Good riddance, 2020! Three lessons for marketers to make 2021 a year of growth.

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Young creative business people meeting at office.The end of 2020 is finally in our sights, and with it comes a collective sigh of relief. We are finally seeing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a few potential vaccines showing promising preliminary results. Though much uncertainty remains – on the public health, economic and political fronts – this is no time for marketing teams to remain stagnant. As you finalize your marketing and communications plans for 2021, we recommend taking an optimistic but measured approach. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1. Stick with what works. 2020 was full of change, and marketers had to be flexible. As life (hopefully) returns to some semblance of normalcy in the coming months, consider what new programs or plans resonated with your target audiences in 2020, even if they were created to solve a problem or adjust to #pandemiclife. Perhaps your social media pages featured more employee-created content, or you shifted your budget away from big launch events to more influencer partnerships. Focusing on the programs or processes that did work in 2020 – even if they were created accidentally – may be a good place to start in 2021. Concentrating on tried and true programs and then building on these successes may help you and your team kick off the year with confidence. If something worked (or survived!) in 2020, then maybe those tactics will thrive in a more stable year.

If your organization could use some inspiration, check out this piece from my colleagues, describing communication best practices during this crazy time: https://sikich.com/insight/now-what-communications-playbook-for-covid-19-and-beyond/.

2. Virtual is here to stay. Borrowing a mantra (and new policy) from our leaders at Sikich: remote work is here to stay. Sikich has told all its employees that they can work remotely forever, if they want, and many large organizations are doing the same. Even when a vaccine is widely available, people may take some time to feel comfortable in large public gatherings and prefer the convenience of Zoom calls. In the spring, our team had a to shift a client’s big launch event to a virtual affair. Though the in-person connection was certainly lost, we were able to include more people from a wider mix of locations, at a reduced budget. My prediction is that virtual events will remain on the menu well past the time we put away our face masks and stop social distancing. The sooner you can embrace and perfect virtual events, the better.

3. Revisit your client’s diversity and inclusion promises. Did your organization post a black box in support of Black Lives Matter? If so, now is a good time to get with your human resources team to revisit your intentions at the time and determine how you will increase diversity and inclusion throughout your workforce and in the content you create.

If you’re unsure where to start, consider crowdsourcing ideas from a wide range of your employees and customers. What causes are important to them? How can you ensure everyone is represented in your company’s marketing materials? Though it’s okay to start small, it’s critical to start somewhere. A few of our clients have called on us to help in this way. For some clients, we’ve reviewed social media content and internal communications to ensure the language authentically represents a diverse audience. For others, we’ve guided them to seek partnerships with more Black influencers and work to support organizations dedicated to helping underserved Black families.

Regardless of how you choose to take action, ensure you back up your words with actions and create a diversity plan that’s built for the long-term and shows measurable results. Then, inject it into your 2021 plan.

You can read more about Sikich’s plans to inject more diversity and inclusion into our culture, here: https://www.sikich.com/insight/thinking-bigger-about-diversity/.

Despite a long list of uncertainties facing you and your organization as you look to 2021, remember that if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that remaining nimble and flexible is key.

Kara Hamstra is a director at The Agency at Sikich with 16 years of experience in business-to-consumer public relations. At Sikich, Kara leads the consumer product public relations division of the full-service marketing team for a wide variety of clients, including high-end juvenile products and health-related organizations. She also handles crisis communications work for The Agency, including client counsel, corporate communications and media relations for data breaches and other reputational issues. Prior to joining Sikich in 2013, Kara worked for two large, international PR firms working for the world’s leading CPG companies.

The Agency at Sikich helps companies across industries define and design their brands, promote their products and services, and engage with key audiences. Learn more about how The Agency at Sikich can help you develop a comprehensive and impactful go-to-market strategy to help your brand thrive: https://www.sikich.com/the-agency/.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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