One thing we know about the future is that it's unpredictable. But here we are with some predictions about issues that will continue to impact our lives and work in 2022, as well as the public relations and media-related implications of these trends.
Read the full article for more insights from members of the Public Relations Global Network: https://prgn.com/prgnfuture/pr-predictions-for-2022-from-the-best-comms-pros-around-the-globe/
Read Abbie Fink's blog post for this episode: "What Does the Future Hold?"
If you enjoyed this episode, check out the PRGN Presents podcast, hosted by Abbie Fink, featuring conversations about PR, marketing, and communications with members of the Public Relations Global Network, "the world’s local public relations agency.”
Need to hire a PR firm?
We demystify the process and give you some helpful advice in Episode 19: "How to Hire a Public Relations Agency in Arizona: Insider Tips for Executives and Marketing Directors"
Copper State of Mind is a project of HMA Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm in Phoenix.
The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B podcast network in Arizona.
Predicting the future is a somewhat perilous task. The one thing we know for sure is that some of our predictions may be right, then some of them may be wrong, but it's something we tend to do as we approach the end of a calendar year. We look back and we look forward and we ask ourselves, "What's coming and what do we need to do, think about prepare for, in order to be ready for what's next?" Here to talk about some predictions and some ideas for 2022 is Abbie Fink, Vice President and General Manager of HMA Public Relations. Hi Abbie.Abbie Fink:
How you doing today?Adrian McIntyre:
I'm great. What's on your mind?Abbie Fink:
Well, the end of the year gives us this opportunity to kind of reflect back and where we were and look forward to where we want to be. And thought it might be fun to kind of chat a little bit about what some of my colleagues from around the world are saying. As you know, HMA Public Relations is part of a global network of public relations agencies called the Public Relations Global Network. And we asked our colleagues to kind of think about what lessons did we learn in 2021 and what does the future look like in 2022? And what was so interesting to me is some of the commonalities that came out of the question and we all agree that 2020 we would just like to put behind us and not think about it at all. And we went into '21 with some optimism around some of the things that we were seeing, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination, which allowed some opportunity to get back to normal a little bit. We saw things like tourists in space and we saw conversations that were uncomfortable and difficult to have around equality and racial equity in the workplace, in society in general. And there's just been political turmoil and we've had discussions around climate change. I mean, just pick a topic and depending on what side of that you're on, it created this sense of uncertainty as much as we thought '21 might have seen ourselves coming out of this. And so we thought, "Well, what is '22 going to look like? And if we had our crystal ball and we could make some predictions, what would it look like?" And as I said, we had some commonalities that I thought was really interesting to take a look at.Adrian McIntyre:
I'm interested to hear your perspective because truly every one of these topics, whether it's the political turmoil and a variety of shenanigans in that realm. Whether it's racial and social justice, whether it's changes in the workplace the where and how we work together. Whether it's the environment, ecological concerns, climate change-related things, every single one of these issues and so many more pose communication challenges both for the people who are for the thing and against the thing. So this is a network of practitioners who work with clients, work with nonprofits, work with government agencies, work with companies to position and communicate their stories on all these topics. So this is a very rich set of perspectives from which we might gain some insights. So what have you got?Abbie Fink:
Well, right and it's very true. First of all, there's never been a year where there haven't been challenges that have caused communications professionals to rethink or reengage or repurpose what they're doing. So we just had new ones that we had never dealt with in the last 18 months or so.Adrian McIntyre:
Yeah, an “I didn't have that on my bingo card” kind of a thing.Abbie Fink:
Right, did not have this on my bingo card, but these also can be interesting opportunities for the industry, for the PR industry, but certainly for the organizations that we represent and others that are leading the communications environment within their own organizations. So some of the commonalities that we heard really from across the globe was the makeup of what the workplace is going to look like. And really the idea this hybrid model, the work from anywhere workplace is really going to stay. And for most of us, we don't think it's going to change in the near future. That we have all learned and advised and managed the situation that our teams, our employees don't have to be in a physical space. I mean, certainly there's businesses that require that to happen. But in general, if you have the type of business that does not need a physical space, you can be successful and productive in this work from anywhere environment. So what the onus is on the management team to work out this hybrid model to be successful.Adrian McIntyre:
Now what are some of the communications, marketing, media implications of that? We've talked on this show about the importance of internal communication. We've got a couple episodes about that. We've certainly talked about communicating externally in so many different ways. So when you think about this hybrid way of working becoming more entrenched. In other words, there's some parts of this that are not going away. What are the implications of that from a communications point of view?Abbie Fink:
