What will 2022 bring? We asked the Linhart PR team to share the PR, communications and digital marketing trends they are anticipating for next year. Here are nine of them to consider and potentially leverage for your companies and brands, both internally and externally:

Managing inflation frustration. Inflation is soaring due to recovering consumer demand, deficit spending, supply chain bottlenecks, low interest rates and the side effects of attempting to awaken the global economy from a medically induced coma. Many U.S. consumers have never experienced anything like this, since the last bout of inflation at this level peaked in 1990. Brand PR leaders, especially in volatile categories like food, will need to explain why consumers are paying more for the same (or less), while energy and utilities communications teams will be under pressure on rising prices for natural gas and electricity. - Paul Raab

Consolidation is the name of the game: This past year was filled with merger and acquisition activity - a trend we expect to continue and likely increase in 2022. Companies are racing to protect the bottom line in a post-pandemic world - either by acquiring other companies, selling off business assets or even going public. As communicators, we need to have a business-first mindset when recommending which communications strategies will best support business decisions. This could mean a seat at the table during, and most of the time a head start with, planning. A structured communications plan during M&A activity helps ensure the right messages are being shared with the right audiences at the right time and can sometimes mean the difference between a successful or not-so-successful deal. - Kelly Brown 

The continued search for authenticity and connection: With the changes and uncertainty we’ve experienced, consumers are craving authenticity - defined as real or genuine, true and accurate - and connection in all facets of their lives, including at work and from the brands and organizations they support. Business strategies in 2022 should consider how to deliver an authentic and meaningful employee experience to attract, engage and retain top talent, as well as how to create true connections between services or products and target consumers. Launching initiatives that employees can rally around and feel proud of, and clearly defining what your brand stands for, are items to consider in 2022 plans. Include your PR team in the process to help develop the key messages, programming, partnerships and rich stories that will establish connections and bring your authentic business to life next year. - Kelly Janhunen

Hybrid work is here to stay: With remote and hybrid work being part of the new norm, it’s important to remain a vigilant employee no matter your desk location. In a hybrid work model, employees have the option to work both in-person and remotely - allowing time for face-to-face interaction and the flexibility to work from home. Navigating post-pandemic work life can be tricky and it’s important to take into consideration how much your team members have been through. This past year was a transition year for many and during 2022 we can expect this trend of hybrid work and necessary flexibility to continue. - Sari Winston

Employee communication matters more than ever. As the world continues to navigate changes brought on by COVID-19 and social unrest, we’re seeing major shifts in the workplace, like the recent  “Great Resignation.” As millions of workers are quitting their jobs in search of better pay, better flexibility and more happiness, employers are having to rethink their value proposition, or what they offer to employees to be an attractive place to work. Companies must think through not only their DEI and ESG efforts, remote work policies, enhanced benefits and culture, but they also need to clearly communicate that value proposition to current and prospective employees. Without that communication, your workplace-building efforts are moot, and you won’t get the recognition and results (i.e. employee retention and applications) you’re likely expecting. - Shannon Hughes

Brand storytelling through owned content continues to be important: The days of issuing a press release and calling it a wrap are long gone. The lines between journalism and PR will continue to blur as technology, consumer media habits and the news landscape continue to change. In addition to activating earned media strategies, in 2022, brands should embrace dynamic ways to tell their own stories through social media, video, company blogs and paid media. Fully embrace the PESO model to consistently share your key messages. - Claire Sisun

“Niche down” and focus your media list. Earlier this year, during a Michael Smart media pitching session, I first heard the term “niching down,” which means targeting the most relevant reporters for your outreach initiatives, likely leading to shorter media lists. Finding the right contact and tailoring your pitch to their recent coverage, given shrinking newsrooms and stretched-thin reporters, is more important than ever. In my role as an earned media strategist, I’ve noticed fewer people on the other side. “Niching down” ensures the reporter or writer is a great fit for my pitch topic, and that their current coverage is similar to how I'd like to see a client’s story covered. This approach respects reporters’ time, something they have less and less of, helping to build the relationship; they know what you’re sharing is a match for them. I expect this process to be even more important in the year ahead. - Kiana Staton

Benefit from new social media tools. Instagram recently changed its "swipe up" feature so that all users can now include external links in their stories. Previously, this feature was only reserved for accounts with 10,000 followers or more. This change will help companies and brands grow channels, promote off-channel content and drive traffic to their websites or online stores. Plus, the change also means influencers with smaller followings can use the "link sticker" to promote products and brands they love, providing more accessible partnership opportunities for influencers and brands alike. Be on the lookout for how small changes can have a big impact for your brand. - Drew Howland

The power of TikTok: In 2021, TikTok has been a source for several news stories. The platform has contributed to a rise in influencer marketing, leading brands to use TikTok content creators to market their products. As a result, we’ve seen new food and cultural trends, like the feta pasta fad which led to a feta cheese shortage in grocery stores. Media has also hopped on board with these ideas in a fun and authentic way, by posting about their experiences using the channel and following along with challenges. I foresee this continuing into 2022 because not only does TikTok capture people’s attention, particularly Gen Z, but it also results in more engagement with brands than on other social platforms. - Alicia Whitman