As we approach the end of the year described as ‘The Freelancing Boom’, The Work Crowd hosted a panel discussion with its freelance members, allowing them to share their takes on 2021 and predictions on what the next year will bring for the industry and gig-economy.
Joined by The Work Crowd’s seasoned freelancers across PR, Communications, Marketing and Content, our experts discussed this year’s emerging trends, sharing their insights and what to look out for as a freelancer in 2022.
The Work Crowd co-founder Madeleine Weightman chaired the panel featuring:
Susan Brownlow -independent media relations consultant with over three decades of experience in communications, delivering editorial and broadcast coverage for a range of high-profile companies and non-profit organisations, particularly in the area of sustainability, the energy transition and climate.
Adam Fresco - with 25-years’ experience, Adam has planned and executed PR campaigns in Europe, North America and Asia and regularly handles crisis communications for global brands, HNW and celebrities. Clients have included Belvedere, Battersea Power Station, Matalan, Equinox, Caprice, Victoria's Secret and Amazon.
Samantha Henry - Samantha has over 17 years of experience in PR and social media. She has worked agency side, in-house and freelanced for a variety of consumer, tech, entertainment and travel brands including BT, Singapore Airlines, AMC, Miele, Nintendo, Morrisons, Kayak, Prezzo, T.G.I. Friday's and Woodford Reserve.
Grace Ashton - Grace provides freelance brand and marketing services focussing on brand strategy, identity, marketing strategy, and execution. With over 10 years of experience, gained working with global brands across FMCG, Fashion, health, and wellness, such as Havas Sports, Red Bull, Hussle, and more.
We’ve recently had the world’s biggest WFH experiment - priorities have shifted and businesses have really had to rethink how they can reach and communicate with their customers. What trends have you seen in the industry and what do you think will be important in the year ahead?
For a lot of brands, the priority should be being authentic in order to really connect with the customer. Keeping the messaging simple and practising what you preach is a great way to engage with the consumer and engender loyalty.
Consumers have become more conscientious about who they’re buying from and where their money is going. Small businesses might want to focus on partnerships to increase their visibility and awareness so that they can compete with the bigger budgets of big brands.
More brands are using social media as we’re at home more and have more time to spend scrolling on our phones. Influencers have also become more powerful and are a great way to connect with audiences, but it does all come down to authenticity.
Experiential marketing has massively dropped over the past 18 months and we’ve seen a huge increase in virtual events. The hope is that experiential marketing and events will be on the rise again in 2022, covid permitting. Offering consumers a face-to-face interaction and experience can help to build a brand’s likeability, trust, and relevance. The key to getting it right is timeliness and strategic sampling – giving the product to people when and where they need it will increase engagement and loyalty. Experience is especially important for sensory products that we taste and smell; we are social creatures, and there will always be that opportunity to reach people through experiential marketing.
A stunt can always be good fun if it works well, and it’s a way of creating really powerful content that people want to share and engage with. It can be expensive; however the ROI can be great if it is executed properly.
In terms of content production, it’s key for brands to be focusing on how they can repurpose content and ask how a piece of content can be optimised for the different channels that the brand is situated on. Looking at insights into different channels and understanding what the audiences who use those channels want to see and are willing to consume is a really useful way of being able to maximise a piece of content.
One trend in PR that will always remain is being able to give a journalist a good story with the right assets at the right time to the right publication. Connecting and being authentic and getting the messaging right in a simple way is key - don’t try to be too clever.
Are businesses changing the way they connect with their customers and the mediums with which they connect?
A multi-targeted approach is hugely helpful if a business can afford it. Reaching consumers across multiple platforms – be that print media, social media or broadcast - is a fantastic way to create impact and reinforce messaging.
There are fewer journalists in the industry – how do you cut through and get coverage?
Knowing what a good story is and knowing which journalist it will work for at what paper is key in cutting through and securing good coverage. Building relationships with journalists so that they will take your call and trust your judgement is also very important. You also need to be able to supply decent assets for different platforms, be that pictures or case studies or videos. Think multidimensionally when you present to a journalist and keep it short and know the language the journalist is using. It’s also important to think about the story in terms of the consumer and how it will speak to them.
Why is sustainability so important for brands now and why does it need to be part of the dialogue going forward?
We are 18-24 months behind where we should be in terms of sustainability, particularly in the energy transition. Consumers are starting to want to purchase products that are sustainable and responsibly made, and employees want to work for companies that are responsible and have their social, environmental and governance sorted out. In addition to that, investors, banks and pension funds are now starting to hold brands accountable for their carbon emissions and their sustainability too.
How do brands communicate this commitment in an authentic way? How, as a freelancer, do you ensure that your client is authentic?
Ask rigorous questions and make sure that companies can prove what they are doing. Appointment at board-level to have someone focused on driving the sustainability agenda throughout the whole organisation is a great way of visibly demonstrating that commitment.
How can businesses better work with influencers going forward?
Micro-influencers can often be more powerful than big celebrities in reaching audiences if they are truly authentic. Consumers are often far more engaged with micro-influencers and really trust them - this can also be a far less expensive way of reaching audiences.
There’s a great opportunity in talking to agents and influencers about where and what they’re passionate about in terms of sustainability and if that ties in with your specific brand.
How can businesses benefit from embracing diversity in 2022?
PR is a creative industry, and we need to encourage greater diversity across the industry in everything from gender to race to class to neurodiversity to maximise creativity and diversity of thinking. In working with freelancers, businesses can open themselves to innovative and fresh thinking from different areas. There are also opportunities for freelancers to collaborate and combine their strengths to offer a more diverse opportunity to businesses - with everyone now being able to effectively work online, the pool of people that you can work with has massively expanded. Working online can be hugely beneficial in terms of offering greater flexibility and work-life balance. As freelancers we must encourage our clients to allow people the flexibility to work at a rhythm that suits them; it increases productivity, is better for mental health, and increases creativity.
What’s hot for 2022?
More experiential, fun stunts that make great pictures and great news.
Conscientious marketing to the conscientious consumer – for example, carbon labelling so that consumers can specifically pick what they’re buying based on how much damage it does to the planet.
Affiliate programmes where brands are using backlinks to websites to be more measurable, especially with PR.
And what’s not?
Unnecessary time-consuming in-person meetings and meetings about meetings!
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