Global PR trends study predict shifts in purpose, employee engagement and experiential

In PR firm’s Red Havas predictions report for 2021, the word “pandemic” appeared 18 times and “Covid” 14 times. It became a part of the fabric of our reality, but we’re now standing at a new horizon. Many of the tools in our PR arsenal were taken away indefinitely, we couldn’t have client meetings, in-person events, or conferences, and whilst it’s great that some of these aspects are coming back, we innovated, we adapted, and now we are driving forward in new (and sometimes better) ways.

New ways, however, don’t always necessarily mean new - we have found ourselves relying heavily on skills as old as time - empathy, trust, transparency, adaptability. We, as a global collective, have just experienced a series of events that have shaken us and our consumer habits to the core. Red Havas 2022 Red Sky Predictions report looks at many of these trends that have shaped our collective landscape over the last 18 months, a few of which are particularly interesting in the context of the UK comms landscape.

The 2022 Red Sky Predictions:

1. CORPORATE PURPOSE OR BUST
Continued shifts in the substance, style and tonality of brand communications will allow brands to form deep connections with consumers and employees on topics they once might not have touched — e.g., diversity, equity and inclusion, climate action, and mental health. Consumers will expect corporate pledges to become progress in action.

2. PERSONNEL GETS PERSONAL
Employers will embrace employee-centric brand positioning that outlines how a career with their company can suit an employee’s whole life. Moreover, the employee experience has to match the promise of that messaging by supporting employees’ full, authentic selves and adapting to their changing individual and personal needs.  

3. SOCIAL AUDIO MAKES MAINSTREAM WAVES
2022 is the year in which social audio joins the voice and podcast marketing club. While there is a lot of experimentation yet to be done as consumers’ appetite for this format deepens, marketers must get ready to maximize it through their brand partners and ambassadors as well as across their own branded social channels.

4. “S” IN ESG COMES INTO SHARP FOCUS
To stay in front of ever-increasing expectations around how employers address everything from cultural issues to HR and employment issues, companies will bring clarity to and transparency in how they define the “S” in ESG. We’ll witness a sharpening in how organizations measure and regularly report on their efforts and outcomes internally and across their value chain.

5. SERVING UP SAFETY WITH A SMILE
Companies in the hospitality industry will continue to up their game on safety messaging. Those with forward-thinking, succinct, transparent policies and communication will benefit from increased employee engagement and overall customer and guest satisfaction. For third-party credibility, look for more partnerships and collaborations to be formed between hospitality chains and health and safety brands and organizations.

6. THE STAYING POWER OF NOSTALGIA
Look for companies and employers to harness nostalgia at a deeper level, with strategic campaigns and partnerships designed to evoke warm memories, build relationships and reinforce that the future is indeed bright.

7. PATIENT CHOICE, PATIENT VOICE
This year, we’ll finally see gender awareness brought to pharma-driven disease education campaigns. Though there aren’t any established best practices to follow, the bravest companies will be those that withstand the inevitable waves of criticism for the sake of marking the pages of history with inclusion.

8. AN EXPERIENTIAL RETAIL RENAISSANCE
Brands will fully merge experiential and retail to completely reimagine the shopping experience. By turning a store into a destination, brands can ensure that brick-and-mortar shops not only remain relevant, but that they complement e-commerce efforts and more fully bring a brand to life. 

9. “AS SEEN ON SOCIAL” IS THE NEW “AS SEEN ON TV”
As the TikTok content formula continues to rise in popularity and spread across channels (think IG Reels), the “As Seen on Social” label will become a booming marketing method and measure of e-commerce success. 

10. VIP ACCESS TO CREATORS
Now that exclusive content has unlocked opportunities for creators to commercialize their product, brands will need to compete against this model. That means finding influencers who are both genuine and a just-right fit for the brand in the longterm. 

Reputation

Starting with reputation, 2022 will be the year for corporate PR to go purpose or bust. We’ve seen purpose redefined and skyrocket to the top of every major brand’s priority list but promises must now be acted on to meet our heightened expectations as citizens and consumers. Businesses that recognise this will most likely succeed, those that don’t will suffer in the long run. We’re already seeing the seeds of this with Facebook rebranding as Meta to mark a new start and Fox News facing an advertiser boycott and resignations for touting inflammatory and false statements. Globally, the 2021 Havas Meaningful Brands Study, which has been tracking brands for 12 years and surveys close to 400,000 people around the world, identified this as a marked shift in how consumers view the role of businesses.

Personnel

This is strongly linked to another shift, that of the personal increasingly becoming relevant to personnel. With research from Deloitte and its 2021. A call for accountability and action: The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey suggesting two in three millennials primarily choose an employer because they want to work for brands that help make their world, their community, and their industry a better place, brands are under strong internal pressure to win the hearts and minds of internal audiences. This will no doubt see an increasing need for the employee experience to match the external messaging and an uplift in demand for joined-up thinking from comms professionals at this most fundamental level.

Experiential

Moving to think about consumer-focused comms, we predict a triumphant resurgence of experiential, especially within the context of the beleaguered High Street. Retailers will be keen to prove there’s still a role for physical spaces by providing unique in-store experiences that complement the e-commerce journey and tap into consumer demand for immersive and sharable moments. Whilst in the digital space, comms will need to support established brands in finding their voice and role in a world where consumers have direct access to niche, creator-led content and products like never-before.

One thing’s for sure, as the world gets back to firing on all cylinders this year, there’s a great opportunity for us comms practitioners to roll our sleeves up and shape a bold new agenda.

Methodology

Red Havas identified these trends by tapping the insights from the agency’s 10 markets around the world, coupled with a landscape analysis of media coverage over the past year and proprietary research from Havas’ Prosumer and Meaningful Brands surveys.

Written by Rachael Sansom, MD of Red Havas

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