Nikki Little is the VP at Franco and an integrated communications professional with more than 15 years of experience.
When one year ends, and another begins, there is no shortage of marketing and communications trend articles. What should marketers include in this year’s marketing plans and budgets? What isn’t yet worth the investment? We’ve all read them, and we’ve hopefully incorporated some recommendations into our programs where it makes sense. But the marketing and communications world is constantly changing, so wouldn’t we be remiss not to reflect on what themes are resonating most in our profession more than once a year? Now that we’re well into 2022, it’s a good time to reflect.
Here are seven themes that have stood out to me so far in 2022.
1. Communications is more valued than ever.
The 2021 JOTW Strategic Communications Survey revealed that 80% of communications professionals “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their organizations now place a greater value on communications. This was a silver lining of the pandemic, as communicating clearly and frequently has been imperative during the past two years. The necessity of communications has fundamentally changed for the better.
2. A commitment to internal communications is critical, but it’s only one part of employee retention.
Employees expect leaders to be transparent and authentic and to showcase empathy and inclusivity, but great internal comms is only one part of the employee retention equation. Maintaining strong internal communications in a hybrid environment is difficult but increasingly important.
3. Journalists and public relations professionals can (and should) have a mutually beneficial relationship.
If you work with journalists, you know how difficult it is to garner media attention right now, even with a fantastic story. The average journalist now covers four beats, according to Muck Rack’s The State of Journalism 2022 report (up from three beats last year). In other words, journalists are overworked.
However, the report also found that 60% of journalists think their connection with PR professionals is mutually beneficial, and 80% of journalists say pitches account for a quarter or more of their articles. I’m part of a marketing and PR Slack community, and a journalist recently shared that while reporters are inundated with ongoing world news stories related to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and myriad other happenings, they want to balance reporting with positive, entertaining stories. So continue pitching but be patient with our journalist friends—and give them a reason to care about what you’re pitching.
4. Great storytelling reigns supreme.
Building off the point above, whether it’s in a pitch or other content, telling an impactful story is a non-negotiable in today’s attention-fragmented world. Great storytelling evokes emotion and connection. It inspires action and builds trust. Misinformation and disinformation run rampant on the internet. Be a source of truth and trust for the people you want to connect with. To create an effective story, you have to truly understand (and care about) your audience.
5. Prioritize customer experience and communication across all marketing channels.
Focusing on customer experience must extend to every marketing channel. Customer experience has always been a foundational component of marketing, but similar to many things in the past two years, the pandemic put a spotlight on the need for brands to invest in customer experience. Do your marketing and sales teams regularly communicate? Are they sharing best practices and challenges? Do customer inquiries and feedback that come through your sales team get funneled to marketing and communications teams to inform their strategies? If not, you have some homework!
6. Content must be maximized across many channels.
We work too hard on creating content for it to live in a vacuum on a single channel. Don’t confuse content maximization with copy/paste. I’m not encouraging you to copy your newsletter verbatim and slap it into a LinkedIn post.
There’s a communications professional I’ve known for more than 10 years who specializes in social media strategy and does a phenomenal job at content maximization. He’ll write a blog post, then share a slightly different perspective (in a more condensed manner) for LinkedIn. Then, he breaks that content down for his weekly newsletter. Not everyone subscribes to your newsletter or blog or follows you on social channels, so don’t assume one stellar piece of content on one channel will get the job done. Slicing and dicing content that’s tailored to the right audience on the right channel will help you extend the shelf-life and reach of your content.
7. Get back to the basics.
I saved my favorite for last. My team and I at Franco have been ruminating on this topic for a few months now, and I’ve also had discussions with several peers who have noticed a “back to basics” trend among marketers, particularly in the digital space. Part of the reason may be that with the many tools, strategies and automation, the goal of making real, authentic connections has gotten lost. The solution? Be real. Focus on the qualitative element of engagement and practice transparency to make it easier for your audience to do the things they want to do. Above all, deliver value for your audience instead of focusing only on the sale.
What other marketing and communications trends are you seeing this year?