Thanks to advertisers and the media’s focus on engagement as a key metric, crises have surfaced and been amplified at a far higher level in 2021 than they were in 2020. Because they bump up engagement numbers, the plague of misinformation, disinformation, rumors and lies skyrocketed to the top of everyone’s news feed and we all got angrier at everything. And, since anger drives engagement and engagement bolsters advertising revenue, the cycle will just get worse in 2022. But there are lessons we can take with us into the new year from all the messes that CEOs made, and PR pros were asked to clean up.
In popular language, limbo is an indeterminate place where one awaits a decision. It’s pleasant enough but devoid of bliss or pain. I don’t fully understand the religious form of limbo, but I’m very familiar with the PR version: It’s where measurement deniers go after a year-end performance evaluation that’s ambiguous, unfulfilling and offers no guidance. And yet, most communicators choose limbo over measurement.
Internal communication has become a critical part of how companies think about crisis. As we know, some of the best ways to limit damage from a crisis are planning and preparing. Thinking through potential crisis situations, creating a response plan and practicing regularly can help an organization reduce fallout from a crisis or reputation disaster, if not avoid it from happening in the first place.
We expected good things from 2021. Instead, it delivered large doses of frustrating virus protocols, political turmoil, mistrust, disinformation and reputation gaffes. Classic PR blunders generated headlines when leaders failed to learn from history. Here are a few cautionary tales as we look to 2022.
This month’s dialogue takes a slight variation from our usual route. We won’t explore an operational topic, such as ‘What to do during a crisis when your CEO goes off-script.’ Instead, as it’s nearly 2022, we’ve asked two crisis communicators to consider 2021 trends and discuss what they believe 2022 will bring. Our dialoguers are Sonia Diaz, SVP, Balsera Communications and president, Hispanic Public Relations Association USA (HPRA) and Jenelle Eli, senior director, media relations + international communications, American Red Cross.
Some learnings emerged from our survey of nearly 300 communicators conducted in October and November 2021. The most newsworthy was what issues are concerning crisis pros. Besides COVID, they include: DEI, misinformation/disinformation, activism, cyber, natural disasters and employee/executive misconduct.
Our annual predictions feature touched on a number of themes, including companies wanting to avoid social issues. Social media, trust and AI are table stakes. Yet healthcare communication, particularly healthcare equity and ESG, are prominent. And accessibility is mentioned. New this year, a faux ‘Headlines We’d Like to See in 2022.’
As a supplement to predictions from PR pros in this edition, we asked a technology vendor, Ben Chodor, president of Notified, to offer tech-related prognostications.