How the PR industry has changed forever | Hardie Grant Media

How the PR industry has changed forever

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Four PR trends to understand, from changes in influencer marketing to building a trustworthy brand

Zoe Morley

Almost every industry has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way. Proving to be as robust as ever, the PR industry has adapted in such a clever way that it may lead to permanent change.

The global pandemic prompted three failure factors that impact the prosperity of PR work; budget cuts, physical events all but disappearing and a lack of internal and external resources.

Below are some other examples of 2020 communications and PR trends that will endure well past the pandemic.

1. Events go virtual

'Pivot’ has become one of the most overused words of the pandemic because that is what almost every industry has had to do to stay afloat in rapidly changing circumstances.

Prior to this year, the events industry was a billion-dollar sector that had been growing by 6% annually since 2014. When COVID-19 hit, the event industry had to pivot to stay afloat. The events industry was set to lose $35.7 billion dollars as well as thousands of jobs across Australia. Then online events started to boom.

In a study conducted by Redback Connect, almost two in three Australian participants now attend six or more digital events a month, and this is predicted to continue even beyond COVID-19. Digital events allow people to attend events easily from home, in an environment that is safe and comfortable.

Salesforce was one of the first to turn a large event into an impressive virtual event in 2020. With 80,000 livestream viewers and 1.2 million video views across its social channels, the virtual event was a huge success.

Our very own Halliday and tide.pr team held its first digital in 2020: an online wine tasting. With complimentary wines delivered to attendees’ doors, along with a beautiful platter box, guests were able to sit in the comfort of their own home while listening to renowned wine expert and Halliday Wine Companion tasting panellist Jeni Port. The event received tremendous feedback.

Read our guide to getting online events right.

2. Celebrities losing value, influencers on the rise

With group gatherings banned and employees working from home, those fabulous VIP-studded PR and brand awareness events have faded into a forgotten memory. Savvy PRs saw the lack of physical events as an opportunity to harness the digital sphere. 

The average time we spend on social media has grown by around 30% percent during the pandemic. Engagement with influencer marketing has also increased.

Aside from the increased time spent on social, this could be due to the change in how and where influencers are seen. Influencers were forced to become ‘homefluencers’ as they were, like the rest of us, were stuck at home.

This level of relatability turned an influencer into someone that we could finally connect with in a genuine way. It brought authenticity to the people we see on our social media feeds, and that made us trust their brand recommendations more than ever. 

PRs moved quickly, recognising this as an opportunity to reach online audiences. This recognition has not only evolved how PRs work with influencers, it is also changing who is considered an influencer. 

This move from live events to influencer campaigns is also saving our clients money in the long run. It can be much more cost effective to run an influencer campaign than launch a red-carpet event.

The increase of social media use has also boosted e-commerce, particularly as social media becomes more commercial with new tools like Instagram Shops. This means that if brands want to stay relevant then they have to be where the people are: online. 


Tide.pr worked with The Star Sydney on a recent influencer marketing campaign, The Late Checkout.

3. Campaigns must show empathy and reflect customer values

COVID-19 has brought audiences’ emotional needs to the forefront, and it is critical for PR to align their client communications with these needs to connect. 

The tone of communication has moved towards comfort, compassion, contribution, gratitude, and humour.

Edelman’s recent Brand Trust the and Coronavirus Pandemic report shows that brands and companies have stepped away from mass-marketing and overselling. PRs have recognised the need for their clients to articulate their support for society through purpose rather than profit messaging. 

Nike is a great example of a renowned global company who moved its focus away from sales and towards a larger societal issue: the Black Lives Matter movement. 

After being reminded of the urgent change needed in our society, Nike announced a $40 million commitment over the next four years to support the Black community. What could have been another multi-million advertisement is now instead an invaluable commitment to improve our society and support an issue that is vitally important to many of their customers. 

A survey conducted by Deloitte found one in four people moved away from brands that they believed acted in self-interest. Every day these brands will lose a customer to a company that genuinely reflects what the customer values. 


Nike uses its influence to talk about and support issues that matter to their customers.

4. Make information local and targeted

Faltering economies, lockdowns and closed favourite local spots has sparked a sense of community across the world. A recent Ernst & Young survey shows that 59% of surveyed consumers are likely to shop more locally in the long term, which could create a crisis for PR firms with multi-national clients, unless they’re clever.

PRs have mastered communicating with targeted audiences by creating tailored content and news to suit their interests. A multi-national commercial client can still be relevant to a specific group of Australians, it’s just the matter of ensuring that the right messages meet them. 

For example, the NSW Rural Fire Service has recently launched its latest ad campaign “How fireproof is your plan?”. It features people who lost their homes in the recent bushfires – news that went around the globe. This campaign is perfectly targeted at people who need to know this information in a way that they will understand and respect.  

Every crisis contains within it the seeds of opportunity. The companies that have thrive despite the pandemic have used well-established communications and PR strategies, and evolved when needed.

Do you need help keeping up to date with PR trends in you company? Contact us at tide.pr for a chat.

Zoe Morley, account coordinator, tide.pr.