We were recently asked what impact the US elections will have on Public Relations and Marketing in the USA and UK. Here some thoughts:
While we need to see how things unfold, there are some clear trends. Biden’s win, as well as Trump’s continued refusal to concede, have of course driven volumes of media coverage. This will continue until the final word has been spoken and the president has been declared.
In the meantime, we will see increased rhetoric on the following 10 themes:
- Covid19, keeping safe and the new vaccine
- return to ‘normal, can we travel again, will businesses go back to the way they were?
- climate change
- women’s abilities and equality (we are already seeing social media posts with content such as ‘if Kamala can do it, then we can’
- the fight against racism
- economic and political partnerships between the USA and other countries
- polarisation around the woke agenda and more voices concerned about socialist/Marxist developments in the USA
- a call for ‘togetherness’ in order to ‘heal’ the nation
- continued push for ‘purpose’
- once Biden has officially been declared President, we will then also hear about changes his administration will want to make to decisions taken during the Trump era
Public Relations and marketing strategies will need to take into account a strong split in opinions across all of the above themes, possibly stronger than in previous years. We will see an increase in left versus right political polarisation.
In terms of media relations, PR professionals are now equally faced with a more politically split media landscape than before the elections.
Increased advertising spend or retreat into owned ‘social media’
Across markets we will see brands which do not cater to media leanings having to increase advertising spend in order to get content published. This is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that traditional news media is struggling to attract large paying audiences. Alternatively, brands will expand into more owned channels of communication. This will also see a higher use of user-generated content, podcasts and radio creation as well as increased use of social media.
Communication via community groups on social media will continue to rise as brands endeavour to capture their stakeholders’ and customers’ attention and loyalty; brand loyalty currently being at an all time low.
PR and marketing positioning will typically fall into three categories:
1. Join the Crowd
Those who join the loudest voices and rally around the content generally promoted by mainstream media and, in the USA, the new ruling party. These will be the brands which will also more easily get editorial space without advertising and see more engagement on social media.
Those who try and bridge the gap and recognise differences as they focus on content ‘we all can agree on’. These brands will try and unite their customer base and avoid losing certain cohorts. This strategy could be positive in the run up to Christmas but likely to lose its merit in the new year. These brands will run the risk of trying to be all things to all people and potentially lose brand differentiation.
3. My clan
Finally, we will see brands which, based on their customers’ and stakeholders’ values, will retreat from mainstream media and open social media to closed networks and ‘invite only’ group marketing and PR. At the same time, these brands will, occasionally, need to provide the right nod throughout mainstream media. The increased desire for purposeful brands provides an ideal platform for this as brands choose their purpose rather than being cornered into a certain direction.
From dictating the conversation back to dialogue?
The landscape for PR over the years has shifted from “corporate information” to “dialogic conversations” and is now seeing an increased appetite from stakeholders to dictate the conversation. Biden’s win is not the trigger for this, but likely to fuel it as Democrats push various social agendas and the rights of various clearly defined community groups.
COVID still has the last word
The Covid crisis has also bolstered people’s desire to have their voices heard as they try and bring stability to their lives. This will bring with it more polarisation. On the one hand we will see pressure from the Biden’s administration to conform. On the other hand, there will be those who will want to regain control of their circumstances through self-determination and ‘rebellion’ against any forms of top-down communication or restrictions.
It will be interesting to see if the PR and marketing professions will be able to help brands find their right place, increase brand reputations and sales.
It might require new thought leadership so as to move conversations back into the space of dialogue.