COVID-19’s spread has instigated uncertainty and emotional disruption among people all over the world. The whole world adapted to the global pandemic, requiring marketers and communication professionals to adjust their strategy and approach in the year 2020 and will continue in 2021. Our relationship with technology has transformed as the way we work, live and interact with the world has been fundamentally changed. Brands unstated the need to activate proactive communications during the pandemic as a support for their business. 2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses; however, we have learnt different processes to shape the future of communication. Here are the top communication trends in 2020 and what to expect in 2021.
Increase in Re-branding and Purpose-driven Communications
In 2020, many companies had realized the importance of brand reputation and had refreshed, updated or completely re-branded to adapt. Many brands have improved their CSR efforts, together with diversity and inclusion at the digital workplace. Brands had to reconsider their overall purpose, mission, and values in the COVID-19 context. It has been observed a change in how brands communicate, shifting the focus to the employee to become the voice of the company and to humanize their organization. As businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 directly or indirectly, brands have shifted the purpose of communication from a tool to support marketing and sales to the one that adds meaningful assistances to society. This trend will expand beyond selling products or services in the years to come.
Lead Generation as a Priority
With schedules and deadlines, many brands and businesses are focusing on lead generation. They have been trying new strategies and implementing them quickly as time is crucial. Many brands integrated more digital tactics into their mix, spanning search, SEO, paid direct email marketing, etc., in order to facilitate leads and support sales in a tough year. With the cancellations of in-person events, meetings, and trade shows, brands could not rely on face-to-face interactions with prospects, customers and partners. With a changing customer experience, brands had to find other ways to maintain customer communication and stay connected to their audience.
Creative Content Marketing is a Need
One of the biggest challenge faced by businesses in 2020 was to remain creative and relevant without repeating what hundreds of other businesses were doing during the pandemic. Generally, data-driven content marketing is a respectable strategy to lay the foundations and develop a relationship with users that will pay off over time. Brands are integrating storytelling with video content that they would use across various team functions (such as sales, marketing, PR) and channels (like website, blog, social media channels, journalists, and influencers.). While companies understand the impact of video, it has been found that many of them are still not fully utilizing video content on their webpages. For brands to stand out and fight digital fatigue, there is an increased need to focus on content strategy and stronger planning for digital channels.
The Move towards Virtual Events
In 2020, budgets for in-person events converted into virtual events, such as webinar hosting and video conferencing. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in attendance at digital events. But brands had to adapt to make these virtual events more engaging and captivating than ever before. This change was not only seen in marketing but also in PR through virtual media events for product launches. While virtual events helped brands remain visible, media relations became more superficial with a surge of internet users. An interesting move into 2021 would be to arrange informal media catch up calls to drive exchanges between the media and brands beyond product launches in order to reconnect virtually for the time being.
Data was already a top tool to get insights and help professionals build their strategies and demonstrate the ROI and value of marketing to C-suite and the rest of the organization. However, an increase has been seen in the data use of 2020, as brands require to monitor and analyze the situation in real-time to adjust approach and tactics. This includes analyzing brand perception, message pick-up, tone of voice, the share of voice, social performance, and website performance. Creative ways to gather customer data and insight appeared as a result of rapid digital transformation. Online focus groups and mobile surveys are a popular substitute in order to circumnavigate conducting research though a majority of the people in the world are working from home. With the death of third-party cookies and increasing difficulty to track cross-platform consumer behaviour due to regulatory pressure, context will become key in 2021 and beyond as audience information becomes less available with communication technology.
Changes in Media and News Consumption
The pandemic changed at home media consumption with more video streaming and relevant news stories for each of us. According to the research during COVID-19, global news consumption rose by 33%, and news engagement across social networks increased. The pandemic drove renewed interest in trusted media sources as the public turned to media for answers. We also saw around the world, and people are looking for more human stories rather than those centred on a corporate or brand narrative. The pandemic will likely accelerate the decline of print media, meaning we will see an increase in online news consumption.
2020 was the year of purpose-driven communications. And it will continue into 2021 and beyond. To deal with uncertainty, the adoption of various digital solutions to enhance workflow or performance were critical in 2020 and will continue to be essential in 2021.