John Randall, Executive Vice President: The Facebook papers and upcoming federal elections have moved Facebook to limit targeting options. These limitations on targeting will make it even more difficult to reach niche audiences with tailored messages. Moving into 2022, will other platforms, social and otherwise, follow suit and limit data-targeting options in the lead up to the mid-term elections? Will these limitations become permanent or even expand further? Should communicators explore alternate options such as media partnerships and sponsorships in trade and issue-specific outlets to reach, influence and/or activate specific audiences for public affairs efforts? Understanding, and anticipating, these evolving restrictions will be critical when planning for 2022 communications efforts.
Jenna Sauber, Vice President: Chatbots and virtual assistants have exploded across platforms, apps and websites to improve customer experience, and they are continuing to grow at high rates. But they aren’t just for personal shopping, tech assistance or getting last-minute help on your tax returns. There are myriad opportunities to incorporate guided assistance and one-on-one communications to prompt and influence your audience and engage them with your mission and brand on a deeper level. If you’re looking to make an impact through a local or national (or global) public affairs campaign, some form of a chatbot or virtual assistant could mean the difference between a casual interaction or fleeting impression and a deeply engaged participant who follows through on your entire catalogue of calls to action. In 2022, how will more organizations across industries use these tools to cultivate relationships with their audience and move people to action?
Evan Von Leer, Senior Vice President: I’m interested to see how voice search will continue to grow in 2022 and beyond. More than 1 billion — with a b — voice searches are happening every month, more than half of Americans are expected to own a smart speaker in 2022, and voice-driven shopping search is expected to drive more than $40 billion in revenue in the coming year. With this level of growth on the consumer side, I would expect that trend to carry over into the public affairs space in 2022. This is especially true as we head into what is likely to be the most expensive election cycle on record. Candidates and issue organizations that are out front and optimizing for voice search —developing actions and skills with Google Assistant and Alexa built around "trigger words" related to their candidate or issue —could capture part of the market that is untapped by their competitors.
Eugenia Galindez, Account Executive: With the rapid development of social media platforms like TikTok and the continued promotion of social media as a creative platform, particularly for younger audiences, a new era of influencers has been growing and becoming even more powerful than the original “influencer” who boasted[CS1] millions of followers. Micro-influencers have few followers, usually 10,000-50,000, making them less “famous” and more relatable, thereby leading to higher engagement rates. Partnering with micro-influencers allows brands to reach niche audiences using the voice of a trusted ally while also working with more affordable partners than influencers. I am curious to see how the role of micro-influencers will continue to grow within the digital marketplace and how more companies and brands will continue partnering with them to sell products and carry out digital campaigns. 2020-2021 saw significant relationship-building and influencer partnerships between governments and elected officials to help communicate about the pandemic and to encourage vaccination, particularly among Gen Z and other hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this was pop-singer Olivia Rodrigo’s visit with President Biden at the White House to discuss race equity and civic engagement, and to urge young people to get vaccinated. I am looking forward to seeing how these relationships and campaigns between government and influencers will evolve in 2022, and if they extend to the realm of micro-influencers with local impact on issues such as climate change, mental health, race equity, civic engagement and economic security.
Claire Ingebretsen, Account Director: Everyone receives too many emails from brands and organizations selling their goods and services, offering deals and encouraging action. Email overload is one reason companies are increasingly using either individualized text message alerts or mass SMS notifications to engage existing or potential customers around their products and services. There’s also some evidence to suggest that SMS marketing can increase customer engagement, as a recent Digital Information World study found that 74 percent of those surveyed claim to not have any unread SMS on their phones. The study also found that 40 percent of users react to a push notification within one hour of receipt. In 2022, how can more brands build out their customer communications with a SMS text format in mind? What reporting mechanisms can companies use to measure audience engagement (clicks, replies) from a text message, and do texts really drive action beyond small-dollar donations and voting for reality shows? Should companies consider the potential downsides of targeting consumers so directly, as privacy concerns and tech increasingly collide?
Is your public affairs strategy accounting for these and other potential developments? Not sure? Reach out to John Randall to discuss your existing plans and how they can be enhanced going into 2022.