That's an interesting question. The concept of it itself inherently has a communications challenge. If you are not walking down the hallway regularly seeing your co-workers or having your supervisor pop in for a quick discussion, you have to be very intentional about your communications. It just doesn't happen organically anymore. And what I'm finding at least with my team is that intentional conversation are much more fulfilling and much more productive. Because I can say, "Adrian, I need to meet with you. Can we get together at two o'clock? I need these three things on our agenda." We come to that meeting prepare. You're ready for the conversation because I've prepped you for it as opposed to running past your office, "Hey, I need to know blah, blah, blah and blah, blah, blah." And you're somewhere else completely in your workspace. And it's a give or take. So we have all these different technologies at our disposal to use. We have a variety of different platforms. We still have the good old fashioned pick up the phone and actually speak to somebody in our communications toolbox. So it's become I believe a very intentional opportunity to communicate both internally and externally with our outside audiences.Adrian McIntyre:
And of course the flip side of that is there are some real challenges when it comes to the way people communicate, managing that. We talked about social you policies, and should people be able to speak about their work in their own personal capacity versus in their corporate role. Now that work from anywhere also includes a time dimension where people are sometimes doing their work at different hours, there's no clear cut you're at work so you have to be in work mode. And then your private life is private and separate. So there can be some issues here where companies need to think through how are we going to respond to situations where somebody working from home does something that has an impact on the company and may potentially even, although nobody wants that create one of these crisis communications type situations.Abbie Fink:
And we can't operate in a vacuum. So when we're establishing that work from anywhere environment, there are policies and procedures that come along with that that make that possible for a particular organization. So for instance, here at HMA our work from anywhere policy is basically you can work from anywhere, but the "office hours" are the office hours of our home base here in Arizona. So you can be anywhere you want to be, but you're working in the time frame of when our "office," in quotes, which you can't see me doing, but in quotes is open for business. But there's HR that should be brought into your human resources team. You have other things to consider from the workspace that's being created in the home office or the co-working location. I mean, there's a lot of things that need to go into it, but the bottom line in that is that this is a conversation that lives with the communications team, but is part of the larger dynamic of what your internal organizational structure is. And then externally to ensure that your clients, your customers are being serviced with even though you may have changed your model, they are not feeling anything less than what they would have from you in any other circumstance. And what we're finding is our clients and I think this is kind of consistent with my colleagues around the globe is the clients are experiencing similar workplace discussions, and now we've got some modeling we can do. We can look at the best practices from other industries and how can we come together and come up with some consistency in terms of how we deploy that.Adrian McIntyre:
There's another dimension of hybrid that has become a reality for the PR firms and marketing communication agencies. And that has to do with the way you engage the media. I mean, it used to be in before times that you would do a in person press conference or activation, or things of that nature. When you had news, you brought the media together physically ideally. You got them to come to an event. That's changed a lot. How is the hybrid nature of communicating the company's stories changing?Abbie Fink:
Well, and I think in a lot of ways this has much like it's given the workplace in general, a different understanding of what it means to be physically working and where that is. Our colleagues in the media have really, I think, grasped this idea of using technology to engage with their sources for stories. They're already overworked. There's already a shrinking newsroom, which is a topic for another day, but there's less reporters, less editors trying to do more and more. And the newsrooms are shrinking and such. And there's a lot of reason behind that, but a reporter who has sources all over their region would maybe only be able to get two or three or do an in-person interview with one because of travel time and such. Well, now they have the ability via platforms like Zoom and others, to be able to have a face-to-face conversation and be able to do that. We saw it very clearly at the beginning of the pandemic where we were actually watching television newscasts happening from the living rooms of our favorite news anchors. And as uncomfortable as that might have felt at the beginning, it really shed a different insight into what they were. They always talk about coming into our living rooms on a daily basis as we watched them on television and we had the chance to come into their living room for a change and see what was happening. So again, I think about how we're talking to members of the media when we're pitching a story for one of our clients, and we have a couple options now. We can set up a face-to-face if you're comfortable, we can do it over the phone or if you'd like I'm happy to set up a video chat. And as the agency representing that, I'm still actively engaged. I'm in the background with my screen muted so you can't see me or hear me, but we can do all those same things without having to be physically in the same space. And what it has done I think is also opened up the source pool, if you will, for reporters where they are able to access good sources for stories outside of their marketplace if they need be. And what I think then is these stories that are being produced are richer, more robust. And as a consumer of news, we are getting the option of a much broader perspective on certain topics because the reporters can pull in resources from outside of the normal marketplace that they might be working within.Adrian McIntyre:
