In an ever-evolving media landscape, public relations problems and solutions evolve too. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the networking that drives public relations has fundamentally changed. The world has changed, too, and people are increasingly looking for brands to be socially conscious. Breakthrough technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are changing the way we tell stories, and with that, the future of public relations. The top PR challenges thus change from year to year.
Luckily, advancing technology and shifting social trends are not just challenges, but are also tools that can help you succeed. We will go over some of the challenges of public relations in the 21st century and how to deal with them.
Different Types of PR
- Media Relations – relationships with the media are integral to public relations. PR pros send press releases and pitch articles and interviews to journalists in order to ultimately reach their target audience. In turn, journalists often rely on PR people for newsworthy stories.
- Community Relations – this means direct engagement with the community through a company’s own channels – for example, a company blog.
- Crisis Communications – crisis communications is the dissemination of information necessary during a crisis – e.g., extreme weather, crime, cyber-attacks, PR nightmares and corporate malfeasance.
- Public Affairs – Public Affairs, or lobbying, is the management of relationships between an organization and lawmakers or politicians.
- Social Media Communications – online PR plays an important role for a company or organization by building relationships with blogs and social media.
- Internal Communications – internal communications is the facilitation of intra-company communications, both between managers and employees and between employees. The goal of internal communications is to make sure everyone in the company is on the same page when it comes to values and goals, which leads to happy and productive employees.
Top PR Challenges in 2022
- Lack of new connections – In 2020 and 2021, it was difficult or impossible to meet journalists in person at events. In the era of Zoom and Google Meets, it can be difficult to foster the relationships that are the lifeblood of PR. Luckily, in 2022, in-person conferences are returning. However, in the era of social media, audiences are inundated with content, and usually, they engage with relevant content that fits their interests. Therefore it is important for PR pros to make connections with their target audience through personalized content and SEO optimization.
- Connecting with high-level media – The pandemic has caused shakeups in the staff at many media offices. If a particular media outlet has downsized or now relies on a freelancer, the PR professional may have just lost their contact at that particular office. Remote work also makes it more difficult to locate the right person to pitch to over the phone.
- Handling client expectations – Often, clients expect immediate results and get upset when they don’t see them. For this reason, good communication between PR agency and client is integral.
- Budget constraints – Forty-five percent of PR pros say that budget limitation are an issue, according to Muck Rack’s 2021 State of PR survey. In 2022, paid marketing efforts like influencer-driven content and affiliate marketing are more important than ever, because of the difficulty of reaching audiences through earned media in today’s climate. In 2020, organizations increased their budget for social media outlets by 11.7 percent.
- The “new normal” – Since 2020, there has been a litany of social and political changes that have impacted every sphere of life. The ongoing pandemic, increased political polarization, climate change – all of these things will require companies to re-evaluate how they will continue to thrive. PR will play a critical role in guiding companies through their journey as they change their brand. Public relations will increasingly have to cater to all stakeholders, including the communities the brand works with, not just investors.
How to Overcome PR Challenges
- Learn fast – One way in which PR has evolved in recent years is companies have learned to tell their own stories. While media relations will always be important in PR, companies have taken to creating their own stories through their own channels – social media, corporate websites, webinars, etc. – since traditional media has become increasingly hard to come by (since most news stories revolve around the pandemic and other things happening in the world).
Another way in which the communications landscape has recently evolved is toward social consciousness. In recent years, an international climate of social upheaval has led to companies and investors developing a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). In 2022, this trend will continue, and by integrating these practices into their operations, companies will not only attract talent looking for opportunities that align with their values, but will also, with the help of PR, will reach maximum success.
Finally, learn from the kids – Largely used by Gen Z, TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, with over 1 billion monthly average users. It has become an online hub for advertising and digital brand strategy and could be the perfect place to target your 2022 campaign.
- Keep solid connections with journalists – Maintaining solid relationships with media professionals is integral to getting your pitches noticed and even seen. With shakeups in the staff at media outlets in recent years, PR pros will have to do a lot more research and reach out to new contacts or re-introduce themselves to previously-established contacts they may have lost touch with. Creative use of Twitter and LinkedIn can help PR pros overcome communications challenges.
Tools like Qwoted are changing the way PR professionals and media professionals connect. Quoted is a freemium platform that uses AI to connect the media with matching sources and PR pros without getting spammed.
In 2022, as always, increasing your brand presence on social media is one way to grow organic connections. Keep abreast with what’s happening on Facebook, LinkedIn and Tik Tok, and use these platforms to make connections with the media as well as your fellow PR peers.
- Get noticed by your quality work – Journalists at prestigious publications receive more than 100 pitches per day. How can you get noticed in such a competitive environment? One way is to build your profile over time (meaning months and years), so that you’ll have more buzz when it comes time to get noticed by prestigious publications. PR is a marathon, not a sprint.
Another way is to improve the quality of your content by focusing on authenticity. People are increasingly able to sense BS. Public relations professionals are essentially storytellers and telling your brand’s story honestly and truthfully can create a connection between your brand and the target audience.
Public interest is generated when a company contributes real added value to society. For example, Pledge 1%, a global corporate philanthropy movement, challenges entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to donate one percent of their equity, product or employee time (or all three) to nonprofits in their local communities.
- Create new connections – PR professionals can participate in virtual events like Techfluence to meet media professionals. Quoted is another PR tool that can be used to build connections. Sometimes, a simple phone call can feel more intimate in the era of Zoom and Google Meets.
Luckily, in 2022, PR industry events are finally going back to in-person. One major aspect of PR is forming connections at networking events, conferences and seminars.
Another challenge for PR professionals is making connections with the target audience. In 2022, this means using digital PR to increase your visibility and exposure. This entails increasing your outreach by using SEO optimization tactics.
- Make a proper budget before the start – In 2022, immersive tech including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is transforming PR. But while changing your storytelling from 2D to 3D is impactful, it can also be costly. The first step in trying AR is to allocate the budget, or risk being left behind.
- Always be careful – with today’s media landscape being more splintered and niche, your PR data is scattered across podcasts, social media, print, etc. It is important to keep all this information carefully organized, which involves a lot of carefully managed spreadsheets and other online tools like Muck Rack or Prowly. More than two-thirds of PR pros surveyed say that strategic planning will be the most important PR skill set over the next five years.
In the past couple of years, the world has been engaging in social movements. This socially conscious energy translates to the public relations sphere in the form of increased corporate responsibility, with an increased emphasis on the values of companies and brands.
The use of immersive media has become a hot new trend that PR professionals can take advantage of – as long as they allocate the necessary budget.
Digital PR and social media outreach are as important as ever. Using SEO tactics and launching campaigns on Tik Tok is the future of the PR industry.
In 2022, the audience is changing – the rise of Gen Z has led to a change in platforms (from traditional media to Tik Tok) as well as priorities (from the “me, me, me” message to social justice). PR experts will have to adapt to these changes with authentic content that engages this new generation.