Article originally posted by Melanie Marten, Forbes Councils Member on Forbes.com here.
The role of public relations in 2022 is to foster the authenticity that so many crave in an economy that appears to operate at surface level.
“Purpose” is a term that has been widely used in the last year when communications professionals want to advise their clients that they need to stand for something bigger than profit. 2021 marked the first step in stressing the importance of the values of brands, companies and entrepreneurs. Brands understand that their audiences are looking behind the scenes and rightly demanding an inclusive and diverse team environment. It’s time to act.
To remain relevant in 2022, brands, companies and entrepreneurs must go beyond what is right and provide real service to humanity, society, communities and the environment. Public relations efforts will truly include all stakeholders, and the term “stakeholder” must lose its strong association with investors only.
PR strategists in 2022 engage with the artisans and communities the brand works with, telling their stories and how the brand impacts their lives, livelihoods and mental health. To make those stories stand out, brands will have to go above and beyond to live up to the responsibility they have.
In my work as a public and investor relations consultant, I see investors increasingly seeking out business owners who focus on community building and working toward a true change instead of putting their resources into creating presentable PDFs and campaigns designed for investors. Guess what? Reputable investors go above and beyond to support this drive. From my experience, investors make up a large part of the audience that seeks authenticity.
Relevant public relations in 2022 is communicating values, and companies will need to do their homework in defining their values. We first saw an increase in value communication when the run on talent emerged. Employer branding became part of a company’s PR when simple paychecks wouldn’t get the best employees anymore. These nurturing assets must now be extended outside of talent acquisition, to the communities with which the company comes in contact, and to the environment.
The new value definition goes beyond the reference to a one-pager on a company’s website to a Corporate Social Responsibility setup. It needs to be tangible to be believable. To put it bluntly, it is not enough to point out that your company donates a portion of its profits each year, as this demonstrates not much more value other than a convenient tax benefit from donations.
What we can learn from The Great Resignation in 2021 is that employee satisfaction may not have been a true intrinsic value of many companies. With the number of people switching to freelancing careers exploding, a large number of them are only taking on projects that align with their values, a WeTransfer Ideas Report 2021 states. The report also indicates that Gen Z is experiencing mental health issues, feelings of isolation and financial troubles. They want brands to take the lead in fighting for a more sustainable future.
When we talk about values in 2022, business owners are advised to dig deep in their hearts to find a cause they truly care for so they can commit to it long term.
In 2022, public relations will need to provide answers about what action is being taken on climate, racial issues and social justice. Entrepreneurs, wake up! The “me, me, me” perspective is over.
In my work as an agency owner, clients have still too often completely ignored the fact that they have a social responsibility, and that public interest is generated when they offer real added value to society at large. Many clients believe that their product or service alone provides the value to claim top-tier media coverage. The effectiveness of billboard ads is highly decreasing and, instead, business owners are demanding media publicity as their “new age” billboard ad. This approach does not lead to the desired (fast) results on the clients’ side.
Public relations will be the key business development tool in 2022 for those who understand its core value. Communications (PR for short) as a discipline must aim to create an environment of transparency and build open and honest relationships. PR strategies provide an opportunity to reflect on and improve one’s actions and grow positive impact.
No matter how big or small, old or young your business is, there needs to be a commitment to integrate giving back into the DNA of your business. Pledge 1% is a good example; a movement that tech companies join to support each other in the mindset of giving that aligns with their values and larger business goals.
Once entrepreneurs devote their willpower to doing good, public relations will leverage that drive to reach maximum success.
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