For sure. We've spent a lot of time on this. I know you've got other things to touch on. I would just add one to what you just said, which is this also creates for sources, for our clients, for the people speaking to the media the need to think about, as you alluded to earlier, their ability to do these kind of remote communications. So having at least a very simple setup that provides decent images and sound is important, thinking about which corner of the house or the office is going to be your backdrop when you do these remote things. And of course you and I and others can help folks with this. It's not a large investment. It really can set you apart because you're not always now having a professional camera operator and audio person coming to you. You need to fill that role yourself sometimes. And there's simple and not that expensive ways to do that, but you've got much more on your list. What have you got?Abbie Fink:
Well, I think that's a good point and it kind of leads into this next idea, which is really what is public relations now and what's it going to be, and what else does it become? And for several years, public relations hasn't just been publicity, if you will. I mean, it has been very much at least certainly from the public relations agency perspective. And certainly from those that are managing an internal communications team is this role of counselor. And that it is much more than just getting a story placed in a newspaper or on television that we really become at the table with our executive leadership to help guide and shape what the organization is going to look like. And that we are and should be actively participating with all aspects of an organization, whether that's marketing or your e-commerce, or your production or wherever. That the role of your public relations person on your team is really that of counselor and guiding conversations. And being the objective voice at the table that can say and ask the tough questions, "Is this the right thing? What are the ramifications if we do or don't do this? What happens if we do it next week versus the week after?" And really forces the conversations around proper communications and being willing to say and be confident in what we're saying that the way we are advising and counseling is for better of this organization. And this is why we need to do that. And it doesn't matter what the end result is or what the product is that we're promoting, or the company that we're promoting. That bottom line of how does this hit our audience when we do it is got to be the common question each and every time. And thinking about it in context of what else is happening in our communities, what's happening regionally, nationally, globally and what role we play, we being the customer, the client rather the client in the conversation. And thinking about what we can do from a communications perspective to ensure that our positioning in the marketplace is exactly where we want it to be.Adrian McIntyre:
We've certainly touched on this, but it resonates with what you're saying. The distinction between strategy and tactics and it's all too common that people only think of public relations or publicity and media relations specifically as a kind of tactic. Well, we got a launch or a campaign. We need to get the word out. Let's have our PR people get us some press coverage. That's tactical and that's extremely valuable. And it's something you're very, very good at. It's something clients can count on you for. But they're missing the forest for the tree if they don't also see the importance of having communications consigliere, kind of a strategist who's right there alongside thinking through the multiple dimensions. Because quite frankly, the world is more and more integrated and departments are not siloed. And what the marketing team is doing and what the sales team is doing, and what the partnerships and business development team is doing are now more than ever need to be aligned. Because on the other end, the public is certainly a multichannel or omnichannel, consumer. I mean, someone who's considering your company, considering doing business with you, considering buying your product, considering bringing you in for whatever is working ... I mean, we've been saying this for 15 years in digital marketing, but they're working across all the channels. They're jumping from Google to Twitter to a chat bot on your website to seeing what comes up on YouTube, and watching the clips of this, that and the other. So not having someone or someones to provide that integrative tissue of strategy and thoughtfulness and insight that maybe there's a dimension of this we need to add. Maybe there's a subgroup of the audience that is going to be turned off by this position. Let's think through how to do this is the real value. And I think clients need to understand that the right PR firm can provide those kind of strategic advisory functions as well.Abbie Fink:
