2021: The Year To Be Human

2021: The Year To Be Human
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In this guest post, Pulse senior social account executive Alyna Malynia (pictured below) channels her inner Carrie Bradshaw by posing the question: “I couldn’t help but wonder… how will our recent experiences shape our work in 2021?”

We’re well into January, and unsurprisingly the chaos we became well acquainted with decided to stick around for kick-ons, uninvited. Let’s not waste the tragedy that has been the last 12-months, because there is always something to learn even in the bleakest times. To channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw (finally, this is relevant again), I couldn’t help but wonder… how will our recent experiences shape our work in 2021?

Empathy isn’t just for pandemics

Raise your hand if you’ve felt inspired by the strong and compassionate leadership shown by your colleagues lately? 2021 will see the continuation of this style of leadership, because we’ve seen the impact this can have at every level. It’s been invigorating to see my peers flourish in the face of adversity because their workplace became a safer space in a time of global crisis. Personally, this shift helped me feel like I could flex my creative thinking to new heights giving me confidence to push forward with new ideas. What we need now is honesty, empathy and grit in leadership at every level. This will help new starters learn leadership skills quicker, being unafraid to share their thinking, leading to bigger ideas because they have the confidence to do so. If we learnt anything last year, it’s that we need to be human at work in order to create content that connects with our audiences and we’ll see this bleed into our work this year.

Be human, bring joy

We’ve seen value placed in empathy and kindness. Trust and flexibility in the workplace are now normal, and this has made way for different human-first priorities – both in the workplace and in our outputs.

Our storytelling has rapidly evolved over the last 12-months as we were pushed outside our comfort zones and found ways to support our communities. The bushfires saw us all work together to rebuild; the pandemic made us take a human-first approach to offer support to our online communities as they sought comfort and connection; we witnessed people around the world put their frustrations into action and protest at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, putting the need for authentic brand activism in the spotlight and further challenging brands and creators to be better and do better for their communities, or run the risk of falling behind.

So, where to now? I think Australians are ready to learn how to laugh and feel hope again. In the past couple weeks alone we’ve seen a huge response to news that gives us hope normality is returning (Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under and the Sex and the City reboot I’m looking at you) and audiences rejoiced because we needed this. Brands too can bring this joy into their creative – and some already have. While the battle between state premiers continues and COVID isn’t yet a memory, Aussies have shown they can still laugh at themselves – case in point: the much-anticipated Australian Lamb ad.

Trust will empower creators

In the US, we’ve seen backlash against influencers travelling during the pandemic. Locally, we’re seeing international tennis players experience similar backlash after demanding changes to their quarantine. The old influencer illusion is cracking, and brands and creators are beginning to understand audiences may not like what they see. After all, you want audiences to not just like you but advocate for you. Given social media ethics is turning into a hot topic as numerous platforms ban Donald Trump following the US insurrection, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are taking a stance on the spread of misinformation we will see an even greater focus on how brands and creators work together. According to Pulse’s Culture of Consumption report, radical transparency in influencer and creator content is now the new benchmark of consumer trust. This will soon become the new standard and expectation for creators, and will empower those on both sides leading way to a rise in working with ‘non-influencer influencers’ – real people that do real good with the platform given to them regardless of follower count.

Let’s get lo(fi)

A fun fact about me: I am TikTok obsessed, and in case you missed it, it’s not just for the youth anymore. We’ve seen usage skyrocket since the beginning of the pandemic, with users of all demographics signing up. According to mobile analytics firm App Annie’s annual report, it was the most downloaded app of 2020 surpassing Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom combined. We’ll likely continue to see this trend well into the year because the platform feels like a new experience. It provides real people with an accessible platform so they can form genuine connections without the polish expected of them on other social platforms. With the app’s continued growth, we’ll also see greater advertising spend on the platform. Marketers beware though – standard marketing material won’t cut it and trends go out of vogue so quickly it’s difficult for brands to authentically engage in a timely manner. This isn’t a bad thing though; it will simply push us to get into the nitty gritty of the stories we want to tell on the platform and even produce some (gasp) lo-fi brand content. TikTok shines when people feel like they can express themselves freely and lo-fi content stops the thumbs. We saw this at its best when strangers from across the world came together to create a Ratatouille stage musical, with #RatatouilleTheMusical gaining over 39 million views. This has progressed to a COVID-safe one-off virtual performance, starring some of Broadways biggest names. Recently, we’ve seen this in the resurgence of sea shanties due to the #Wellerman Song, with users duetting and singing along, or adding their own twist so they feel connected to something.

While navigating this year, the best thing marketers can do to continue to foster creativity is provide psychological safety, lead with empathy and embrace authenticity. If creativity is truly the most valued export and future of our industry, in 2021 let’s continue being human, and treating each other with kindness.

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Alyna Malynia

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