BIGfish PR Predictions & Trends for 2022

As 2022 begins, the PR industry faces a set of challenges––some new and some familiar––to which it will have to adapt in order to thrive. With the emergence of the omicron variant, COVID-19 may continue to impact PR professionals and clients in the coming year. PR professionals across the country have been asked to offer some of their predictions for what they expect 2022 to bring to the industry. 

Among the recurring predictions, professionals around the industry have increased their focus on real change in the industry regarding diversity and equity. Dr. Felicia Blow, the Chair-Elect for the Public Relations Society of America, predicted that there will be less emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion being “good business,” and greater emphasis upon keeping diverse employees within agencies as companies work to practice what they preach.

John McCartney, Director-at-Large of the LA and San Francisco chapters of PRSA agreed, saying, “This will be part of a general trend toward a more holistic perspective on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Businesses will work harder to meaningfully integrate DEI into their operations, rather than simply using it as a messaging strategy for internal communications.”

We asked BIGfish CEO David Richard to share his own predictions for the coming year.

The press release is dying, but not dead yet.

Enough of the industry is used to consuming news and news pitches in a press release format so it goes on and lives another day, but the notion of spending money and putting a press release on the wire is dwindling. I don’t know that that flame will go out in 2022, however it will become dimmer.

Brands have become their own self publishers because the Securities and Exchange Commission now recognizes websites, social media, and a number of digital media platforms for fair disclosure of information- as long as investors are notified. This combined with Google deemphasizing wire releases in its search algorithm, broke the stranglehold that PR wire services had on news dissemination by publicly traded entities and notable brands to the public and took away a lot of the teeth of those wire services. It’s still useful to get out there, but the media doesn’t look at those newswires the same way that they used to. 

Wire services are also very expensive, and don’t get tagged from a news standpoint the same way that they used to – Google made sure of that. It’s very much an old school way of doing things; spraying your news out there and praying it gets seen. In effect, it’s the exact opposite; reporters see newswire announcements and say, ‘Oh, you self-published your news, congratulations, you published it so I don’t need to.’

Niche media outlets will gain in influence and credibility

Due to the increasing connectedness of the web, it’s much easier for niche media to exist where you can have a much smaller audience that is hyper aware of the subject matter. Now, because of search and the social web, it’s possible for these niche media outlets to not only survive, but thrive. When you work with them the right way, it can have really great outcomes hitting the core of an industry and the core of a specific market. 

An old way to think of media was to break it into generator consumer press vs. trade press; now there it’s beyond trade press, it’s a hyper-focused version of press that could be consumer or B2B.

Financing announcements of early stage companies will no longer be a viable launch announcement option.

There’s just too much money being invested in early stage companies. A company and an idea raising $5 million used to be something novel a journalist could report on once or twice a month. Fundraising has become more than a daily event which means that early stage companies raising multiple millions of dollars multiple times a day becomes such a norm that it loses its newsworthiness. Early stage and innovative companies are going to be forced to look for new ways to tell their story.

In-person press briefings and interviews will bounce back, but ZOOM and Google Meet will remain a relevant, strong option if spokespeople can’t be in-studio or on-site.

It’s quick, it’s easy, you don’t need to get an executive on a plane. It’s a positive development for the industry and I really hope that it stays because it makes it easier for everybody and it consumes less energy and time. 

News outlets will remain more open to using client-generated content like photographs and B-roll than before the pandemic hit due to less staff in newsrooms and a precedent of leaning heavily on client-generated content during the pandemic.

Reporters have had to lean on really good, trusted publicists to facilitate the media assets that a company has stored. Historically, they would have to send a photographer or videographer from a news outlet, but they have loosened the rules on that and opted to work more hand in hand with the publicists.

Events will likely bounce back post Omicron, but audiences and participation will remain thinner than pre-COVID.

People are more conscious of the idea of being in a closed room with people not wearing masks and not everybody is going to feel comfortable with that right away. It’s going to take a number of years for that “normal” level of comfort to fully come back. That plays a big part in our industry because events tend to bring in keynote speakers, fireside chats, speaking opportunities, awards, and more to generate awareness and media interest. It really makes a difference when it’s in person versus when it’s virtual and it’s really important for our industry to get that back on track when it comes to certain events that focus on an in-person element. 