And we've seen over the last year very, very predominant in terms of actions taken by organizations and how those actions play out in the public and with their clients. It's certainly around the discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion. We have seen a lot of discussion and we're demanding that the brands that we interact with have a position and that the position they take is entirely up to them in terms of how they want to position that. And certainly we'll assume there's been some discussion around why they're doing that and in that particular way. But we are as a consumer, we are expecting the brands that we interact with to make a statement, but back it up with the action. And that has probably been more at the forefront in the last year to 18 months than maybe we've seen in recent history. And the power that the consumer has to impact the brand in the event that they do not stand for something that they believe in. The idea of cancel culture for instance with a very quick witted Twitter post, you can shut down something if you can get enough traction with it. And so I think as the communications counselor and those that are managing those messages, we have to be, and again, force the difficult conversation and ultimately the outcomes then require additional discussion. But when we're in this state of a more powerful lens on things like social justice and equality and diversity and others, climate change we talked about, any other social issue. Businesses need to be smart about how they're positioning themselves and what they're taking or not. Again, it's however they choose to do that. But as we are a guiding our clients into that, we have to be asking those difficult questions. And one of the other things that I think is several of my colleagues are, are bringing forth is this idea of and this isn't new necessarily, but authenticity and transparency. What we put out publicly, we need to also be doing internally. And this idea of what someone named and I loved it was kindness communications. What does that mean to be kind in our communications? And it's this idea of building relationships and how do we build relationships both internally and externally with our audiences? What's the culture that we're trying to create? What is our position on these issues and does it reflect who we are as a business? And can we live these words into the future and balance that with our business model and what we do as a business? And I just really, really liked it. It came out of a couple different and really from all over the world. So much of where we're focused on here might be based in the US, but my colleagues in Italy and my colleagues in London and my colleagues in Germany, we're all talking about this idea of what kind of culture are we creating and are we are being kind in our communications? And that really resonated with me as something to think forward to. Could 2022 be the year of kind in kindness communications? I really think there's a place for that.Adrian McIntyre:
That would certainly raise the bar on the level of compassion and empathy in our public discourse. I'd like to see that happen. I'm not sure. I'm holding my breath, but that needs to change. And we're the ones who can help our clients change it.Abbie Fink:
Predictions and such are just that. And I think we all have aspirations in terms of the goals set for ourselves. And I think that's an aspirational goal worth setting is how we have our kindness communications.Adrian McIntyre:
The couple other things that we saw really have to do with sort of some of the additional tactical things that we have at our disposal. We're looking at what AI might look like in our business world and what we're using from additional digital aspects. You talked about the access to communications through these digital platforms. So how are we using them and managing them appropriately. More personalization, which I think falls in line with the kindness idea, but it's not a one size fits all in terms of the types of communication strategies that we're creating. We have to really think about the business itself, the individuals that are participating in it, and who are we trying to reach and what we're pitching or talking about for audience one might not be the same for audience two, and how do we manage that. And really the bottom line for all of what we heard, and I think we are probably seeing it as well from what we're hearing from our clients is that what strategic communications can offer to an organization is valued and is maybe seen differently because of what we have gone through as the world has gone through these things over the last 18 months to two years now. And that relying on a strategic look at things from a communications perspective has been valued and is appropriate and needed, even as we move on. Most of the colleagues and I think this is probably a fair statement for a lot of businesses. We are going to be a society where COVID is part of what we're doing and we are learning how to adapt to that. And wherever that falls, it will just be part of what we do. So there are going to be considerations for the near future about how we incorporate what we do with that as the backdrop. But that looking forward in a more positive way because we can see some things happening. And again, access to vaccinations and more people choosing to do that for themselves and for those that they want to interact with. And managing relationships in such a way that allows a little bit more interaction. There will still be some uncertainty and probably will be for a handful of years as this becomes, I hate to say the new normal because I'm not sure we've defined the old normal by this new normal yet. But that there will still be a little bit of uncertainty, but good leaders, great leaders of your organization that invest in the professional development of their teams and in themselves. And manage what we have being handed to us and look ahead to the trends and what's happening in our individual industries are going to be the companies that succeed. And that will continue to thrive in spite of some of these more difficult challenges that are happening. And kind of the advice, if there's any advice that came out of all of this was really this connecting and sharing and capitalizing on the best practices of what we're learning from as a communications profession. And tapping into resources like the Public Relations Global Network or other professional associations. But even from within your own organization, look to others that are doing similar work that are willing to share and figure out how to make those connections and build on those relationships. And utilize the best practices and knowledge that others bring to the betterment of not only your organization, but the industry that you represent as a whole.Adrian McIntyre:
