PR industry trends to watch in 2021

If you work in public relations, marketing, or communications these are the game-changing trends you need to know for 2021.

Stand out through thought leadership

With a little creativity and lots of determination, it’s possible to create a stable of thought leadership content with next to no overhead. In fact, most people have everything they need to pull it off using little more than their smartphone and an internet connection. This type of owned PR (content a brand creates) can have as much influence as earned PR–if not more depending on the circumstance.

This ability isn’t a new trend by any means but the value of establishing oneself as a thought leader is growing year over year. This is even more true in the fields of public relations and marketing, where building a name and personal brand for yourself through the content you create helps you publicly demonstrate your skills and abilities.

In an increasingly competitive workforce, which may be rocked in the coming years with economic uncertainty, building your profile as a leader in your field is more important than ever.

This doesn’t mean you need to build a million-dollar influencer career or grow your social media accounts to millions of followers. It can be as simple as writing a regular column on your own personal blog or social media site, such as LinkedIn or Medium, or starting your own podcast in which you interview industry peers.

In the corporate world, thought leadership fuels critical business decisions and we can easily see how the same positive effects can be applied to individual thought leaders. For instance, 81% of polled C-suite executives say their trust in a brand increases when they consume that brand’s thought leadership content. And according to an Edelman-LinkedIn study, decision makers are spending an average of an hour a week consuming thought leadership content—what if some of them begin consuming your content?

From standing out on job applications and interviews, to having more leverage in salary negotiations, establishing yourself as a thought leader is one of the smartest strategies you can pursue in 2021 and beyond. It can raise your profile, make your applications stand out, distinguish you from coworkers as you climb the corporate ladder, and even attract high-level decision makers.

Remote working your way to the top

Telecommuting isn’t a brand new trend either. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed it into overdrive.

What was once somewhat niche and rare (only 3.4% of the U.S. workforce was telecommuting full-time in 2019) is now quickly becoming a new normal (since the pandemic a whopping 42% of the U.S. workforce is telecommuting full-time).

It remains to be seen where these numbers end up once the COVID-19 pandemic is over but all signs point to a widespread continuation of work-from-home arrangements.

The reason?

Employees love it. According to Buffer, 99% of polled remote workers want to continue working from home after the pandemic. It’s not hard to understand why either. Cutting out the daily commute saves significant money and time, and allows employees to better balance the needs of work and family, including child care. Remote working also means you can work in one city while living in another, or accept your dream job in another city without having to move your family.

The rise in remote working opens up all kinds of opportunities, while also blunting the impact of family demands, which unfairly and disproportionately continue to fall onto the shoulders of women more than men. For women in particular, they will enjoy more career flexibility than previously.

Leveraging emerging technologies

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are beginning to work their way into more and more fields, moving from experimental and theoretical to practical and implementable.

Public relations, marketing, and communications are no exception. AI tools and software are already being used to generate real-world deliverables such as copy for headlines and simple news articles. On the consumer side, AI algorithms are already being used to perform tasks like curating recommended products based on past purchasing history, and answering basic customer service inquiries.

In 2021 and the years beyond, we can expect to see these capabilities increase in complexity as well as the value they bring to their organizations. For instance, experimental AI technology can already use natural language generation to write original press releases and media reports, analyse social media mentions for sentiment, analyze communication strategies of competitors, and determine which media contacts to target for optimal coverage.

It won’t be long before these capabilities (and more) become in-market tools that PR firms and marketing departments can leverage fully.

The rise of AI may lead to the elimination or reduction of some pre-existing positions in the coming years. In equal measure, however, they will likely open up new positions as well.

Like anything, AI is a tool that needs a trained, skillful user to get the most out of it. There’s a prime opportunity for those in PR to become leaders here, experts in leveraging emerging AI technologies for their firms.

Wanted: Changemakers

Technology is, without question, continuing to open up new possibilities in the workforce. It’s democratizing access to jobs and creating new avenues to stand out and become industry leaders. But technology isn’t a solution in and of itself. It’s just a tool.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed several significant social movements gain traction and inspire real change or consequences. These movements have also taught us something else as well, something that extends beyond their primary social causes and purposes: They’ve taught us that we have to work for change. That we have to show up—even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient—to inspire progress and effect meaningful change.

Technology is changing the ways we work. Those who step and take advantage of these new trends and tools will find success.

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