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What’s Next 2021?: Steering Your Communications Plans Ahead

2021 Communications Plan

Adapting communications strategies to the new normal has been a recurring theme in PR Newswire’s series of webinars this year. We highlight tips from 3 PR experts from Hong Kong and Singaporewho spoke at our recent webinars. They are Danny Tan, Senior Vice President at Omnicom PR Group, Patrick Yu, Senior Vice President & Partner, FleishmanHillard and Felix Poon, Founder & Managing Director, Vis Communications. To prime communicators for a bumpy road to 2021, we get these PR pros to share advice on tackling PR challenges in areas such as measurement, internal communications and media relations 

What’s Next 2021?: Steering Your Communications Plans Ahead
Danny Tan, Senior Vice President at Omnicom PR Group

1. Relook at your PR measurement strategy  

Companies will continue to feel the economic strain with a global recession stretching into next year. With budget constraints, there is a greater pressure for businesses to demonstrate the value of PR to the business and measurement techniques and metrics will come under greater scrutiny.  

Danny Tan, Senior Vice President at Omnicom PR Group shares that brands need to move beyond traditional metrics of PR measurement, such as Advertising Value Equivalent (AVEs) and an over-emphasis on activity and output measurement. 

He said: “There has been a call to move away from AVE because it’s been proven that it’s a deeply flawed way of measuring the effectiveness of PR. And most modern professionals will agree that it’s a poor gauge.” 

Instead, Danny proposes approaching PR measurement from these four levels 

The 4 pillars of modern PR measurement. (Image courtesy of Danny Tan)


a. Outputs  

Output, which is the most basic level of measurement, refers to the message that is put out to the target audiences. Typical exposure metrics include awareness, reach, and impressions. Output can also be measured based on the volume of earned media stories that an agency helps to generate for a band, while audience reach includes audited circulation figures and unique visitors.  

One can also look at tonalitywhich looks at how positive, neutral or negative the media coverage is. He shared that how journalists interpret and present your brand’s story can affect if the audience received the intended message. Key message penetration is about how audiences have understood the transmitted message, and the Share of Voice gives a sense of how the brand is performing against competitors. 

b. Outtakes  

After the exposure is achieved, it’s time to look at outtakes, which refer to how audiences engage the content, and process and recall the brand message. One way of measurement is through social media engagement, as brands can interact directly with audiences. PR pros can also like at campaign hashtags, and if comms activities can be attributed to organic website traffic. PR pros can track organic traffic on a month-by-month basis and check if it coincides with marketing or media outreach activities.  

On organic search volume, Danny says: “If you strip away of all the paid search ads, are people searching for that topic or brand? –  the more they are, the more successful you are.” For message recall and retention, it is on whether audiences are receiving a message and can subsequently remember the message. 

What’s Next 2021?: Steering Your Communications Plans Ahead
Audience engagement can alter perspectives and behaviour toward brands.








c. Outcomes 

After the audience has shown some form of engagement, it is time to look at what has resonated with audiences. From the messaging, have there been changes in perspectives and behaviour toward the brand and what they are associating the brand with? A good measure is if people are more open to making recommendations on the brand

d. Impacts 

Finally, it is about understanding how your audiences act and make decisions. This is the most challenging stage that most businesses are keen on attaining. Some of the metrics can be sales volume, event attendance and in-store or e-store visits. “These are all actions from the audience that demonstrate a level of business impact,” he adds. 

How to kickstart and implement new measurement practices?  

  1. Set the right communications goals from the start that are closely aligned to business objectives. 
  2. Allocate at least 10 percent of your comms budget to measurement. He says: “If you don’t do so, then the 100 percent you would have spent is not going to be worth very much. There’s not going to be a way to quantify the success and impact of the organization.”  
  3. Leverage your organization’s brand/marketing surveys and studies to integrate the same metrics that what you’re trying to capture.  
  4. Focus on understanding measurement patterns and trends rather than chasing after absolute numbers to get a bigger picture view.  
  5. Submitting campaigns and PR work for marketing or PR awards will help practitioners and brands to understand the rigour of the measurement framework and process.  
  6. Follow the Barcelona principles, the AMEC framework and principles for measurement. 

For more PR measurement tips from Danny, tune in to the on-demand webinar:

What Lies Ahead for the Communications Industry in 2021 here

Patrick Yu__FleishmanHillard_2021 Communications
Patrick Yu, Senior Vice President & Partner, FleishmanHillard

2. Rethink your company’s values 

COVID-19 has shone the spotlight on the importance of having the counsel of communications to top management. Therefore, brands need to be crystal clear about their values and what they stand for, which will guide key decisions in times of crisis. Patrick Yu, Senior Vice President & Partner, FleishmanHillard in Hong Kong says: “People will have higher expectations of how companies have demonstrated their purpose and value to stakeholders and employees, especially after COVID-19.”  

“During this period, it is best to talk more about how you are helping the community, based on the company’s values, without expecting credit from the public,” he adds.  

3. Focus on Internal communications  

Treat your employees as if they are your customers. According to FleishmanHillard’s COVID-19 Mindset report, a growing number of consumers will look at how brands are treating and supporting their employees, especially with the uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Patrick added that they are evaluating a company’s actions during this period, which will shape their definition of a good brand. 

A good example of an internal communications campaign is Nike’s Living Room Sports Challenge. It started out as a way of engaging employees in Nike’s China office during the lockdown period. Its employees, who were working remotely, competed in a series of home workout challenges among themselves. The campaign became so successful that it spawned a global campaign, Living Room Cup, which pits fitness fans from all over the world against athletes like footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, in weekly home fitness challenges.  

4. Review your organization’s crisis playbook  

Most communicators would have revisited their crisis playbooks for guidance on crisis simulation and brand recovery at some point this year. Patrick said that PR pros need to review the protocols to ensure they reflect current challenges and sentiment in order to defend their companies’ reputation during this fluid situation.  

Also, pace the recovery discussions based on the varying COVID-19 situations in various markets. PR pros might risk long-term reputation damage if they appear unsupportive or overly commercial through their initiatives.  

Felix Poon_Viz_Communications_2021_Comms
Felix Poon, Founder & Managing Director, Vis Communications

5. Maintain a close working relationship with the media

When it comes to media relations, maintaining media relationships is crucial despite the lack of physical events and movement restrictions. Felix Poon, Founder & Managing Director, Vis Communications believes that this is the time to be proactive by making phone calls, send emails and WhatsApp messages to keep in touch with the media. Also, take the opportunity to update your media database – there has been a lot of staff movement in media organizations during this difficult period. 


For more comms tips from Patrick & Felix, tune into the on-demand webinar:

Post COVID-19 – Adapting Comms Strategies to the New Normal with Ease here

This article is written by Kenneth Goh, Senior Marketing Executive at PR Newswire. A former journalist, he relishes keeping track of breaking news as much as telling stories with trends and data. Connect with him via Linkedin.