A look ahead – what will 2022 bring?

Lorna Hughes

22 Feb 2022

For Harvard, 2021 – as strange as it was for us all at times – was a year of transformation. Growth of clients and revenue, and growth of our team – both in number and their personal development and continued evolution of our culture – for an inclusive and hybrid world. It wasn’t without its challenges, but we ended the year on a high – buoyed by a thriving team.

As we move through the first couple of months of 2022, it’s been a similar story. Despite the uncertainty in January when it looked like Covid restrictions may have a huge impact on our year once again, we have started strongly, and at this point, we wanted to look ahead.

We asked our three MDs – Lorna Hughes, MD of PR & AR, George Greenspan, MD of our consumer tech agency Eat the Fox, and Andrew Last, MD of Marketing – to tell us some of the themes they expect to see in the year ahead.

Marketing in 2022? It’s the year that Brand & Bravery will matter more than ever

Andrew Last, MD of Marketing:

“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”

So said Steve Forbes back in 1990-something. And this absolutely still rings true for me as I look ahead into 2022.

As much as we’re seeing our clients at Harvard invest in campaigns and content. And as much as it’s tempting to challenge B2B marketers to ‘attack the metaverse this year’. I strongly believe that it’s Brand that matters most in 2022.

A brand today is so much more than a logo…

It’s the tone-of-voice you use in your external comms.

It’s your digital interface from social channels to website to product.

It’s the way you interact with customers; whether that’s in-person or virtually.

It’s how you speak and engage with your people and future employees.

It’s how your execs portray themselves on social.

And it’s the driver behind your purpose as an organisation.

With work and home-life blending like never before, tech brands, more than most sectors, need to take a long hard look at all of their brand touchpoints and ask themselves: is this a real, authentic, differentiated, human experience? Or do we sound like everyone else in our space?

As a result of this need, I also believe that B2B tech brands will become Braver in 2022.

From pioneering TikTok in B2B channels and creative use of intent data in campaigns through to introducing celebrities into virtual event series – we’ve already seen a bunch of brilliant innovations from a whole host of tech marketers as the result of our partnership with B2B Marketing on the ‘Tech Marketers Innovators Index’.

I fully expect to see even more boundaries pushed this year, be that by channel experimentation, through increased creativity or with a more visionary mindset.

I for one can’t wait for what’s next…bring it on!

The impact of PR & AR

Lorna Hughes, MD of PR & AR:  

Lots of brilliant things happened for us in 2021 – client wins, brilliant hires and work to be proud of such as our work in DE&I, mental health and making sure Harvard remains a great place to work in ta hybrid future.  

But there’s no doubt people were frustrated and exhausted with the world around them and, to me, any leader claiming that that fraught environment didn’t impact their business is dreaming.  

Which leads me to something I am hugely focused on at the moment. When I took over as MD in June, I sat with everyone in the business to get their take on how we’re doing and what they were excited about. We also discussed their feelings about PR and AR broadly as disciplines and it became clear to me that not everyone felt energised and proud to work in our industry.  

They love what they do, are passionate about it, and driven for their clients. But they don’t always truly appreciate the value great PR and/or AR can bring to a brand. They brushed what I know is great, often industry-leading and award-winning, work aside as “just standard stuff”, talked with admiration about advertising or marketing and dismissed brilliant PR or AR, and they didn’t truly give themselves credit for the amazing work they as individuals are doing.  

And I think this is something we are seeing across the industry. Dangerous at a time when we are collectively working to keep great talent in our industry. There’s a feeling that great PR, especially earned media relations, is not that impressive and just “day-to-day” work – par for the course even. Whereas the truth is PR is fundamental to finding businesses an audience, creating a positive brand image, and then protecting that. Without PR, businesses don’t reach their potential. 

And what about people? If people working in this industry don’t see the value in it, they can’t reach their full potential either. And, as an industry, it worries me that we may well lose great talent. 

A lot of what we want to do in 2022 is about fostering that pride and respect for PR & AR and its ability to enable brands to make their move. Amongst various focuses and initiatives, here at Harvard we are working more closely than ever with our creative team, challenging our clients to be braver and embrace purpose-driven, powerful campaigning. We are bringing internal PR teams closer to marketing teams to drive integrated thinking and we are championing the role of strategic, POV-led communications to underpin trust and reputation.  

This is the kind of work that inspires people. Part of my job is to make sure our teams here see that, feel connected to their industry and excited about their future within it.  

A hybrid world

George Greenspan, MD, Eat the Fox:

I’ve often talked about 2022 as the year when we’ll really start to see what the next decade looks like. And global pandemics, and socioeconomic uncertainty aside, I still believe that.  

It’s time to really live hybrid and be more mindful with office time.  

It’s about starting to really build your working day, and diary, around being in when you want – and need – to be. Not just coming in just because you must. That’s a responsibility for everyone, and a big shift change for most, but one which I think will have a hugely positive impact over time. 

It will allow us to adapt and change the way we work, bring in a more collaborative approach to our everyday, and really think about the benefit of being face-to-face. 

TL;DR: the days of sitting at your office desk for back-to-back meetings are long gone, it’s all about face-to-face collaboration and minimising commuting time. 

Ripping up the rulebook 

From a client perspective, 2022 will see a desire to be a bit riskier. For the big, bold, ‘might get you fired’ ideas. 

While very few will embrace the latter, we expect to see more experimentation & hopefully more humour in comms. The pandemic forced a reset in comms, as the channels we engaged with our audiences on changed dramatically. As we emerge, we’re seeing new communities and a new way of comms emerging – from getting involved in the Metaverse, to NFTs, brands are diversifying how and what they do.  

TL;DR: PR is about to get a bit more fun, and a lot more experiential as the world opens up.  

Keeping PR at the top table 

And then for the wider comms (and specifically in this instance, the PR) industry, 2022 will be about maintaining PR’s place at the top table. Whether you’re a consumer-facing, or B2B brand, the pandemic pushed comms to the top of the funnel, and I don’t think that will change short term.  

From the need for a strong brand purpose, to engaging with the right language, comms has become intrinsic to business success. In 2022, as we  

TL;DR: PR has moved from only being called upon when it all goes wrong, to leading the charge. And about time too.