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Six communications trends we’ve seen grow in 2021

If you’re feeling confused on how to navigate the ever-changing world of communications in 2021, you’re not alone. While many of us are glad to leave 2020 in the past, the issues, trends and events of last year will continue to affect us in 2021.

The “new normal” has continued to evolve, and in turn, communicators and their audiences have continued to adapt. New technologies and opportunities arise daily, while best-practices and trends change just as quickly as they emerge.

Current events and changes in technology have shifted the way users want to interact in the digital space. These changes have created new opportunities for communicators to tell their stories and connect with their audiences in a genuine and engaging way.

Here are some trends we’ve seen, and expect to grow, in 2021:

Video communications

2020 saw the explosion of video communications as we suddenly had to shift to a remote world. For the first time, video communications became a part of people’s everyday lives, both professional and social. Suddenly, our calendars were booked chock-full with virtual meetings, dinner with family and happy hours with friends.

2021 will likely be no different, even as we return to the office and blended work environments. Virtual meetings will continue to be the norm for some time, while in-person meetings may be reserved for occasions or meetings of greater importance.

The reality is, virtual meetings allow for a level of convenience that in-person meetings don’t. Virtual meetings eliminate travel time and allow us greater flexibility.

Though many have experienced “Zoom fatigue” and are no doubt missing in-person meetings, there are things people can do to help ward off the bizarre phenomenon’s effects.

Short-form content

2020 saw bite-sized content surge in popularity with the explosion of TikTok, Instagram Reels and the integration of stories into platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

While this content type initially represented uncharted territory for communicators and marketers, organizations have learned to adapt their messaging. We’ve also seen a rise in partnerships between brands and creators on social platforms in one-off collaborations and sponsorships, and as part of broader campaigns.

Users enjoy short-form content platforms such as TikTok because of their authenticity and creativity. These partnerships present an opportunity to give creators high levels of creative control and to allow them the freedom to connect with their audiences genuinely. Platforms have picked up on these opportunities, and have implemented programs to simplify the collaborative process.

Virtual events

Like virtual meetings, virtual events have become the new normal. Through the pandemic, online events have allowed organizations to continue to engage their audiences authentically in real-time. They’ve also brought an unprecedented level of accessibility to events: anyone can attend, from anywhere in the world.

With the ability to gather in large groups out of the picture for the foreseeable future, virtual events are a trend that we can expect to grow. Best-practices have already begun to emerge, and as time goes on, event-organizers will only become better equipped to engage virtual audiences authentically.

While virtual events may not bring the immersive experience that in-person events do, they do provide new opportunities for engagement in a genuine and creative way.

Increased authenticity

In the age of social distancing, people are spending more time than ever on their devices, and are looking for an authentic and human experience in their online interactions.

Organizations must find an authentic voice in their communications to connect with their audiences in a meaningful way. Communicators should take the time to consider how they can create a human and authentic interaction with their audiences, such as using simple, accessible language and focusing on building trust with audiences.

An appetite for authentic communication and interaction opens up new opportunities for video content, virtual events and real-time engagement through live social media platforms, such as Instagram Live and Twitter’s Periscope.

Sometimes, being authentic and empathetic means knowing when not to say anything at all. Budweiser made headlines this month when they opted out of advertising during the Super Bowl. Instead, they donated the money they had budgeted for advertising to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.

Social and e-commerce

In-person shopping at brick and mortar retail locations declined sharply in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. But as in-person shopping dropped off, e-commerce boomed.

With the continued growth of e-commerce, we’ve also seen a rise in social commerce: the integration of social media and online shopping.

Social platforms have integrated shopping features directly into their applications, allowing users to browse and purchase items, without ever switching apps. These features are particularly powerful when leveraged on platforms heavy on visuals, such as Instagram and Pinterest.

The rise of e-commerce and social commerce presents the opportunity for communicators and marketers to tie their social and commerce experiences together in new and exciting ways, creating seamless brand and shopping experiences.

An increase in fake news

Fake news, disinformation, alternative facts – call it what you want. A discussion about communications in 2021 would not be complete without touching on misinformation.

2020 saw an alarming increase in misinformation on traditional, digital and social communication platforms. That trend has spilled over into 2021. From politics to the pandemic, there is a lot of information out there, and it can be hard to tell the truth from lies.

In 2021, organizations will face the challenge of cutting through the noise and positioning themselves as experts in their fields and providers of accurate, trustworthy information.

Consumers too, must learn how to tell real and fake news apart. This challenge presents an opportunity for communicators to step in and help provide people with the knowledge and resources needed to differentiate between the truth and misinformation.

(Photo by dole777 on Unsplash)

As we navigate the world of communications in 2021, it’s important to stay on top of trends and best-practices to deliver strong, effective messages to our audiences, meeting them where and when they want to be communicated with.

We’re looking forward to following the changing direction of communications as the year unfolds, and seeing what 2021 has in store.

What are some trends you’ve seen this year? Join in the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, and let us know what you’ve noticed, or what you expect to see.


About the Author:

Carter is a current public relations student at the Nova Scotia Community College and an alumnus of Dalhousie University’s International Development Studies program.

Click here to learn more about Carter!


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