Lessons we can learn from January 2021

This lockdown has been hard.

I’m not even going to try to sugarcoat it: it’s been tough. The dark days, relentless Mancunian rain and withering boredom have reduced me to the stage where I’m looking back in envy on the banana bread days of Lockdown 1.0.

Yet brighter times are on the horizon. The vaccination roll-out is well underway (my grandparents both had their vaccines last week – hurrah!) and I’ve just read that in two weeks’ time, there will be an hour more light per day (double hurrah!). I’ve even tentatively booked two weeks off later on in the year in the hope that we’ll be able to venture more than a walk away from our houses.

January may have been one long ‘takeway-walk-Netflix-repeat’ mantra, but it delivered more than its fair share of on-screen entertainment and high drama, as the media continued to bring more huge, belief-defying, reality re-setting events into our living rooms. Trump was finally silenced on social media and ousted from the White House after a terrifying assault on the very cornerstone of democracy, kitchens became classrooms after schools shut and – the biggie – apparently KimYe are getting divorced. Devastating.

In fact, media events revealed some key learnings last month, so here are three marketing and PR lessons we can learn from the highs and lows of January 2021.

Event: JLo at President Biden’s inauguration
Lesson: Don’t shoehorn your brand in at every given moment

Jenny from the block was given a huge role to play at Biden’s inauguration, singing a mash-up of ‘This Land is Your Land’ and ‘America the Beautiful’ to the millions of people watching across the globe.

Yet, towards the end of the song, JLo threw in part of her 2000 hit ‘Let’s Get Loud’. The audacity.

Just because you’ve been given a platform, it doesn’t mean you have to blatantly plug your product or services, especially in situations which don’t warrant it.

Your audience will be left confused by the shoehorning in of your brand into the narrative when it doesn’t fit, resulting in your credibility taking a dive.

Event: Matt Hancock being interviewed on Good Morning Britain
Lesson: Be prepared in interviews for tricky questions – and don’t ignore the question


We cringed watching the video of Matt Hancock being grilled about voting down free school meals by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.

Then we cringed again half an hour later when we remembered it.

Media interviews provide great exposure, but – and we cannot stress this enough – you need to be prepared. There may be times when journalists ask tricky questions you don’t particularly want to answer. Do not just answer a completely different question a la Matt H – it not only says to the viewer/reader that you’re being evasive, but it also annoys the interviewer. They’ll either be like a dog with a bone and will interrogate you further or the following question will get even tougher.

Instead, be prepared for any potential bear traps, practice a line should a question come up and then figure out the best way to link back to the original topic of conversation.

Event: The rise of the sea shanty
Lesson: Keep an eye on Gen Z habits

So who had ‘viral sea shanties’ in the 2021 bingo? No, me neither. But thanks to Gen Zers, it happened. And I’m here for it.

Scottish postman Nathan Evans first posted his version of Wellerman on Gen Z-led TikTok where users across the world made it go viral. Its popularity resulted in a remix hitting number three in the UK charts, followed by TikTok using the song in its TV ad. Even Jon Snow (the news presenter, not from Game of Thrones) joined in and sang along.

So what does this have remotely to do with B2B?

The older members of the Gen Z cohort have recently entered or are soon entering the world of work and are becoming an emerging audience for your product and services. As the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue said, “they’re really influential because they’re willing to make changes, hold brands accountable and require a sense of transparency.”

Look up their likes, dislikes and habits and see how you can apply it to your marketing strategies. After all, if you want to attract these buyers and futureproof your business, you need to embrace their way of doing things. Even if it involves channeling a pirate and singing a sea shanty.

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