Expert Predictions for 2021 Media Relations and Social Media Trends

By Shelby Bradford
February 3, 2021

2020 was a challenging year for communicators, between navigating the ever-changing media landscape and constantly pivoting their social media strategies in response to what was going on in the world. To give PR pros and social strategists an idea for what to expect in 2021, the Central Ohio chapter of PRSA hosted Tristan Navera, a Columbus Business First reporter, and Alex Lewis, a social media specialist at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, to share their predictions for 2021 trends in media relations and social media. Their insights may be helpful as you plan ahead for this year.

Media Relations

  1. Virtual interviewing isn’t going away – Although we all wish we could get our clients in-studio for an on-air interview, virtual interviews still give reporters a good – and often more candid – look into the interviewee’s personality. Tristan says virtual interviewing is like “joining someone in their living room.”
  2. Newsrooms will look for stories in different places – Whether it’s taking a walk in the communities they cover to see what’s going on or joining local social media groups, Tristan shared that these new ways of identifying news has also forced news crews to ask themselves a tough question: “Are we covering the community equitably?”
  3. Podcasting will continue to rise Consumers are becoming even more interested in getting their news quickly and audibly, versus by reading an article in print or on their phones. Outlets will also continue exploring their capabilities TikTok to reach new audiences, as many have already—including the Washington Post (if you aren’t following them on TikTok already, we 10/10 recommend).
  4. Reporters’ beats will continue to change Tristan says his team and likely others have come to realize there were “blind spots” that weren’t being covered before the pandemic, including stories about certain minority groups. News crews will adjust their areas of focus in 2021 to share the news they feel is most important for their audiences.

Social Media

  1. Influencer engagement will take offConsumers are shopping online now more than ever and are looking for recommendations from those they trust and admire. Since most influencers and bloggers are at home right now, it’s never been easier for brands to establish partnerships and send product to those they know their followers are looking to for recommendations.
  2. More brands will find their footing on TikTokThis platform is where content feels most personalized and authentic, which is exactly what users are craving in a world that feels increasingly heavy. Consumers turn to TikTok to find light-hearted content and learn new things, and in 2021, more brands will try to find ways to reach their audiences by sharing that kind of content.
  3. Content quality will be prioritized above posting frequencyInstead of reaching engagement rate goals through posting a higher volume of content, brands will focus on sharing higher quality content to get audiences’ attention and elicit a response.
  4. Brands will focus on sharing content that makes audiences feel somethingWhether it’s making audiences feel understood, supported or loved, brands will connect with followers on a more human level in 2021. This method will likely work in the favor of companies that are taking a more organic approach to social media strategies, since the content will probably get a more natural, emotional response.

Across the board, when it comes to both media relations and social media, communicators have no choice but to evolve from their tried-and-true methods and instead pivot to meet the needs of target audiences today.

Above all, consumers today are looking for three things when consuming content: transparency, relevance and emotional connection.