I do think there’s going to be virtual options for just about everything, which is nice because it does open up the ability for people to participate virtually and save on travel costs and adds to sustainability. Take CES 2022, for example: the amount of fuel not being burned to move people around is a definite positive to come out of all the cancellations. It’s a lot easier for people to participate when they don’t have to spend a day of travel getting there and getting back. Sure, there’s always going to be some loss by not having people there, but the nature of things is adapting and evolving to the circumstances.

Climate and sustainability will play a much bigger role in the media, in the national conversation, in spotlights shined on industry, and with specific brands.

I believe every brand is going to be thinking about their carbon footprint. Carbon credits are going to become a standard that brands are going to use to offset their carbon footprint. I believe that’s going to become more of a focus this coming year. It almost becomes part of the corporate social responsibility that brands have. The media is definitely becoming more aware of these things as well and looks for carbon neutral certifications whenever possible. 

The questions are going to start being asked: what’s happening with the boxes a company ships products and supplies around the world in? How are those boxes getting to market and how much fuel dis it take? How are you building your product? What’s in your product? What happens when your product is done and ends up in landfill?  We’re becoming very aware of the supply chain because of the failures we’ve seen due to COVID-19. 

Marketing executives will continue to add more KPI dashboards to their branding and communications, forcing PR practitioners to be even sharper with their KPIs.

One of the challenges that publicists and PR pros face is the service providers around them are being more and more equipped with digital KPI dashboards. 

There’s a reason the word “relations” is part of public relations. Relationships are key–and there’s no good dashboard for tracking relationships.  Very few people would apply a KPI dashboard to relationships with your friends, loved ones, your partner, or anyone else. Imagine if your spouse told you, “You only washed the dishes 1.5 times this week”–there’s a right place to apply these things and there’s a wrong place and media relations is the wrong place for its application.

Final thoughts

While BIGfish can’t speak to what 2022 is going to look like in all respects, we have some final thoughts for what the industry will do to weather the challenges of the next year.

A lot of people hoped and believed that 2021 was going to be the bounceback year – I think it’s going to be 2022 instead. Every day that goes by is a day that we’re learning to live with COVID-19 more and more. There are going to be setbacks and there are going to be cancellations, but in the grand scheme of things, the entrepreneurial spirit has not been quashed. There’s going to be a lot of innovation that is going to drive new products and services to the market, both at the startup level and at organizations with more established brands. Brands and businesses are not standing still.

The Innovative, Cool, & Sustainable: BIGfish’s Takeaways from CES 2022

CES 2022 took place in Las Vegas for the first time since 2020, and while exhibitors and attendees were thrilled to be back in person on the show floor, the Omicron variant disrupted attendance, making it much less than we have seen in previous years. As a result, the popular show experienced a lot of empty booths and floor space as companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Panasonic all opted out. Even so, the show was largely a success, and with some of the familiar faces out, smaller startups had the opportunity to have their voices heard. BIGfish PR has participated in CES every year since 2006 and below are some of our biggest takeaways from the world’s largest tech trade show.

The Innovative

CES 2022 surprised us with some of its innovations. Both Wayzn and Masonite (who teamed up with BIGfish client Ring) released smart doors. Wayzn’s Smart Pet Door looked like something from the future, with motion sensors sliding the door as humans or pets approach, operable through the phone app, voice control, or camera. Meanwhile, Masonite’s M-Pwr Smart Door is taking smart technology to a whole new level. M-Pwr is the first residential exterior door to integrate power, lights, a video doorbell, and a smart lock into the door system itself. The M-Pwr smart door includes a Ring Video Doorbell and Yale smart lock built into the frame as well as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth powered PIR motion sensor, which is able to determine if the door is open or closed. The door also includes a motion-activated LED light bar embedded in the door’s threshold to welcome guests, while providing the additional security of a lighted entrance.

