Despite our limited ability to travel these past couple of years, there is no question that in another way the world has seemed smaller. While there have been local differences, we have all shared the experience of weathering the global pandemic and its effects.

This global experience has unsurprisingly also affected our industry. Bootstrapped brands reduced advertising spend which further shrunk many newsrooms. Digital media trends accelerated as we became tied to our computers from home. And common issues and concerns made many of us more socially conscious and demand answers from companies.

But that was 2021 (and admittedly also 2020).

So, what can we expect from the world of communications in 2022? To find out, we asked our Brands2Life Global Network partners for their predictions for the big trends for the coming year.

Communications will continue to grow in importance – but it won’t look the same

Ronelle Bester, Founder of Red Ribbon PR in South Africa, starts by reaffirming how communication remains essential in all areas of business in this climate. “From client relationships and branding to ensuring a cohesive workforce, the global health crises require unmatched communication skills and business leaders will lean even harder on communications professionals in 2022 to reassure and motivate employees, connect with customers and communicate their vision and purpose.”

But this growth isn’t without change.  In the UK alone, Brands2Life research with Media Measurement found there were 21% fewer articles published by top UK media vs five years ago, with brand stories falling by 28%.

And this situation is being felt around the world. Brands2Life US MD, Rene Musech, comments that “traditional newsrooms are shrinking as large media groups continue to grow their collections of daily and weekly publications. And the demand placed on journalists will increase.”

This is changing how we work with media. According to Pavel Kočiš, Managing Director at EMC Public Relations, there is “increasing pressure for individuality and exclusivity” rather than receiving information in bulk in the Czech Republic. “[Journalists] will only focus on information and news that is guaranteed to differentiate them from other media and bring them more readers.”

But while it may feel like the grip is tightening on more traditional media, different channels are taking prominence. Kinda Jackson, MD, Digital & Social at Brands2Life, comments, “The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of communications. Many brands are looking to re-engineer their own platforms and channels to take on functions traditional editorial media used to perform for them and are using influencers in all shapes and sizes to provide the third party endorsement. All in all brands can still achieve the same results but they have to be more flexible and innovative in the way they achieve them.”

Reputation will be everything

As we (hopefully) emerge from the pandemic in 2022, all eyes will be on our leadership – both heads of state and heads of organisations – and how they navigate this next stage of the crisis towards economic recovery.

“In this context of uncertainty, companies will have to take care to maintain their reputation”, comments François Ramaget, Group Strategy Director at French PR & Influence Agency, Gen-G. “To maintain their reputation, companies will have to communicate on a broader brand platform, well beyond products and services. Innovation, working conditions, governance, civic engagement, leadership, and performance – all these themes will have to be part of a structured corporate communication.”

This is echoed by Spain’s Deborah Gray, Founder and Managing Director of Canela, who highlights how “the pandemic, along with other aspects such as concerns about climate change, racial or gender issues, has encouraged more companies to show their social side.” But avoiding virtual signally will however be critical. “Increasingly, adding a solidarity component to such actions is becoming a key requirement to … make [consumers] see that a brand cares about more than just making money,” she continues.

Indeed, Natalie Link, Managing Director of Germany’s Adel & Link, predicts this will go one step forward with a move towards brands as activists. “Consumers, but also employees, are expecting companies to take a clear stance on important topics such as equality, sustainability and diversity.” She shared a recent example of where 150 German companies changed their slogans on December 7th to include a Covid-19 vaccination appeal. “Hundreds of companies then followed creating a real buzz in the country,” she explains.

Who influences who?

“Influencer PR will continue to be popular with organisations who see it as an authentic way to build brand awareness,” affirms Brands2Life US’ Rene Musech.

And it has become the fuel of many high-growth industries and their biggest players. In Latin America, where online gambling is set to grow and diversify even further in 2022, Amanda Boucault, LATAM PR Coordinator at Sherlock Communications, comments on how the use of sports stars with major local name recognition has become a tried and tested communications tool. This, she says “has led to a huge inflation in influencer fees which looks set to continue next year, as more and more companies attempt to tap into the burgeoning Latin American market.”

But cost shouldn’t be brands only consideration when planning on the use of influencers. “Diversity will remain vital”, continues Rene.

Politics at play

In some regions, there is still a stronger political influence on communications and media reporting. Jim James, Founder of EastWest PR, predicts this will only grow in China. “Everything is political. In China, the media has always been either controlled by the Government or allowed to exist on the fringes dependent on Government or local party goodwill. This is now changing.” He concludes by explaining how the politics of the host nation of a publication now determines the freedom that media has to report in China, for example “[a] correspondent of a US network based in Hong Kong […] knows that none of their shows can be seen in China.”

What this means for you today

These five tips will help you translate these predictions into a successful international PR strategy for 2022:

  • Stay hot on what journalists need from you – considering individual as well as regional needs
  • Investigate and experiment with new media channels to connect with your audiences
  • Bring what your company stands for to the fore as reputation becomes the new comms currency
  • If you’re not on the influencer bandwagon – jump on!
  • Don’t fall foul to the political climate in some regions. If you’re not sure, speak to a specialist

To find out more, have a read of our recent Tech Trends event where we asked influential journalists to share their predictions for the year ahead and, if you want help making any of these tips a success, – and in any region – reach out on to where we can connect you with our local partner.