Let me ask you just a closing question here, because I think the benefits of the Public Relations Global Network might not be super clear to a client. But one of the things we were talking about is the strategic advice and support that your PR firm provides you from the client perspective. When that firm is a member of a network like the Public Relations Global Network and HMA Public Relations is a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. It means that your advisors, your PR and communications professionals are regularly talking to and learning from others who aren't competing with them because they're in a different place. They're in Indiana or Italy or Israel, or what have you. So there's a feedback loop here that allows the communicators to listen not just to the local market and its needs, but also to changing perceptions around the globe. My closing question for you, Abbie, is you've been at this game a long time. HMA has been in this game a long time. And you didn't start with that global network in place. What have you learned over the years that has changed the way you advise Arizona companies, nonprofits, government and agencies, and so on from that from participating in the Public Relations Global Network? How has that shaped you're thinking?Abbie Fink:
And you're absolutely right. When I started in this business, you didn't do anything outside of your own market. I mean, there wasn't even the mindset that says we could do work in ... Even here in Arizona, it was a stretch to say we could also work with a client if I was living in Phoenix and work with a client in Tucson or in Flagstaff, I mean, that still was sort of this unknown way of doing things. But certainly the technology has given us that ability to do that, but having this resource in something like the Public Relations Global Network, which is going to be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022. And these are agency owners that are running companies very similar to ours in terms of clients, number of employees, longevity in the marketplace. They're colleagues that are doing what we do outside of the market and that access to information is invaluable. And as you said, they're not competition in the sense that they're going after the same business as we are. So I can ask a question, "Has anyone ever done this? What has been your experiences? What did you do? What did you learn by doing this? And/or I am thinking about going after this type of client, has anyone else worked with that type of client? Would you like to partner with me?" And what I can tell my clients that are based here in Arizona who might have a need in Chicago or London or Israel or Bucharest, I've got a partner there. And that's a very unique proposition for us to be able to have these resources that have been vetted and that have been brought in that demonstrate the same values, and the same approach and the same management of their agencies and the way that they work together with their clients that we do. And so when you bring on HMA Public Relations, you not only have the staff and the creativity of my team here. I have access to this team of people, 800 people around the world that I can bring in and say can be a part of your team as well if you have need for a particular market or a particular service offering that we might not have. And that's a pretty amazing value proposition. And what has been very interesting in this last two years as international travel has all but been decimated, we're starting to look to the future to bring the group together again. This group is actually more connected, thanks to technology and being able to see each other, although we're not physically in the same space. And I've learned a lot about time zones. I had no idea how many time zones there could be, but really coordinating meetings with partners from Australia and the United States and Germany, and that's a lot. It's a lot of coordination.Adrian McIntyre:
It's going to be 3:00 AM at one of those places.Abbie Fink:
Somebody is not getting any sleep that night, but it's an incredible resource for us. And really the ability for us to have that resource accessible for our clients has been terrific. And the question that we asked at the beginning about what does 2022 look like, these were all thoughts that came from my colleagues. And what was powerful to me is the consistency of some of those. Some of the things that we're seeing that are really across all businesses regardless of where we're located. And the really smart and strategic thinking happens amongst my colleagues is a great resource for us and for those that we work with on a regular basis.Adrian McIntyre:
We'll certainly link to the article, the PR predictions for 2022 from the best comms pros around the globe brought to you by the Public Relations Global Network. And Abbie Fink, thanks so much for joining us for this conversation. HMA Public Relations, of course, being a leader not only here in Arizona, but in that global network. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and we'll see you in 2022.Abbie Fink: