opportunities. The onus is on us to narrate hope, be passionate and positive so the generations to come are able to thrive.”

2. Work/life balance will improve

Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental predicts: “Working from offices again is inevitable; five days in the office possibly isn't (dependent on the organisation and the role). However, this was changing pre-pandemic. Covid-19 accelerated the different and new ways of working. Balance is critical in aligning creativity, mental health, and productivity, so we'll see a more thoughtful approach to managing environments and agile working.”

3. PR will evolve

Tim Gibbon: “PR has to get smarter; it has to be more than just sending emails and reliance on services that are sucking the personable nature out of relationships which give it the edge to communications and media relations. PR has been evolving for decades, although many professionals are still floundering in the days of old, imprinting this on the new talent coming through. PR will continue to evolve; this will separate and great from the exceptional.”

4. Technology will be tamed

Tim Gibbon: “Standout PRs will embrace more of a creator, influencer and a digital mindset and this, for the most part, unsurprisingly, will be data and technology-driven. It's taming the technology with creativity that will make the difference.”

5. Mental health will be a priority

Tara O’Donnell, managing director, UK, at PR firm Hotwire Global:There’s no quick fix to the competitive talent environment and we will see this continue into 2022. Employees expect mental health support, upskilling opportunities, an inclusive workplace, clear career paths, and of course, flexible working. This is a catalyst for positive change in our industry as we see more agencies investing in employee wellbeing, training, technology for seamless hybrid working and more flexible hiring criteria.”

Jessica Pardoe, account manager at agency Source PR: “To come at it from a different angle, I think 2022 has more conversations around mental health in store for the PR industry. There have already been so many discussions about avoiding burnout, identifying red flags and listening to mental health concerns this year. As the pandemic continues, it’s never been more important to look after ourselves and those around us. PR is a high-pressure role, no two ways about it, so I think (or would like to hope) that this year there will be more and more talking about experiences and wellbeing. It’s important we do.”

6. PR will battle fake news harder

Laura Sutherland, independent stakeholder specialist and industry mentor “Misinformation will continue be an issue to tackle. The sheer rate of misinformation across the web is terrifying. From the Covid anti-vaxers to those who spread misinformation on the climate emergency, there are two approaches for us - call out bad practice and shine a light on best practice. Ethics will be called into question and some big players will be shamed.”

7. More PR platforms will emerge

Laura Sutherland: “I’ve been working on it for years, but getting organisations to see the future and opportunity in developing their own content and own platforms, allows control of the message, opens up two-way dialogue and is a root to building your own community. What if Facebook closes tomorrow? You’ve lost followers, content and human capital. Community building and community marketing will continue to build momentum.”

8. There will be greater diversity

Laura Sutherland: “Culture will continue to keep leaders awake at night. From diversity and inclusion, to getting to know stakeholders more deeply, organisations can’t carry on as they were. Consumers demand better. Our job will be to ensure it’s not tokenism and it’s actually integrated throughout the organisation.”

9. Comms will be more results driven

Yuliya Matvyeyeva, independent PR and marketing communications professional, Ukraine: All PR work should be tied to specific business goals, not just about writing press releases or articles. That's what journalists and copywriters are for.

“Customers aren't interested in your creativity, so the egos of marketing and PR teams must die. It's all about results. Creativity is highly valued, but no one needs it without a clear and understandable strategy, responsibility and the ability to work with high productivity to achieve business goals, not just to promote their brilliant ideas of PR teams.”

Tara O’Donnell: “The continued pressures of the pandemic means that our communications clients are more accountable for business results, and we see this continuing in 2022 and beyond. We expect to see the coming together of communications, marketing and sales like never before. For example, the uptake of Account Based Marketing (ABM) has increased 15% in 2021 (Hubspot). By engaging all three, we’re excited to produce some outstanding work that delivers measurable impact for our clients in the coming year.”

10. The PR sector will prosper

Jason Madeley, MD of communications agency Hatch “I feel the PR sector will prosper and take an increased share of marketing spend over the next 12 months, as long as we remain the storytellers.

“We anticipate that clients and brands will increasingly recognise creative, PR-led content as the most effective way to drive endorsement and build online connections. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, and through improved measurement and a greater focus on ROI, PR can continue to thrive and add value.

“Although the market is currently buoyant, campaign success and growth will only be driven by an engaged workforce. I expect we will see real investment in talent, with businesses that support, inspire and incentivise their teams seeing the best growth and retention.

“Of course we don’t know how 2022 and the pandemic will challenge us, but with flexibility and the ability to gauge the nation’s mood, I believe PR will continue to deliver an award-winning story or two.”

11. PR will get creative about events

Gareth Hoyle, managing director at agency Marketing Signals: “With cases of the Omicron variant surging, we won’t see the return of live events, in the way they were pre-pandemic at least, due to the uncertainty of restrictions and nervousness around planning events. Mixed messaging is making people nervous about socialising, leading to cancellations and PRs working in hospitality and events specifically are fearing the worst if another lockdown is enforced too. Many businesses may not be able to survive another one without financial support. PR teams will need to be more creative and create more effective online communications rather than rely on big in-person events and networking.”

12. We will bring fun into 2022

Alex Blyth, managing partner of design agency specialist Red Setter: “One of the key themes in 2022 will be bringing back the fun. The last two years have been the most intense of our working lives, and while we’re incredibly fortunate to be emerging from it in a far better place than we went into it, there’s no doubt it’s been hard work.

“In the year ahead, like many others, we’ll be focusing on the work that’s most fun, we’ll celebrating what we’re achieving together, and we hope we’ll be meeting up to laugh together more often.

“Our clients often tell us that the PR part of their work is the most fun part of their week, the part they really look forward to. We want to build on that. We want to remember that while PR is strategic, results-oriented, and a field where success often comes through dogged persistence, it is, above all else, a whole lot of fun.”

Not everyone is having fun right now, but positive communications have the potential to help improve lives and the world itself. Let’s all work together to make sure 2022 is a great year, not just for the PR industry, but for all of us.

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