PR trends 2023

PR trends: 2023

Public Relations is a mercurial profession. The ever-changing, ever-growing nature of what we do is what makes it such an exciting profession to be a part of. The last few years have been transformative for the public relations industry. PR efforts went in new and unseen directions around the pandemic and as a result, PR professionals started to find results and value in new places.

Virtual events became the new norm, PR campaigns began to put social media platforms at centre stage and consumer preferences shifted massively in the face of a permanently changed work/life landscape.

But as sure as a rolling stone gathers no moss, PR trends will continue to change.

In the latter part of 2022 and looking ahead to 2023, we examine upcoming public relations industry trends and consider what PR trends will be in 2023 and beyond.

Content remains king

There can be no argument made against the rise of content as a key PR tool. Content has been a valuable tool in the pr experts’ arsenal, and that isn’t changing.

In an increasingly louder and more competitive landscape, businesses and brands with the most stand-out content are yielding the rewards. Moving forward, what will change is, that as businesses continue to jockey for attention and eyeballs, content relevance will become the crucial driver of ROI.

This is going to be even more important because a recent helpful update from Google means that the search engine will now be increasingly vigilant in how it ranks and places content in its SERP crawls.

We recently penned a breakdown of this for Forbes, but in a nutshell, what it means is that Google is now actively on the lookout for content it deems either scurrilous, harmful or outright false and will be pushing said content further down the results pages.

The future of placed content will now be greatly shaped by elements such as author experience, the relevance of the title and site on which the content is placed, as well as the overall sentiment of the content. Those leaning into clickbait content marketing will soon be finding their content losing traction and those who are not paying attention to these best practice updates will also find the same.

Video killed the Instagram star 

It seems likely that one of the highest profile brand casualties of 2022, could very well be Instagram. The rise of TikTok as a platform seems to have forced the hand of Instagram. The Grams’s efforts to compete have resulted in them implementing some rather dramatic changes to its user experience and its algorithm and so far it isn’t going well for them.

In an attempt to compete, or copy as some would have it, Instagram has seemingly broken the human dynamics which gave the platform its early success.

With much of the user base crying out for a return to its roots of image sharing, rather than pushing current trends of TikTok-esque video interactions, it remains to be seen how the social media platform will react. Will it press on and continue to compete by effectively mirroring its competitor… or will it give its users what they want and return to the Instagram of old?

This does pose an interesting question of social media strategy and how this will shape pr efforts.

With Instagram gaming its algorithms to show users what they ‘think’ they want to see, brands can now easily find themselves stuck between two difficult scenarios. Either pivot to the algorithm’s current favoured rule-set and adapt content strategies to suit the channel, this may result in a reach spike, but will likely see negative effects to engagement and lead-in.

Or, a brand could maintain its existing content strategy, potentially seeing a drop in reach by choosing not to play by the algorithm’s rules, but maintain a level of loyalty and engagement within their own social media ecosystem.

How this will pan out, only time will tell. But what we do know from prior experience is that once a Kardashian voices their disdain, as they already have, about a social media platform, major drops in share price tend to follow.

The power of video 

Instagram’s future aside, 2022 saw a huge spike in video content usage and effectiveness and 2023 will, undoubtedly, be an extension of this. Ephemeral content like Tok Tok and Snapchat are undoubtedly key drivers in these trends, but more established content channels such as Facebook are also reporting massive ongoing uplifts in the receipt and effectiveness of video content.

But it isn’t just Facebook, in the B2B world video content on LinkedIn consistently outperforms all other post types. Therefore, businesses and public relations professionals utilising video content across a broad spectrum of channels will be the ones to find the most success.

Leadership value alignment 

Within the world of B2B, leadership-driven content and coverage drive brand and success. Leadership content and executive thought leadership campaigns are frequently utilised within pr strategies, as some of the best ways to build brand presence, drive recruitment, support growth and add to the bottom line.

But, as we all know, the pandemic changed the way we conduct business.

Leadership must now be seen to be inline with the values and needs of both the wider team and customer base. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that people don’t want to spend their time, or their money, with businesses which don’t reflect and respect their own core values.

PR strategies would be wise to take this into consideration. When factoring in leadership content and building leader personal brands, PRs and those very leaders need to be asking how does this activity feed into the social and hierarchical dynamics of their organisation?

If we’re putting our leaders centre stage, be it in the media or in owned content, there needs to be a human connection between business and consumer.

Honesty and authenticity is also a huge factor for future leadership. We’ve all seen the ‘crying CEO‘ aka Brandon Wallake, who fired two of his team and then posted a teary selfie. The backlash Wallake received as a result of this was rife with accusations of Wallake using the moment to further his own gains.

Particularly in crisis moments and difficult corporate situations, 2023 and beyond will be time for our leaders to show their quality, humility and authenticity through the content they produce.

Read the room! 