Although Ring didn’t attend CES 2022 in person, they announced the availability of their Alarm Glass Break Sensor during the event. The sensor works after being placed on a flat surface or wall, listening for the sound of broken glass up to 25-feet away, and alerts users when glass is broken the same way a door or window sensor would alert users when someone enters the home. The sensor uses AI to correctly identify sounds so that the sound of a breaking plate or other background noises do not trigger the alarm. This sensor, available to preorder from Amazon and arriving by February 16, was a major announcement during the show and was a CES top pick by CNN Underscored. 

Also making a splash at CES was another of BIGfish’s clients, Formlabs, who released their Form 3+ and Form 3B+ printers, their fastest 3D printers to date. These printers are 40 percent faster than their predecessors, with improved print quality, support removal and better overall user experience. Formlabs also announced a structural improvement element with their Build Platform 2, which gives users the ability to quickly and easily remove parts from the print surface without tools in seconds, eliminating the need to scrape parts off the build platform, and ultimately streamlining post-processing efficiency and avoiding damaging parts. Formlabs also announced their development of ESD Resin, a static-dissipative material used for objects that are sensitive to unregulated static discharge. This innovation will allow Formlabs to break into new industries like electronic manufacturing, automotive and aerospace.

The Cool

CES has traditionally been a stage for car companies to unveil developments and test the consumer waters, and this year’s new inventions did not disappoint. Mercedes, Chrysler, and even Sony made announcements about EV cars in development. It was BMW, however, who undoubtedly stole the spotlight, with its color-changing concept car. The car uses e-ink to change from black to white, depending on weather, conditions, or even a driver’s mood. While the design itself is very cool, it also has the functional, fuel-efficient purpose potentially reflecting sunlight by changing to a white color on hot days, or absorbing sunlight on cold days. 

It was a generally quiet year for gaming and equipment, though Sony teased the release of a new PlayStation VR2 headset. The headset includes upgraded eye tracking software and inside out tracking, which means that the device no longer requires an external camera. Sony also announced an internal motor addition to the headset, which vibrates with the game, and handheld VS2 sense controllers to further simulate the most realistic VR experience in gaming.

CES 2022 highlighted the expansion of QD-OLED television technology. QD-OLED is a new display technology that uses blue light-emitting diodes to allow the panel to produce the full spectrum of color, meaning there will be an overall improvement in brightness and color performance. This enhancement represents the biggest breakthrough for television display technology in years. Sony and Samsung announced they were rolling out displays using this technology, a substantial improvement upon the current OLED TVs on the market.

The Sustainable

Chevy and parent company GM announced the first electric pickup truck offered by the company. This innovation could make the already popular Silverado brand an even more popular choice in parts of the country where electric vehicles have been less popular. The pickup truck is expected to have a 400-mile range on a fully charged Ultium battery and is part of the automaker’s $35 billion investment in electric vehicles. The truck will still accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in as few as 3 seconds, so the performance of the truck is not sacrificed. This shift toward electric pickup trucks represents a major shift in the automotive industry, and looks to be an insight into the future of sustainability in the automotive space. 

Goodyear revealed a development in their goal of creating a tire made entirely of sustainable materials. The tire company is shifting away from petroleum products to create the carbon black in their tires. Instead, they’re aiming to create carbon black using 70 percent sustainable materials, composed of methane, carbon dioxide and plant-based oil. Goodyear is also looking to make the shift to using soybean oil in a tire’s rubber compound pliable rather than petroleum oil.

Shifting to the field of home sustainability, Canadian-based startup RainStick debuted its circular shower technology at CES 2022. This WiFi-enabled shower system saves up to 80 percent energy and 80 percent water and will start shipping by the end of the year. In addition to being sustainable, RainStick doesn’t sacrifice flow rate, even increasing flow rate by 2X compared to a traditional shower. 

Final Thoughts

Even though CES didn’t look like the trade show we’ve become accustomed to in previous years, it may have been one of the best in recent memory. With exciting developments across different industries, it’s clear that the pandemic has not stymied creativity or entrepreneurship. As many major players left their booths empty, some of the smaller startups seized upon the opportunity to tease new technology that made the show exciting and fresh. Whether all of these products will be released is yet to be seen, but the show itself was definitely a success. And we’re already starting our plans for a very BIGfish PR CES 2023.