Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Many years ago I resolved to never identify New Year’s resolutions. I’ve managed to stick with this. I no longer believe in New Year’s resolutions, I believe in Daily resolutions. And while I generally use my first column of the year to discuss trends and things we should consider in our communications daily, surely we all know by now that the only thing we can truly expect is the unexpected.

I will, however, highlight a few concepts shrewd marketers should think about daily, and hope that there are no big surprises in store for 2021. How can marketers prepare to take on 2021? While a complete recovery might take some time, it is still important to develop a robust marketing strategy for 2021, based on data-driven insights and consumer trends.

What are we likely to see? Several trends are expected to drive the most impact in 2021, according to both the experts and consumers.

Social awareness will continue to drive consumer choice. Consumers today are more socially aware than ever before. They consciously search for brands with social values that are in line with theirs, while avoiding those which aren’t. Blanket approaches won’t work. Now, more than ever before, you must truly know your target audiences. You need to know who they are, what they value, what they know about your business or organization, how they feel about what they know, and how they feel about your competition. Assumptions simply won’t cut it.

The rise of digital disinformation and misinformation has resulted in high levels of uncertainty. Your business or organization needs to adopt a culture of transparency with consumers in order to reduce the chances of people filling information gaps with inaccurate information regarding your products and services. Reputation management, always important, will take center stage as the need to address any instances of fake information will take priority. Failure to do so could result in a full-blown public relations crisis.

Relationships are more important than ever. Conversational marketing is all about engaging customers and building relationships through personalized content. It’s not enough to passively develop messaging and hope for the best. There is an increasing need to establish a two-way dialogue with your audiences and to connect with them on the matters that are most important to them.

Prior to the disruption of COVID-19, most businesses and organizations viewed digital transformation as a lofty long-term vision. They looked to drive incremental steps along the digitalization journey. Then, everything changed. A truly integrated, fully-digital customer experience, once perceived by many as aspirational, needed to be implemented remotely and practically overnight. This is likely to continue. You will need to consider how this looks for your marketing and communication efforts moving forward.

Just as relationships are growing in importance, so too are brand-to-brand partnerships. Unique and unexpected alliances between businesses and organizations have the power to surprise consumers, gain media attention, generate buzz on social media and create cross-selling opportunities in marketing to new customer bases. This isn’t a new technique, but the value obtained from such activities may be substantial when developed with creativity and flair.

It is still important, and possible, to keep a strong pulse of your marketing budget by regularly asking three questions about revenue and cost: What has the campaign cost? Has revenue and/or awareness increased? How can the efforts as defined and implemented be attributed to growth and profitability?

So, while many things have changed, my recommended resolution hasn’t. Resolve daily to consider how your communication efforts will work for 2021. Then consider it again the next day, and the next. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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