For those of us in SaaS PR, the last two years have felt like a sprint AND a marathon. Global venture funding hit an all-time high, our agency doubled in size, we supported six clients through acquisition, and we have more clients than ever before on track to IPO. It’s been exciting, eye-opening, and if we’re honest, a little exhausting — but we like it that way.
Stepping back from it all, it’s nice to take time to reflect on the year, check in on how our 2021 SaaS PR predictions held up, look forward to next year, and weigh in on how we think the media landscape will continue to evolve.
First up, grading last year’s guesses:
- ✅ Paywalled journalism means we must adapt — ding ding ding! We’ve seen some of our best pieces this year posted behind a paywall.
- ✅ Speaking slots will become even more difficult to secure — right again! We saw earned slots drop across multiple competitive sets, and paid slots increase in frequency.
- ❌ Audiences wise up to newswires — Not yet, but I’m holding out hope for 2022.
- ✅ Deskside meetings are finally put to bed — another winner. “Desksides” are tucked in and sleeping soundly.
75% — a solid C! I’d call that a win. Let’s see if our expectations for next year hold up as well.
Less competition for share of voice, more category collaboration.
We’ve predicted before that share of voice as a standalone metric for PR success would go by the wayside — and I think we’re there. We have fewer and fewer clients pushing for SoV as an OKR, and most understand it’s something to track, not something to set a goal against. Share of voice assumes scarcity in the media landscape. What my competitor earns is bad for me, and what I earn is bad for my competitor. PR isn’t that simple.
Take the ABM market as an example. If our client Terminus is mentioned in TechCrunch alongside DemandBase, share of voice would consider that a wash, a win for no one. Simply not true. Sales cycles, especially B2B sales cycles, are increasingly complex. It is entirely possible that a prospect may see a piece of coverage from one of your competitors building the case for a solution, do research on vendors in the space, and decide to purchase your solution.
Evangelizing for the category, and for the solution to a prospect’s problems, is ultimately MORE important than pushing your specific product. There is enough coverage to go around, there are enough customers to go around. In 2022 we’ll see more vendors aligning themselves with perceived “competitors” (or even just others in the space) to move the market forward. This will benefit journalists as well, as the more third-party sources we as PR people can provide to them, the more likely they are to rely on us in the future, and feel confident we’re painting the whole picture, not just the version that puts our client in a positive light.
More line of business thought leaders, less CEOs.
I work in PR. When I read articles about the changing media landscape, or a new tactic to try out when pitching, I am most likely to heed that advice when it’s coming from someone who is in the trenches every day doing the work. I might take different advice from a CEO/agency owner, say about how to manage workload, what an ideal team structure looks like or what an acceptable customer churn rate is. But, when it comes to our work product, we most often want to hear from line-of-business thought leaders.
Content marketing startup? Let’s hear from your content marketing manager. GRC startup? Let’s hear from your VP of Information Security. This doesn’t mean we never want to hear from CEOs and founders — there are certainly places where their perspective comes into play and their title is helpful and not a hindrance — but for the most part, we want to hear perspective from the boots on the ground. Especially when offering best practices or advice on how to do our jobs better.
Audio/video formats grow in popularity.
I couldn’t let a predictions piece go by without a single mention of the impact COVID-19 had on the media landscape, now could I? Bottom line: we’re still meeting less often in person, and we’re still consuming more content online than ever before. That increase in demand has led to new ways to consume — namely through audio and video.
Take podcasts as a microcosm. The industry has experienced significant growth — a trajectory which is expected to continue. More than 115 million people in the US listen to podcasts. In 2025 that number will be 140M. Also by 2025, expenditures on podcast advertising will surpass $2.7 billion. Jump another 3 years into the future and podcasting revenue is expected to reach $95B.
Coupled with video formats from top-tier outlets like Insider and ZDNet, we’re looking at a whole new ball game in 2022. Act quickly to adopt audio and video opportunities (without a ton of metrics to prove their value at first) as they arise — we’ll be seeing more of them next year.
Brand marketing takes center stage.
If you surveyed the titles of BLASTmedia client contacts five years ago, I think you would have seen a lot of “marketing manager,” “demand generation manager” and “content manager” titles pop up. That seems to be changing. Many more of our client contacts these days are falling under the brand marketing umbrella, with titles like “senior director of brand marketing,” “marketing communications director,” and “VP of brand and communications.”
Maybe this is wishful thinking, but it seems to me that marketing orgs within SaaS companies are becoming more comfortable with the idea of not needing to measure the ROI of every single marketing dollar spent (which I would not have said five years ago). For PR, that type of ROI conversation is usually a losing battle. So, I am hopeful that we’ll see more marketers allocate a percentage of their budget to brand, where the attribution and ROI doesn’t matter and can’t be measured. You just know it’s there. It’s a cost of doing business in 2022, Kyle Lacy said so.
For good measure, I also snagged a prediction from our EVP, Kim Jefferson. She pointed out a big one I missed:
A renewed focus on employer brand.
SaaS companies, like every other business in the US, are getting creative to attract the talent they need. With a waning tolerance for the workplace norms of old and a rising willingness to quit a job they’re unhappy in, employees are more discerning than ever on the companies they join and the leaders they follow. Bigger chunks of PR budgets will be allocated to showcase the unique aspects of a company that makes it a good employer — from true flexibility to inclusion efforts to compensation fairness. The potential hire will be just as important of a stakeholder as the customer in 2022.
There you have it, our predictions for how SaaS PR will change next year. All for the better, we hope! I’m sure there are many we missed, so feel free to share your SaaS PR predictions with us on social.