As we potential move into a period of economically challenging times, it’s vastly important that PR agencies, social media execs and corporate executives learn the value of reading the room.

We’ve seen some examples over the course of the year of ill-timed and ill-considered content being badly received. But in this current climate, a badly received post doesn’t just mean some negativity in the comments, it can come with serious media kick-back and brand damage.

A recent example of this is energy giant OVO Energy which has been subjected to the full fury of the tabloid press and multiple times throughout 2022. It started with the ill-advised and now infamous ‘cuddle pets to stay warm’ newsletter.

But the story didn’t end there for OVO. As the year moved on and the UK entered a cost of living crisis, the OVO team once again found themselves in the Mailonline ‘sidebar of shame’ all because of one Linkedin Post

The headline is enough to make any seasoned PR professional wince:

“Staff at energy firm toast their success with free-flowing wine at a party after telling Brits to ‘cuddle pets’ and ‘eat porridge’ to stay warm while unveiling massive price hikes.”

Celebrating your success is all fine and well. But on a human-to-human level, understand that there is a cost to these kinds of actions and that the cause and effect can often be rather dramatic.  The ability to read the room is a hugely valuable skill.

Budgets 

We may well be entering a period of economic downturn, but the lessons learned from previous situations tell us that cutting PR and marketing budgets are more damaging for growth in the long term.

Recently the IPA placed an ad in The Financial Times, with a rather catchy strapline of ‘come back in a year and tell us that cutting your budgets was a good idea.’ 

While this particular example was referencing paid advertising, the sentiment is very relevant to PR budgets.

In times of downturn, the brands and businesses which deploy PR strategy to maintain brand visibility are invariably the ones who come out of the other side in a stronger state. Keeping your audience’s attention during this time, though it may not yield in the same level of sales or financial ROI, allows businesses to maintain visibility, keep their competitive edge and stop them from fading into obscurity.

ESG: more than a trend

ESG has become the hot topic of 2022, as PR practitioners look to weave these principles into their campaigns and strategies as a peak PR trend in 2034.

It would be a huge underestimate to say that ESGs are only prevalent due to Gen Z consumers, in fact, ESG principles affect the daily lives of us all. And it’s also incredibly important not to see ESG as just one of those new key PR trends.

Throughout 2022, and long prior, PR experts have been exploring these principles and how they can be utilised to great effect within comms. Moving forward, ESG principles will become more than just a trend to be adopted, they will be baked-in business-as-usual principles,

What will be important for pr professionals, is the ability to not only capitalise not their clients’ ESG principles but to find new ways of equating and reporting success back to the client on ESG wins.

Influencer marketing 

While it’s by no means a new PR trend, the way PR campaigns weave influencer marketing into activities has been steadily changing. There was once a time where PR professionals would select influencers based on follower numbers, the bigger the follower base, the better the result… right?

Well, not really.

Tapping into influencers with similar values to that of your target audience is proving, far and away, to be the most effective way for brands to start building relationships. In attempting to reach new audiences, it’s proving far more effective to consider micro-influencers.

These influencers may be smaller in their following. But their engagement statistics are far more effective for brands. Their audience has much greater loyalty and buy-in, they respect their opinion far greater and can influence purchasing patterns in an entirely different way.

Emerging trends: enter the metaverse

The metaverse is a question on everyone’s lips, but the truth of the matter is we still don’t know if and how the metaverse will change public relations trends.

Right now it is a nascent concept, no one can really say for certain how it will play out in the long term. From a work-life perspective, we can safely say that a level of operating within the digital world is to be expected.

But if a virtual metaverse will overtake digital meetings platforms, or take a spectacle like Glastonbury, or the Champions League Final and turn it into a virtual event, it’s just too soon to say. Where the metaverse will take us, only time will tell.

But, what we do know is that there is a growing mistrust with Facebook users, particularly around the topic of data security. Meta, and Zuckerberg, have a brand issue and their ability to remedy this, or not, will play a major part in the development and implementation of the metaverse.

One highly likely outcome here is that these metaverse concepts are adopted by the wider public, but Facebook (or Meta) have nothing to do with it. In the same way that nearly 30 years ago, Bill Gates predicted the smartphone but then fell short when it came to maximising its immediate impact in this market.

In summary 

PR and comms campaigns now require more than ever before; more analysis, more actions, more outcomes and, importantly, more engagement.

Simply making announcements, issuing some press releases and hoping for the best, no longer cuts the mustard and brands and businesses will be wise to make their PR teams work smarter, syncing these new trends and patterns into their ongoing pr campaign structures.

Using PR and capitalising on pr trends to affect positive change will be the overarching theme of 2023, particularly as consumer pressure will place increased scrutiny on businesses to be more green, more diverse, more representative, more ethical and more sustainable.

Find out how you can tap into the 2023 trends now. Book a half an hour call to navigate your social media strategy at [email protected].