Trust, hope and influence – how charities and churches can use PR to thrive in 2022

15 December 2021  |  Insights
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It’s never possible to know exactly what will happen in the future, particularly in a time when the pandemic is dictating much of our daily lives.

But, during these challenging times, we’ve seen all our clients at Jersey Road PR doing truly extraordinary things – rising up, going out, giving hope, changing lives.

So, as 2021 comes to an end, we want you to be as ready as you can be for what is likely to be another unrelenting year ahead. We’ve pooled our collective experience and expertise to look ahead to what 2022 might hold and how we can and be ready to face it with confidence.

Here is what our senior leaders at Jersey Road PR think will be the challenges and opportunities for faith-based PR in 2022.

Trust remains crucial

Over the last decade there has been an increasing scepticism of institutions and a challenge to the trust people hold in the Church. Our Managing Director, Gareth Russell, believes this trend will continue – and there is only one good response to a lack of trust:

“In 2022 I believe there will be a greater focus on authenticity in the tone of communications from Christian NGOs and churches and an increased commitment to transparency,” he says.

“This will mean less polished messaging, but more meaningful engagement with key stakeholders and target audiences.’

When a church or Christian charity breaks a bond of trust with its congregation or supporters, it can be devastating for its mission and witness. Often it can be hard to restore a good reputation.

That’s why Lynda Martin, our Director of Strategy, says: “Crisis communications will become an even more important and essential element of PR for faith-based organisations and charities to undertake, as stories of wrongdoing continue to rise to the surface.”

And that’s also a reason why in early 2022, Jersey Road PR is launching an affordable e-learning course for churches in crisis communications.

The long game

When it comes to content such as podcasts, blogs and videos, long form is the new short form according to Charis Gibson, our Director of Communications.

“We’re seeing a move away from cramming as much of our messaging as we can into soundbites and short snippets of content,” she says.

“There is a general trend among social media platforms and search algorithms to now prioritise long-form content. For good SEO, longer articles and blogs are generally favourable as they are likely to increase the time readers stay on a website.

“Facebook now encourages videos around the three-minute mark and in 2021 TikTok increased its maximum video length from 60 seconds to three minutes. This is great news for churches and Christian charities, because it means they have more space to show their insights through thought leadership articles, unpack nuanced messages and produce compelling campaign case studies to new audiences.”

Jessica Martin, Director of Client Services, adds: “We need to focus on showing, as well as telling the stories behind the work of Christian organisations. We all know the power there is within hearing the experiences of real people, real relationships, real situations.

“This year has continued to present challenges for travelling and being up close and personal with one another. My hopeful prediction for 2022 is that film content is created and utilised more, to engage audiences with the work of Christian organisations, through media, social and influencers.”

Influencer wins

The use of influencers to raise awareness and increase exposure of the good work faith-based organisations are doing will continue to grow, says Lynda Martin.

“To engage with existing and new supporters, organisations need to change and adapt with the times rather than relying on traditional methods. The pandemic has forced many to rethink creatively how they communicate externally with their audiences – for most this is uncharted territory and for those already in this space we're seeing a real appetite and focus to engage with people by creating engaging content directly and indirectly via influencers.”

Headlines of hope

Since the first lockdowns, churches and charities have had to quickly rethink how they meet and engage with people – and then adapt for the long term. Charis Gibson says they will need to continue to be agile in their approach for the foreseeable future: “Church leaders have had to process and manage regular Covid rule changes, not knowing if, when or how their congregations can meet from one week to the next. And it’s looking increasingly likely churches will need to adopt a hybrid approach for the long term. Charities also are facing a future of hybrid fundraising events and learning new ways to engage online.

“But with pressure and difficulty, comes opportunity. The nature of their good news stories may be different to what it was before the pandemic, but they should still tell the world about them – how lives are being changed and great things are being done in communities across the world. In 2022 don’t pine for the past, but work with the present and look to the future.”

Lynda Martin adds: “There is a growing realisation that PR doesn't begin and finish with a press release. Faith-based organisations are increasingly recognising the value of sharing their stories outside their normal environment of Christian media.

“The pandemic has helped drive media interest in 'good news' stories across secular media, where readers, listeners and viewers are seeking to hear positive and uplifting stories from everyday people and organisations wanting to make a difference for good in society.

“We have capitalised on this trend in the news agenda and for the moment this trend looks to continue... The challenge for us and our clients will be to continue to tell these stories but to step-up our creativity in how we tell these stories to sustain genuine interest and engagement.”

The past two years have been heavy in the tone of the news agenda, adds Gareth Russell: “While people want to be informed, they also need hope. Over the next year, we see there being an opportunity for churches and charities to profile good news stories, stories of hope, inspiration and sacrifice that can engage new audiences and raise their profile and influence.”

Better together

As much as lockdown isolation has pushed friends and families apart, it’s not stopped people collaborating, albeit online. Lynda Martin thinks 2022 will bring about more charities and faith-based organisations working together for good. She says: “There will be greater collaboration - more meaningful partnerships that will draw on each organisation's strengths.

“The challenge here will be to ensure that there is real synergy across all parties that decided to join forces, this will help deliver standout campaigns and initiatives that resonate with their audiences, which will increase their brand equity.”

A brave new media world

In 2022, where influencers will continue to rival journalists and established media outlets in terms of their reach and…influence, the identity of the media will continue to change. Donald Trump is threatening to make big waves with his planned social media network. And perhaps another huge data scandal will hit Meta (owners of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp). This is a fast-changing industry, and with change comes a greater need for clarity and good relationships.

Charis Gibson says that with a huge turnover in media jobs (notably at the BBC and across the whole sector) and the consolidation of media companies, PRs will need to work harder to keep and sustain the precious relationships they’ve built with journalists and producers – who’s who and where they are working now.

Gareth Russell also notes a change in how we can approach and target the media: “For decades the print media have been conspicuously tribal, but in this next year both broadcast and online media are likely to become more partisan.

“For some organisations this will be an opportunity to become more targeted in the channels used to engage with key audiences, but it will also require better understanding of what each outlet can offer and whether they add or detract from the campaign or organisational objectives.”

So, into 2022 we go. Hopefully these informed predictions will help you feel both positive and ready for what the new year might hold.

Jersey Road PR is here to give voice, profile and influence to faith-based organisations. Get in touch if you would like to see how we can help you do just that in the coming year and beyond.

Written by Andrew Horton, Head of Content, Jersey Road PR.

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