COVID-19 will remain top of mind for consumers in 2021, according to a survey that is part of the USC Center for Public Relations’ newly published 2021 Relevance Report.
Close to half (44.3 percent) of respondents listed a potential COVID-19 vaccine as a subject in which they are highly interested. Perhaps in response to quarantine living, food and recipes were the second-most-popular topics, cited by 21.8 percent of the respondents. Conducted in partnership with the Institute for Public Relations and Golin, the survey asked 1,087 Americans about the topics, products, brands and people that will be most relevant to them next year.
When it comes to where survey respondents go to express their opinions on social issues, Facebook beats all comers, with 46.1 percent naming it as the platform they go to most often. Instagram came in second at 17 percent, and Twitter was favored by 10.9 percent.
With an eye towards life getting back to normal next year, 20.8 percent of respondents said they were looking forward to eating inside restaurants. Other activities, such as attending live concerts (11.9 percent), going to movie theaters (10.8 percent), going to the beach (9 percent) and traveling by air (8.2 percent) were somewhat less popular.
Trust was a major issue for survey respondents as well. Doctors were chosen as the most accurate, credible source of information by 18 percent, followed by journalists (10.5 percent) and educators (7.7 percent). Only 2.4 percent said that public relations professionals were the most trusted source.
Amazon, Chick-fil-A and Apple ranked as the brands whose overall social engagement would make consumers most likely to support them in 2021. Amazon was the top retail brand (named by 28.9 of respondents), Chick-fil-A topped the quick-service restaurant category with 23.7 percent and Apple (18.9 percent) was the top retail brand.
“In a normal year, many different topics are relevant to Americans,” said Fred Cook, director of the USC Center for PR. “But in 2021, they will be paying closest attention to COVID-19, and it will continue to impact their lives. Information on the virus is what they will listen to, share with others and act upon.”
In addition to the survey results, the 2021 Relevance Report also includes a collection of short essays from public relations industry leaders, USC academics and students that predict trends that will affect the communications profession. The report is available for download at annenberg.usc.edu/relevance.