Posted on: 22.04.2021

The digital trends which should be shaping your PR & social media strategy right now

It’s fair to say a lot has changed over the last year or so, but you’ve probably heard enough about homeschooling, Zoom Quizzes and fake crowd noise, so let’s leave those clichés firmly behind us. We’re here to look at PR strategy.

One thing’s for sure – that boundary between the physical and the digital has continued to blur over the last 12 months. Your business will have undoubtedly had to make changes to the way it operates and your customers’ expectations of your brand will have also changed. In amongst all of that, there’s been a need to consider the way your business markets itself too.

A short while ago, Hootsuite published Digital 2021 – its annual look at ever-changing consumer digital behaviour. Packed with data, the report offers bags of insight which can be used to inform marketing strategies.

Here is our take on some of the standout data and biggest digital trends from that report. Trends which should be shaping your PR and social media strategies over the months ahead and recommendations on how you can apply them.

Search engines are still where we discover new products and brands

Regardless of your business’s product or service, your ability to attract new customers or users is key to your growth. And in an age where a strong level of brand awareness isn’t reserved only to those with eye-watering advertising budgets, there is huge potential to ensure your brand is easy to find by your target market. this is where the links between your PR strategy and a strategic approach to SEO should step up to the plate.

A 39.5% majority of UK adults discover new brands or products through their search engine, which hammers home the importance of having an effective SEO strategy in place. Consider the keywords you want your brand to appear highest for in the search rankings, and invest in activity designed to help Google view your website as an authority for those terms. From optimised blog content to linkable assets and digital PR, a suite of tactics clustered around those keywords will really help to make your brand much easier to find.

Don’t forget the importance of word of mouth either though. With 37.5% still making new discoveries thanks to personal recommendations, the quality of a customer’s interaction with your brand remains as important as ever, as does the ease at which they can share their experience. Think about how you can encourage social sharing of your customers’ positive experiences or facilitate recommend a friend initiatives within your PR strategy to really capitalise on the power of personal recommendations.

Recommendation: Make sure your PR and social media strategy feeds into contributes to your brand’s search visibility by addressing important principles of SEO such as optimised on-site content and earning links. And don’t forget to make the customer experience a shareable one.

Your customers are becoming more concerned about online privacy 

While the data your business has about your customers, website visitors, email subscribers and so on is a hugely powerful asset, it is safe to say the backlash against online privacy intrusion is firmly underway.

The rise of the cybersecurity documentary quickly followed the introduction of GDPR and made us all much more conscious of how much of our personal data is collected and how it can be used, which made many of us much more wary to say the least. With 35.2% of us now using some form of ad-blocking tool and 44.7% deleting cookies from their web browser on a regular basis, the days of being able to track and target every person who sits within your ideal demographic are gone.

Earlier this year, we wrote about what the changes to Apple’s iOS 14 mean for your social media advertising strategy. Our conclusion was that brands would need to proactively evolve their strategies to minimise disruption and continue to drive results without an overreliance on third-party data.

But like with every challenge, opportunity knocks. If you can obtain first-party data from your prospects, who actively give you consent to communicate directly with them, the growing privacy backlash needn’t be seen as the end of the world as we know it. Most of us don’t mind giving up our data if we’re confident of getting something positive in return. Whether that be exclusive content, a more personalised experience, or deals that can’t be found elsewhere, there are ways to make sure the user feels their trade-off is a fair one.

Recommendation: Consider how you can encourage the acquisition of first-party data and use your PR and social channels to signpost that enhanced experience for opted-in users.

Certain social channels are on the rise

When it comes to social, not all channels are equal and the last 12 months has seen significant movement in their respective advertising reach.

Of the movers and shakers, Instagram saw a 10.7% increase in its advertising reach between quarters at the turn of the year. Snapchat fared similarly with a 10.2% increase, and LinkedIn saw its ad reach in the B2B community grow by 3.4%. Meanwhile, TikTok’s global usage has increased from 11% in 2019 to a staggering 18% in 2020 – and is only continuing to grow.

Chances are, your social media advertising strategy will span multiple channels, but how often do you review the evolving capabilities of these and how effectively they can drive tangible outcomes for your brand?

From LinkedIn’s introduction of Product Pages to Instagram adding a shopping function to its Reels feature, the social channels are constantly innovating and their algorithms tend to reward early adopters of new features too.

Recommendation: Stay abreast of social channel innovation and set budget aside for testing new functionality.

The way people consume content is more varied than ever

Gone are the days when you could reasonably expect the odd bit of positive media coverage coupled with an ad on prime time TV to see your brand awareness skyrocket. We’re now used to consuming content on a daily basis across a multitude of digital channels, which creates a goldmine of opportunity for brands to reach their prospects.

With 61.8% of us now listening to music streaming services and 33.2% listening to podcasts, consider these as channels ripe for content and media placements alike.

While not strictly part of the PR and social repertoire, the advertising opportunities available on these on-demand audio services should be a worthy consideration for any paid media planning. The good news is, these now have some of the most advanced targeting features around – bringing a level of tracking and granularity to the world of audio advertising too.

Recommendation: Add relevant podcasts to your target media lists and explore how digital advertising opportunities with these channels can offer another avenue for reaching your target market(s).

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, staying abreast of new channel developments, social media algorithm changes and our ever-evolving digital behaviours can make a huge difference to the results you’re able to achieve with your PR and social campaigns. If you need a hand with your PR strategy, email me at

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