With the end of 2020 fast approaching (hallelujah!), it is time to peer into the swirling public relations crystal ball and make some bold predictions about what changes and trends we are likely to see in 2021. 

In no particular order, here are the five communications issues we predict will stand at the forefront for public relations in 2021. 

Employee engagement is forever changed

If 2020 taught us nothing else, it is that most professional work can be done remotely. Of course, work-from-home needs to be done well, but for the most part, the opportunity for most employees to work either full-time or part-time at home has improved immensely in 2020. 

With some or all employees shifting their work outside a traditional office, the usual methods for engaging with staff are no longer enough. Office potlucks and in-person holiday parties are not likely to return anytime soon in this new environment. It is more important than ever for employers to communicate often and well with their employees, and not strictly on work issues. Mental health, self-care, and team building that engages employees will be imperative for an office to stay connected and performing at a high level. 

Avoiding advocacy is no longer an option 

Most companies and organizations won’t want to hear this, but it is no longer acceptable to sit it out when employees and customers are demanding societal change. Many brands are looking for ways to encourage responsible employee advocacy, and even giving them tools and resources to do so. This may be one of the toughest transitions for companies to make, but if communicated clearly and well, advocacy plans can be less painful than anticipated, and even improve employee and customer satisfaction. 

PR plans and tactics must be data-driven 

In this day and age, so much data is available, no excuse exists not to utilize it when planning communications and analyzing their results. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, but savvy PR pros know how to capitalize on this explosion of available data and tie it to real, measurable outcomes that can be backed up with numbers.

Personal branding takes center stage 

It is rare for an employee to work for one employer for 40 years before retiring with the fabled gold watch. Department of Labor and Statistics data tell us most of today’s workers are likely to hold an average of 12 career-focused jobs in their lifetime. This means individual employees are wise to invest in creating a professional brand that distinguishes themselves from other jobseekers. Given the available tools, like social media platforms, personal webpages, blogs, and others, the ability to establish one’s professional reputation online lies almost entirely within an employee’s control, and should be taken advantage of. 

As eager as most of us are for 2020 to come to a rapid close, we can at least appreciate that public relations practitioners have more communications tools available at our disposal than ever before, and can put them to good use for our clients, companies, and organizations.