Despite the continued volatility around the global pandemic, many of us have entered 2022 with renewed energy and vigour — and I for one am among those.

My family and I were lucky enough to be able to get safely abroad and back, enjoying the cold and cosiness of a Christmas in Germany. It was a perfect contrast to the past two years spent in Singapore — and then nice to return home, to appreciate the things we’d missed.

Given the renewed energy, it feels like a good time to look ahead — and think about some of the trends and ideas we think will be further embraced this year. So here goes!

1. Climate action will be a top priority

As COP26 and The Glasgow Climate Pact clearly showed, the time for climate action has well and truly arrived. Commitments made by governments will soon begin to filter down into project commitments, and as ever, the private sector will play a critical role in leading the innovation part of the equation. For instance, day nine of COP26 saw 20 governments (half of them developing nations) pledge to end new direct international public finance for unabated fossil fuels by the end of 2022. The agreement is expected to result in a shift of over US$15 billion of fossil fuel finance towards clean energy. As such expect more energy and enthusiasm from brands, as more people seek to become involved in finding solutions to the problems we face.

2. Attention, greenwashers: The heat is on

With that involvement will rightly come greater scrutiny of those who try to look as if they’re part of the climate solution not the problem. In the case of the oil and gas industry for instance, pressure is coming down on those who facilitate the greenwash, such as PR companies continuing to distort the facts. While the attention to distortion is undoubtedly greater, until clear and demonstrable objective benchmarks exist, we can expect the sophistication of greenwashing efforts to improve too.

3. Here we are now, reassure us

The global pandemic has produced more loss, on a bigger scale, than many of us have experienced. Omicron has shown that while an end-game may be in sight, post-covid talk was premature. That’s dispiriting, especially for those separated from loved ones, or with careers on-hold. In 2022, amid reports of mental health issues peaking, and increased pandemic-fatigue as booster take-up proves more challenging, we brand storytellers need to play nice. Stories about motivation, clarity, silver linings — or just plain old fun — will be go down well in 2022.

4. The 301 Platform arrives

Despite hefty budgets, many companies remain at 101 level for their digital content platform. Those producing regular content from the site and tracking SEO are at 101. Then 201 comes when this content is being read and interacted with — they know what they’re producing and why, and track data around its use. For companies at 301 level, owned media is an event, with a strong tonality and look-and-feel, acting as a news channel for the brand. By my estimation in 2022, at least 60% of brand content produced is at 101 level, with less than 10% of brand platforms currently at 301 level.

5. Content strategists as choreographer

Strong strategic content leadership makes the 301 story site into an event, and brings forward the phenomenon of ‘owned-to-earned’ media, whereby worthy brand media creates genuine outside attention. Strong strategists typically deploy an inhouse creative team, while experienced outside writers, domain experts in their own right, help the platform maintain its energy and news steel. At 301, brand media rivals conventional media brands.

6. Video takes the purpose test

Video has long been content’s shiny new thing. Prevalent in the internal, training and social media spheres, strong B2C and B2B video productions remain challenging, as internal capabilities get strained and macro conditions change fast. True engagement figures are often tough to defend. Video needs a clear purpose: with a unique offering and exclusive insights. Events, explainers, research and fireside chats are winning formats for the corporate framework.

7. Interactive stories add the spark

Where video is often a standalone asset, the best 301 brand story sites utilise clever use of interactive storytelling to bring their written hero stories to life. They deploy movement and touch- or scroll- triggered photo and graphic progressions, as interactive elements merge the straight read into a classic magazine experience — without pulling attention from the tests. With the right team, these elements need not be excessively costly or time-intensive.

8. Data-driven stories are a financial hot ticket

Data-led storytelling is a valuable asset for businesses. As a powerful predictive lens, strong data insights now feed storytelling inside finance, digital and creative teams. A set of six to eight strong indicative data points can power your story from one idea to the next. Then an experienced storyteller can capture the trend, using exacting customer interviews to enrich the findings. The result: strong and nuanced brand pieces that address complex questions.

9. Clean energy is having its moment

Given the push factors of climate change, pressure is on the world’s coal-dependent nations to act. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) electricity generated from renewables is set to rise by more than 6% in 2022. Renewables are set to account for almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026. There is now a strong developing series of stories around clean energy — and the way that producers address the challenges of transportation, storage and safety. To help this moment materialise with investors and planners, powerful comparative storytelling that utilise proven science will help to capture the importance and excitement of these changes.

10. Unleash the geeks!

Often the best owned-to-earned stories come from brand innovation labs. While these are under wraps during development, post-launch time is the moment to ‘unleash your geeks’, making heroes of the technical leaps in development – exploring fast facts, challenges overcome, and overall customer and stakeholder gains. Stories centred on innovative, problem-solving people are popular with tech editors, bloggers and thought leaders alike.

