By Ann Gynn published October 12, 2020 Est Read Time: 8 min

What’s Up in 2021 for Content Marketing?

No one could have predicted 2020, so why should content marketers spend time thinking about what might happen in 2021?

2021 is going to arrive – no matter what COVID-19 is doing (or not doing) – before you know it. And you need a plan that lets you prepare as best as possible for the year ahead.

We asked this year’s Content Marketing World presenters for their top 2021 predictions. Interestingly, their forecasts have evolved from the standard (i.e., more virtual reality, growing role of voice, more selective audiences) to reflect the effects of 2020.

Here’s what they see in their practical crystal balls.

Know not

If anyone thinks they can predict 2021 – and their prediction doesn’t include a swarm of murder hornets or some other natural disaster – I’d question their hubris. At this point, we have to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know … The only truth is that if we follow the needs of our consumers – in content creation and in research and development – we should still have a place in the market in 2021. – Jessica Best, vice president, data-driven marketing, Barkley

If we follow the needs of our consumers – in #contentcreation and in #research – we should still have a place in the market in 2021, says @bestofjess via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Stand-up expectations

As our world changes around us and there is more focus on social issues and inequalities, content marketers will be pulled into more discussions about how content marketing can help address these topics.

We need to be prepared by understanding where our organizations stand on these issues and how far they are willing to go to stand up for their values. As marketers, we need to advise on how these campaigns can work alongside or with our other content marketing efforts. Misalignment will no longer be tolerated by users online. – Andi Robinson, global digital content leader, Corteva Agriscience

More than purchases

Inclusive, purpose-driven, and transparent marketing will grow exponentially. Consumers want to do more than just buy from a brand. They want to connect, gain, and maintain a relationship with brands through common purpose and values. People want to know the brand’s perspective on different topics, such as sustainability, inclusivity, and more. As content marketers, we need to be prepared to invest in this content. – Jacquie Chakirelis, director of digital strategy, Quest Digital/Great Lakes Publishing

Inclusive, purpose-driven, transparent #marketing will grow exponentially in 2021, says @JacquieChak via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Salespeople as content marketers

More salespeople are going to become content marketers out of necessity. In the past, an old-school salesperson relied on relationships and in-person meetings. Thanks to COVID-19, those days are done, and the salespeople pulling ahead are the ones who have used the power of their digital reach before it was the only option. You’re going to see more salespeople being more strategic about their social media presence, creating videos, and keeping a content calendar of their own. – Chris Luecke, podcast host and founder, Manufacturing Happy Hour

Bridge building

Content marketers and content strategists from UX and product teams are going to find the lines blurred between what they do even more. It will force them to talk to each other and work together. At least that’s what I hope. (To learn more of what I’m thinking read my Medium article.)  – Matthew Rayback, creative director, Adobe

Adaptations

Current events seem as if they belong to one of Stephen King’s novels, they are strange and unpredictable, reshaping our audience and companies. I believe this will require content marketers to keep up with the changes, be flexible, and adapt to the new reality. – Inga Batur, senior editor and writer, Zavarovalnica Triglav

Current events will require #content marketers to keep up with the changes, be flexible, and adapt to the new reality, says @Coolkidzcooltri via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Chance-taking

I think we’ll see more experimentation and rule breaking. We have to create teams that are not afraid to fail and think big. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, and yet marketers haven’t been willing to do it. The time is now. We’re in the midst of a big change, so why not burn the house down by doing things differently? First, we’ll evacuate the building. After all, we’re creative badasses, not monsters. – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping It Human

Minds of buyers

Living in what I hope is a post-pandemic world, content marketers will need to place a different emphasis on the psychology of the buyer. Understanding stages of awareness and funnel psychology always matters but understanding concepts like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and knowing how those needs should shift and shape content will play a bigger role in 2021. – Lindsay Hotmire, CEO, Lindsay Hotmire Creative

Endure and reflect

To me, it feels like 2021 is all about survival – figuring out who to be and how to be in the next few years. – Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity

2021 is all about survival – figuring out who to be and how to be in the next few years, says @dougkessler via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

New ground level

COVID-19 will continue to govern what we do and how we do it. Innovation will not be a nice-to-have; it’ll be necessary. It’s time to build in more start-from-the-bottom strategy meetings, both with regard to the actual work brands do and the way content marketers make that work known to the world. – Michelle Park Lazette, senior writer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Out of office

Virtual and remote engagement with a wider audience and more varied demographics will be key. It will be important to put out new content focusing on providing audiences with answers to their questions. – Brian Piper, director of digital content strategy, University of Rochester

Audio growth

With people starting to commute again, podcasting will have another record-breaking year in 2021. Given the ease of production, I highly recommend brands jump on the bandwagon and produce a meaningful podcast and tie it into their overall omnichannel strategy – Christoph Trappe, chief marketing officer, The Authentic Storytelling Project

As people commute again, #podcasting will have another record-breaking year in 2021, says @ctrappe via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Stretching

If 2020 is any indication … expect the unexpected? More seriously though, expect more formats of social and visual storytelling that will stretch the limits of your brand voice, e.g., TikTok and likely competitors. – Jennifer Jordan, vice president and head of content (U.S.), Babbel

More intelligent

In 2021, content marketers should expect more predictive intelligence built into their tech stack so their content strategy is as close to fail-safe as possible. – Bernie Borges, chief customer officer, Vengreso

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Great Content Experiences Powered by Tech

More, more, more

From podcasts to video, expect more. – Marcus Collins, marketing professor, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Live, but not in the same space

The uncertainty of 2020 has taught us the importance of content as a tool for reaching our audience when many of our typical engagement points are closed, canceled, or unavailable. More brands will invest in content creation and, particularly, live video. Even when we can’t be together, live video gives us the next best thing by offering a shared experience, live interaction, face-to-face communication, and a chance to truly have a conversation with our audience. – Melanie Deziel, chief content officer StoryFuel

More brands will invest in #contentcreation and, particularly, live video, says @mdeziel via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
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Home is where the event is

Be prepared for no in-person events (sorry, this makes me sad as well). – Joe Pulizzi, co-host PNR: This Old Marketing podcast; author, Content Inc.

Organic content

Because of COVID-19 we have seen a major increase in organic video production. Formal or overproduced videos are not expected of every brand, and authentic at-home videos are more welcome than ever because they are humanizing brands. – Rachel Mann, digital engagement supervisor, American Fidelity Assurance 

Flexible thinking

A bit meta here, but content marketers should expect the unexpected in 2021. It’s hard to know what’s around the corner. The best approach is to stay flexible, agile, and open-minded. Adapt to the situation to make the most from it. – Dennis Shiao, marketing consultant, Attention Retention

It’s hard to know what’s around the corner. The best approach is to stay flexible, agile, and open-minded, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Looking up

Concluding on a hopeful planning note, Adam Morgan, executive creative director, Adobe, offers this prediction about the challenge content marketers will face next year: “Not being prepared enough for growth.”

Will you and your brand be prepared for 2021?

These and dozens of other experts are presenting this week at Content Marketing World. There’s still time to register. You’ll have this week and the next six months to watch and learn from all the sessions.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

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