By Alan Dunton, Managing Director, Technology
As 2021 inches towards the finish line, PR pros typically begin taking stock of their various programs. We analyze hard metrics year-over-year, compile anecdotal feedback from clients and colleagues and do our PR planning to hit Q1 with fresh ideas and momentum after what has widely been perceived as a difficult year to operate through, particularly after the chaos of 2020.
But the scales aren’t calibrated anymore. And they haven’t been for quite some time. Over the last 18+ months an invisible force has randomly jammed its big, clumsy thumb into the normally fine-tuned machine without any consideration to plans, momentum, goals and objectives. It hasn’t been a fair fight. It’s been ugly, and devasting for many. But we’re still standing.
Charting 2022 PR plans
Heading into 2022, it’s unclear if COVID is receding and surging. Despite our plans, we don’t know if we’ll be back in the office the first week of January or if another wave of lockdowns is coming.
What we do know, however, is that people want normalcy and, like it or not, the PR industry plays a role in that reality as much as any profession. We’re not on any kind of front line, of course, so please don’t take offense by the previous statement. It’s PR, most definitely not ER. But, in a normal world, we’re an integral part of the business machine, helping institutions, individuals and initiative get opportunities to make themselves known.
Though far from perfect, the last 6-9 months has actually felt pretty darn normal, minus the endless Teams calls, sweaters on top and sweatpants on bottom, and limited human interaction. But this week, our team is getting together — in person — to chart how our 2022 business course. And for no other reason than to meet new team members, eat some lunch and maybe have a laugh. It’s something I look forward to because it gives me a glimpse of what may be coming; working together without the artificial boundaries that COVID has necessitated. I may not miss commuting, but I certainly don’t appreciate something else deciding for me if I can or not. I know we’re better together — more creative, more agile, more efficient. Like last week’s TikTok, we’re ready to move on.
And this small step forward, at this time of year, is a very real reminder that our professional minds need to think about our clients’ businesses. More bluntly, how (through PR planning) we can help them win in 2022.
Moving & innovating with focus in 2022
Though we may not be able to plan for, let alone control, many of the day-to-day actions, we can plan for the key objectives of each program, taking great care to ensure they are aligned with real, tangible business objectives. This may very well mean programs should continue as they have been managed over the course of 2021. But I suspect this will not be the case for most.
We’re challenging our teams to approach 2022 PR planning with a revitalized mindset. To be prepared to toss out the stuff that didn’t meet expectations. To find the courage to propose new ideas. And to keep doing the things that have helped us thrive despite all the curve balls thrown our way: namely, keep supporting our colleagues and exploiting inspiration no matter the source. Time’s too short to waste it spinning cycles for the sake of cycles. We want to build programs that help accomplish something, and we want to be measured against more meaningful metrics.
Whether we’ve signed up to drive hits, impressions, downloads, SoV, or messaging resonance is still important, mind you, if they are in service to the bigger mission. And that may mean swapping out one tactic for another, experimenting with a new type of program or creative asset, or rebuilding a strategic narrative from the ground up.
All of it should be up for review and, if necessary, ripped and replaced for something that brings greater confidence and purposefulness to the table. And of course, we need to be ready to stop and turn on a dime. So, as 2021 winds down, I’m excited for what’s coming in 2022. It’s not going to go as planned, and that’s fine — we’re ready for whatever gets tossed our way.
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