Ben Chodor
Ben Chodor

Last year, public relations professionals rose to the challenge of managing incredibly complex communications: guiding brands to communicate clearly—and with purpose—in response to evolving social, political and health and safety issues. It was a year when the word “pivot” became a strategy and the industry proved its ability to be nimble, agile and resilient.

If 2020 taught communicators anything, it was that we must find ways to plan for the unpredictable. The “new normal” will be a continued push to adopt technology and tools that will enable efficiency, collaboration and innovation. The digital transformation of public relations has officially arrived and there’s no turning back.

Intelligent media monitoring will help PR pros navigate the news cycle. 2020’s news cycle was anything but predictable, and it will not get easier to navigate this year. Communicators who want to stay ahead of breaking news should use media monitoring technology—powered by artificial intelligence—to track stories as they unfold, understanding when a story breaks, peaks and the factors that will influence coverage. A smart media monitoring strategy ensures that the right message is shared at the best possible time, with the reporters most likely to cover it.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Mar. '21 Food & Beverage PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Brands start to measure the impact of value-based communication. Social issues made their way to the boardroom last year and companies of all types and sizes used public relations to define their position on topics like diversity, inclusion and social justice. This trend will continue, and it will become critical to measure these efforts and understand whether corporate values and beliefs resonate with consumers. Traditional share-of-voice metrics aren’t enough to measure public perception, and PR pros will need to rethink their use of sentiment metrics, reach, and influence to identify ways to measure effectiveness in communicating mission, vision, and values.

Executives use live video to build connections. The shift from in-person to virtual was an adjustment for many brands and consumers last year. However, the need for connection and engagement is stronger than ever. While live video is often viewed as a ‘risk’ it’s actually the perfect medium to humanize executives and ensure that target audiences and key stakeholders hear directly from the brand on important issues. This is particularly valuable during crisis, where speed and transparency are critical to mitigating risk.

Hybrid events are here to stay and new ways to engage the press will emerge. The events landscape has evolved and technology will continue to play a critical role. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have attended corporate events this past year from the comfort of their own home, allowing them to save time on travel and minimize costs for their employer. Event technology has advanced to such a degree that turning it off would be a missed opportunity for future attendees and event hosts. As a result, PR professionals must continue to identify new ways to engage with media for virtual events. Whether it’s online briefings, press conferences, interactive demos or panels, the creativity and virtual experience shouldn’t stop when in-person events make their way back to calendars.

PR fully embraces tech. 2021 will be a technology revolution in PR and this digital transformation will drive innovation in the use of data, measurement and monitoring tools. This year, we can expect to see PR professionals re-evaluate their tech stack, demanding more from legacy vendors and looking for solutions that are intelligent, easy-to-use and fully integrated. Additionally, PR pros (both agencies and brands) will need to implement a formal technology strategy to better align with the marketing department in order to measure and prove the value of their efforts, and drive business revenue.

As we look to the future, PR professionals must remain creative and open to adopting new technologies that will directly drive business outcomes. Although we don’t yet know what this year has in store, the PR industry must continue to embrace change as it evolves to help brands to not only survive, but also thrive.


Ben Chodor is President at Intrado Digital Media.