• 2020 was an unprecedented year, but it was a great teacher.
  • And as we approach 2021, at Ad and Media Insider we’d like to join in with a few 2020 insights that will help us navigate better in 2021.
  • In our latest series, we look at different industries to understand what 2020 was like for them and to get a crystal clear view of the year ahead and identify some of the trends that will set the tone for 2021.
  • In our first story, we discuss how PR firms are helping Indian companies cope with the coronavirus pandemic and some of the trends that would be the focus of attention in 2021.

2020 is coming to an end and what a year it was! It’s been a year full of ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, good and bad PR stunts.

As brands stepped back from open sales and their communications focused on making consumers more comfortable in the changing environment due to COVID-19, they finally began to understand the importance of public relations. The industry has finally taken on a new meaning and is able to fuel the brand’s creativity rather than play a supportive role.

During the COVID-induced lockdown, CEOs of all companies sought to manage internal damage and address concerns from their stakeholders. However, 2020 has given brands the opportunity to prove that they are doing good for their employees and society. Marketing campaigns had to be conducted with sincere sincerity, compassion, and humanity, but crossing that line between real and opportunistic was a difficult task and many brands turned to their PR firms to help them overcome the challenges. Throughout 2020, the headlines were dominated by COVID-19 coverage and the media industry was hungry for positive stories. Brands that managed to deliver a lighthearted story that felt real got recognized in the industry and gained their consumer trust by being on the news that brought out public relations. At a time when the way companies treat their employees could affect their ability to attract and retain stakeholders, and minor miscommunication could damage their public image for years, PR will play a key role in 2021.

While 2020 was the PR year and 2021, experts predict, PR will flourish.

We reached out to experts to understand what role PR will play in 2021. Here is what they said:

Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner and Founder, Perfect Relations:

Among the many big changes expected in the corporate world in the coming year is the new recognition of the power of dynamic messaging. This is a complex business, but simply put, it’s the ability to listen and respond on multiple platforms at the same time. Static messages will gradually disappear and instead more dynamic messages will dominate. Voice can be the new surprise participant. Watch this change and communicate the communication skills over the next year.

Archana Jain, Managing Director, PR Pundit:



Nobody knows what a post-Covid-19 world might look like, but what companies, brands and institutions have done to support jobs, communities and societies in a successful recovery will be with us for some time to come. It is time to make capitalism better. Companies, brands and institutions of all kinds must connect with their communities through truthful, authentic human actions.

PR in 2021 must guide organizations to show authenticity, articulate and manifest the purpose of the organizations as an extension of their values, and then communicate this to both internal and external audiences.

A targeted customer playbook must be adopted to demonstrate the real purpose. Brands are left behind when they have no purpose. So we need to broaden our definition of what makes the world better. We need to put a human face into campaigns that use cultural hotspots to create an emotional connection with consumers. It’s an opportunity for companies to take action that matters – to help solve real societal challenges. ”

Ameer Ismail, President of Lintas Live, MullenLowe Lintas Group:



REIMAGINE AND COLLABORATION
The PR agency’s ecosystem has needed significant development for some time to keep up with rapidly changing realities. The media landscape has changed fundamentally, and the pandemic has further accelerated that change, especially the transition to everything digital. More consumers than ever before are searching for information and exchanging opinions online. Shifts that we had imagined over the years developed over months! Although the ecosystem knew of these big changes, this sudden shift in dynamism surprised many in the PR agency. All of this has made the need to redefine PR agency models even more critical. There have been so many attempts to get this right for public relations firms, but this year marks the first time many management teams and executives in the industry have had the opportunity to actually rethink this and some have taken bold steps. This leads to innovations that were previously unimaginable. We are already seeing that such wonderful hybrid work models are turning out to be completely new opportunities for employees. This is just the beginning. The next big problem is the mess of PR agencies to be everything and expand the offer with related skills like creative, experimental and social media. Agencies can be good at what they do, not everything they’d like to do! So, in my view, new models of collaboration will emerge that foster a more consolidated agency ecosystem of partnerships that focuses on customer needs and consumer truths.

Akshaara Lalwani, CEO & Founder, Communicate India:




“In the midst of every crisis there is a great opportunity,” said Albert Einstein, and this year has taught us exactly that, if nothing else. As the world was changing rapidly, we realized that the evolving environment needs to be better understood by customers and markets in different sectors. Throughout history, the crisis has led to paradigm shifts and spawned new innovations that correspond to the new order. In situations like this, it is important to have a young and proactive workforce who are agile, talented, and willing to go the extra mile. With a strong understanding of traditional media, one also needs to adapt to new age media and strategies to cope with the ever changing competitive landscape. Market intelligence is essential to building and maintaining customer relationships, especially in a world where you have to navigate uncharted waters like social distancing and remote working.

Tarunjeet Rattan – Managing Partner, Nucleus PR:



The PESO (Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned) model has been whispered in the shadows in recent years. With the current state of the media industry, this work and business model will move from the fringes and gain in importance. PR professionals need to evolve with the model if they don’t want to become familiar with the model.

Sonam Shah, Founder and CEO of Treize Communications:




In 2020, the demand for PR services has certainly seen an upward trend, and clients have also started to see the value of the media they deserve and the long-term benefits of a sustainable PR strategy. That demand will definitely continue into 2021 and one of the most important trends I see is the importance of focused PR.

As the media landscape evolves dramatically and news consumption patterns change rapidly, agencies need to develop a focused PR approach in order to provide customers with value for money. Since the ROI in PR services is not easy to measure and the budgets are tight, pursuing a focused PR strategy is a win-win situation for both parties. A focused PR strategy involves two things: focusing on building thought leaders and expertise in the field, and / or focusing on each campaign and media coverage.

Transparency and clarity will be very important, and PR agencies will need to develop time-bound solutions with an emphasis on long-term strategies.