11. People need to see people 

Mid-pandemic, people stories matter. We tend to capture hearts and minds through passionate people, not though shiny brand logos. While speaking ‘corporate talk’ may please the boss, it’s less likely move the needle with customers. Instead, spend time understanding the customer journey, their needs and knowledge gaps. Pull down the necessary data, then work on clearly addressing these problems in your stories.

12. Purpose stories fuel retention

The era of ‘I quit’ is here: I myself was part of it. Successful brand leaders know that EX (employee experience) is the new CX (customer experience). And a critical part of their job is to reinforce shared purpose. Enabling employees to help at-risk people, places or animals is a powerful experience. Ideally, let your younger team ‘own’ these projects end-to-end — the best ones will produce great social, internal and hiring content for LinkedIn or Facebook.

13. Food scarcity is a new pandemic

While climate change is spot-lit, its downstream partner is rising food scarcity. Availability of clean and healthy food and water is under further threat due to the climate crisis and the pandemic – there is fertile ground for innovative solutions that help us grow, store and improve our food supply, and use less carbon and water in doing so. As food security gains focus, countries will likewise encourage more independent food growing and harvesting.

14. All you need is a laptop

While business travel took a severe hit from covid-19, its 2020s equivalent is the rise of the Digital Nomads. No longer tied to an office, this demographic is Zooming around the world, despite country borders being less porous than ever. America had 10.9m digital wanderers last year, up from 7.3m in 2019. A third of French and German workers will operate remotely in 2022. In one recent survey, 80% of employees considering a new role said the ability to live somewhere else was important to them. Cities and destinations are taking notice: altering residency rules and offering easier short-term work visas for the qualified. Companies likewise enjoy having skilled workers on-hand, while still lowering their rental bills. Airbnb now features far more long-stay product, with more to come in the near future.

15. Caution: Zoom fatigue ahead

With the pandemic into a third-year, our early assumptions need refreshing — with ‘all-Zoom all-the-time’ being one aspect some are now reconsidering. Some of our content go-to ideas need refreshing too. For certain, a new webinar or online conference will earn far less mileage this year – as more companies explore healthy yet distanced options as a walk-and-talks-in-the-park. Just don’t pretend that your work drinks are actually a work meeting.

16. We’re all going ‘glocal’

Think global, act local. In 2019 it was a throwaway line – now it feels prophetic. As all of us have lived-and-worked at home, and spent more time than ever in nearby parks, gyms and bicycle lanes, the ‘global local’ is a reality for all. More charities and CSR leaders are utilising this change of focus to hero the local champions – those who readily assist folks in our neighbourhood that need a helping hand. Brand storytelling too must reflect this refocus.

17. Rise of the global independent

Though we’re physically leaving our ‘hood less, our video-enabled world means companies can cross borders far more. The democratisation of communication through video conferencing and social media, and in part the freeing of decision-makers from offices and commutes, mean small companies with smart ideas and transparent pricing can thrive. In the ‘I quit’ era, gaining access to reliable plug-and-play skills (like ours) can prove invaluable.

18. We need more positive leaders

Thought leadership is like going to the gym: most start each year with big plans. Like gyms, what catches most out is the idea that they must go big – and achieve instant results. The reality is often the opposite: personal statements are always more authentic, and success takes time and effort. But it’s worth the work. Positive leadership voices are more important now than ever – and building constructive leadership channels should be a priority for us all.

19. Read more and read better

If you made it this far, you probably have a story priority of your own – these last four are focused on coaching you to begin. Step one is: read more and read better. Recently, to improve my content output personally and professionally, a game changer was reading more books. Including audiobooks, Kindle and print, I finished 83 books over two years. The osmosis worked: the better the voices I consumed, the better the voice I myself produced.

20. Start with three conversations

To get started, first identify three conversations you want to have this year. Fantastic: these are your verticals. Next up, compile a list of assets you’ll produce to support each of the conversations. From mentor moments and social posts, to speeches and blog posts, the list will help you focus. You’ll update each conversation aligned with your theme, just tweaked to the prevailing mood of the moment. Voila. Your first content calendar is in play.

21. Ask more questions

Aside from the pandemic and climate change, the other theme of this decade is diversity. How can you get new voices into your content? Start by assembling a divergent group from your team. Then do nothing for the session but ask questions about differences. Ask, how did they experience this issue differently? What happened for them that most companies miss? In time, bring these new angles into your stories, thanks to your new editorial board.

22. Find your voice and use it

Here is something from my story coaching. Record yourself for two minutes on a topic you love (your favourite food). Transcribe it. Most discover that their spoken voice reads better than their written voice. Why? Partly it’s the formality our teachers taught us. Writing today, the only person you should be, is you. The more you write as you speak, the more your stories will reach people directly – and the more they’ll relate to what you’re saying.

We would love to hear your stories. For advice or discussion about any of the 22 insights for 2022, please contact us here.