PRHK Viewpoints: 3 lessons in PR & Marketing for the year ahead

There’s no denying that 2020 was an unforgettable year. While circumstances have been unfortunate and challenging for some, it has also undoubtedly been inspiring.

Curious to find out how marketing spend had changed since the pandemic, and equally curious to learn how marketers reacted and their concerns for 2021, we tapped on our global network and surveyed 200 marketers across APAC, EMEA and the US. We discovered that while 50% of respondents reduced spending in 2020, two thirds revealed that there were no plans for further budget cuts. In fact, 25% of respondents were planning on increasing spend to more than pre-COVID levels. 2020 may have had its challenges but marketers and PR professionals have remained resilient, and now optimistic about what the future holds. 

As for the top concerns? They include maintaining relevance among target audiences, cutting through the digital noise, changing consumer behaviors, growing uncertainty & proving ROI. These especially rings true for us in Hong Kong as businesses continue to deal with the effects posed by the recent political and social challenges.

In order to recover and rebound, it’s key that we map out priorities in 2021 and understand the best approach to take. Here are some tips:

Lead generation starts with analytics

Lead generation has no doubt become the number one priority for businesses. Conversion is harder to achieve with social distancing measures and restrictions imposed on operations. Before jumping into a lead generation campaign, it is critical to first understand audiences and determine the best channels to reach them. Marketing technology can help make sense of your audience’s digital footprint. Consider investing in website data analytics, AI and automation tools to help you gain meaningful insights that can help shape your campaign from the type of content that resonates to the most effective or engaging channels to reach your audience. Such tools can also help with personalization – a highly valuable expectation to meet today. Ignore doing this and you risk annoying at least 42% of your audiences if your content isn’t personalized.

For PR professionals, media analysis should not be a huge burden since Hong Kong has a relatively focused media pool. Your tech stack should cover news outlets, forums and social channels and can be used for the longer run. If you haven’t done an audit of your tech stack, now is the time to do so.

Combat digital fatigue with creativity

2020 was also a year of experimentation as businesses turn their attention to digital media, some for the first time – whether it is paid-social advertising campaigns or taking meetings and events virtual. However, consumers are tired of being pushed similar or same content over and over again. COVID has disrupted the traditional marketing funnel, and marketers should rethink their storytelling approach.

Content formats do matter, now more than ever. Being creative doesn’t mean you have to re-invent everything – it’s about how and what you communicate. Ditch the sales tagline and opt for an eye-catching image or GIF that speaks to your audience or get involved in conversations consumers can relate to. The rising popularity in Cantonese taglines is a good example, so don’t be afraid to go local. A good way to gauge if your content is engaging is to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer – would you share the content with others? 

Changing consumer sentiment and behavior

With the social sentiment in Hong Kong becoming more polarized after the social movement in 2019 and COVID in 2020, brands should start paying more attention to their business philosophy and how it appealing it is to their target audience. The value that a brand carries is which consumers buy-in, beyond the products and services. According to KMPG, “Trust is key and consumers are willing to spend with brands that are aligned with their values and priorities."

The pandemic has also elevated the influence and need for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Traditional sales-driven promotional messaging will no longer work in the pandemic because consumers have adopted a community-based mindset. Consumers value brands that demonstrate that sense of community and engagement. There is no right or wrong when it comes to CSR – it is all about relevancy and consistency. 

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution in a post-COVID world. Marketers and communications professional are storytellers and the way we tell our stories should evolve with the times so that audiences continue to enjoy them.

This piece was written by Miranda Xie, Account Director, LEWIS and a member of PRHK. PRHK Viewpoints is an article series contributed by members of PRHK, Hong Kong’s PR & communications association.