Five Media Trends That Will Dominate 2020 (And How to Use Them to Your Advantage)

In this article, we'll share five media trends that will dominate 2020.  From chilling headlines about the pandemic to extraordinary visuals of humanity rising against racial and social injustice, 2020 is a year that will go down as one of the most significant times in our history as a nation.

As PR professionals tackle the last six months of 2020, they will be more challenged than ever to share relevant messages that resonate with audiences in a news cycle that is dominated by hard-hitting issues and society-changing movements.

The summer gives pause to look at the five leading media trends that will lead the second half of 2020 and put together a blueprint of how to remain socially aware, contribute meaningful dialogue and avoid tone-deaf interaction in all communications.

1. COVID-19

5 media trends that will dominate 2020As infection numbers continue to rise, the flu season around the corner, and eager anticipation of effective vaccine development, there is no doubt that COVID-19 will continue to remain one of the most widely covered topics in the upcoming news cycle.

The pandemic is something that affects every individual – from children in daycares and those having to transition to online schooling to adults working from home and susceptible seniors in long-term care facilities.

To be a meaningful part of the conversation, examine what helpful information or insights your company can bring. Beyond the doom and gloom of graphs and stark images from hospitals, there is an ever-increasing appetite for helpful news. In fact, a marked uptick has been noted in media searching out companies doing good things such as making sizable donations or supporting selfless endeavors, offering innovative products or resources to help parents successfully homeschool, or intriguing ways people of all ages can stay safe and sane in our new world.

2. The 2020 Elections

PR trends for 2020This has been one of the most politically polarizing eras in U.S. history and the upcoming elections, and their aftermath, will no doubt continue to command headlines through the inauguration in January and beyond. When it comes to elections, rhetoric and opinion pieces will be commonplace, making it more important than ever to be in tune with the political stories of the day, preferably from unbiased news sources.

After digesting the news, brainstorm to find relevant links to the issues being covered. While some election topics may relate directly to a company’s business or operations, more likely than not, a PR practitioner will need to roll up their sleeves to find an interesting link, put a stake in the ground to break through the clutter, and tell the story that hasn’t yet been told.

Think your brand doesn’t have any link to an election? Look no further than Family Circle’s Presidential Cookie Poll (formerly the First Lady Cookie Contest), which has been covered extensively by network news, lifestyle media, NPR, and even the Washington Post.

3. Stay-at-Home/Work-From-Home

When media choose stories to cover, they focus on the topics and issues of most interest to the masses. As the shift from the boardroom to the home office seems to be a mainstay of 2020, expect more stories about corporate life from the kitchen table. As parents struggle to support children who may be learning online or just cope with the blurred lines separating work and home life, a multitude of opportunities exist to be a helpful contributor to this ongoing story.

Putting people before products, think about ways your brand may be helpful to ease the anxieties and frustrations of working from home. Non-traditional sources – grandmothers who can offer advice based on personal experiences of isolation in childhood, DIY experts from landscapers to contractors, hobbyists, organizing experts, and more – will be a hot commodity to keep story angles fresh and put new (and interesting) perspectives on a situation that likely won’t go away any time soon.

4. The Environment

From 100+ degree temperatures in the arctic to waste production and pollution, the environment continues to be a long-term issue that regularly finds its way to front pages and lead stories. Think about innovative new products that can help the environment or ways to keep people safe during rising temperatures. In Arizona, fires continue to own major environmental and safety headlines, so tip sheets or safety reminders are always helpful.

While a company may not think of their business as it relates to the environment, look around and see the impact you are having and make your own news. Collect empty single-use water bottles disposed at your company and transform them into an art installation to announce a new policy banning disposable water bottles while providing a stark visual of the impact it will have. Conduct a survey about attitudes about key environmental issues within your industry and devise a recommendation on how you will change them.

5. Social Issues

Perhaps the most socially and culturally relevant topic being covered today in America centers on social issues. From racial inequality and systemic racism to education, healthcare, and the social welfare system, social issues will be top-of-mind in newsrooms.

Controversial, heated, and deeply polarizing in some cases, the passion and fervor behind the topics make for informative, interesting, and thought-provoking news stories. They also make for some of the most challenging opportunities for businesses to leverage existing headlines – they’re also the riskiest stories to participate in.

A few rules of thumb when thinking about ways to be part of a social issues story:

  • Take time in thinking through angles and err on the side of caution.
  • Spend more time listening than speaking.
  • Draw in opinions and heed advice from those most closely linked to the issues on how the company can best do a service to the issue to avoid being labeled tone-deaf, an opportunist or insensitive, which could cause a significant backlash.

Ultimately, your goal is to share a story and not become the story.

Securing news coverage is always a challenge, but in hectic news cycles where heavy issues are commonplace, it becomes significantly trickier. As a PR professional, it’s key is to do your homework, look at issues from every angle, see what stories have been covered and where gaps exist, and then figure out how you can seize attention in the newsroom.

It also doesn’t hurt to find allies in the newsroom with whom to brainstorm ideas and uncover untold stories that need to be told. As an in-house professional, it can sometimes be challenging to see the story through the weeds, which is where a PR agency can offer clarity and even come up with unique angles you may not see since they are looking at issues well outside of your individual industry.

Ready to brainstorm headlines you can make? Reach out to us at Rainmaker Integrated and get ready to tell your story.

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