2021 communications trends

Most of this year tested our patience as we worked from kitchen tables, home offices or our comfy couches. As communicators, we continued to tell our clients’ and organization’s stories and did our best to continue executing our integrated 2020 communications plans, pandemic be damned. 

This year’s ‘great pivot’ revealed the need for real-time crisis communications planning and an ability to manage and present well virtually. 

We also saw a rise in brand empathy for our nation’s current conversations about race and equity, and companies starting to use Tik Tok effectively — or company execs creating their first post on their new Tik Tik account to ride their company’s viral fame. 

So what should we focus on when planning for 2021? 

Authentic communication 

Finding an authentic voice should be at the heart of all communications right now. Whether communicating online or in person, you can see that honesty and transparency are valued and needed and that isn’t expected to change. This is especially true as we continue to experience wave after wave of crisis-fueled or health-related messages washing over us in emails, social media and news stories. 

Honing in on authentic key messages for your media outreach, social media, content marketing or owned media campaigns can start with seeking out answers to these three questions within your organization: 

  • Who are you helping? 
  • How are you doing it? 
  • Why is it needed right now? 

Regardless of your topic, speak plainly and openly. Think about the medium that works best for your content. Inject a little humor if warranted, and tap deeper into your empathetic side and you’re on your way to communicating authentically. 

Pro Tip: Take your most authentic voice and couple it with your original expertise to really shine in any media interview

Follow-through on commitments to fight racial injustice

At the end of May 2020 and throughout the summer we saw Instagram profiles flip to solid black squares and companies break long-held silences and stand up for racial injustice. Since July 1 of this year, Ad Age has diligently tracked online videos, social media campaigns, national ad campaigns and more. 

Harvard Business Review reports a majority of all generations 60% of the U.S. population — say that how a brand responds to racial justice protests will influence whether they buy or boycott the brand in the future. Additionally, 60% say brands should take steps to address the root causes of racial inequity and 57% say brands must educate the public.

Everyone is watching how their favorite brands continue to lead as an ally or activist against racism and social injustice. As we hit the one-year mark in summer of 2021, consumers will most likely also be determining how much change really took place from one year to the next. 

Websites are the queens of communication

In Spring and Summer 2020, the pandemic forced the decision to integrate e-commerce functionality into the websites for any business, nonprofit, or association that was still primarily conducting business, selling goods, or delivering programs in person. Online and e-retail sales skyrocketed this year, and according to Statista, by 2023, e-retail sales are estimated to account for 22% of all retail sales worldwide. 

Is your website the queen of your communications, ready to greet and host everyone in style and meet customer demands? 

What have you learned this year about your communications strategy that you can carry into 2021? 

  • Did your online sales strategy work? Does it need to evolve? If you haven’t integrated your ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics yet, then you might not have all the information you need to inform your decisions. 
  • Did a pivot from in-person to online events and sales still bring in the revenue you need to meet your budget, or do you need to do more? 
  • How is your website’s health? Are your web pages fast on all devices? Look at Google’s Site Speed Insights and decide if you need to budget for a deeper tech website audit next year. 
  • Is your website easy to navigate? 46% of Gen Z have not bought something they really wanted because the website was too hard to use. Create an outstanding online user experience – especially for younger generations because their smartphones and iPads are fused to their hands. Literally. 
  • Is your blog content engaging and useful? Is it optimized? Are you writing for humans, but taking the data into consideration? When deciding your editorial calendar for 2021, review Google Analytics and note the five to 10 most popular pieces of content in 2019 and 2020. Are they the same, or different? How did you drive people to those pages?  And did those pages move someone through your sales funnel? Regardless of the size of your organization, when it comes to data: quality over quantity is the goal, and “well managed and reliable data drives more impactful insights.” 
  • What was the most successful social media campaign of 2019 AND 2020? Take a look at Google Analytics (again, I know) and see which social channel sent the most traffic to your website, and did that traffic result in a sale, sign up or important interaction? Evolve and replicate it. 

How and where you decide to hold conversations in 2021 will help fuel your integrated communications strategy. After cultivating your most authentic voice and elevating your website to queen status, continue to follow through on commitments made to your customers and communicate regularly on health and safety issues, business changes and updates prompted by COVID-19, and the ways your organization is focused on making our world a better place. 

Author Bio: 

For more than 20 years, Anne Lasseigne Tiedt‘s award-winning strategic communications campaigns have gained both local and national attention. As co-owner of Momentum Public Relations in Austin, Texas, her team makes it their mission to help clients have confidence in communications and be good news in their communities.

Since 2008, Momentum Public Relations has helped dozens and dozens of clients gain the recognition they deserve; prioritize initiatives to reach their business and communication goals; support and create PR and thought leadership programs; create engaging content; alleviate stress connected to communication deliverables; further digital engagement; and create measurable communications results.

Anne has held her Accreditation in Public Relations since 2003, and is a Past President of Women Communicators of Austin (2007-2008). She holds a Bachelor of Journalism in Public Relations and a Minor in Business from The University of Texas at Austin (May 1996)