2023 Key Learnings and 2024 Trends

2024 Trends

As we dive into 2024, our team took a moment to reflect on PR key learnings from 2023 and predict some trends we expect to see grow this year. We learned a lot in 2023 – from navigating social issues with thoughtful consideration, embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) as complementary to human initiative and collaboration, and communicating effectively during the full cycle of labor negotiations. Looking ahead, we anticipate a continued reliance on data for impactful media coverage, an increased focus on elevating executives’ visibility, and more to emerge over the next year.

2023 Key Learnings

Lead by Example

“My biggest takeaway from 2023 is the importance of engraining company values into everyday practice, and how corporate executives must be the ones leading the way. Corporations that ‘practice what they preach’ earn trust from their stakeholders far more quickly than those who don’t, and upholding a standard of values and ethics give the company firm ground to stand upon when their reputations are challenged.” – Catherine McCoy

Using AI as a Supporting Tool, Not a Replacement

“Many PR pros started this year with uneasy excitement around AI paired with doubts of job insecurity. However, in 2023 we’ve learned to use AI as a springboard, a tool complementary to our existing capabilities. Even more so, the use of AI has come to show the true value of human touch on our work – how working collaboratively with those around us can yield better results than when teaming up with a machine.” – Emma Smits

Social Issues: Generational Differences

“A takeaway of mine from 2023, which became particularly acute after the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7, is a growing expectation among many but not all that corporations will weigh in on divisive social issues. This expectation varies greatly by generation. Millennials and Gen Z tend to expect organizations they work for or are connected to in some way to weigh in, largely because these generations are so engaged through social media. I saw organizations investing a lot of time in listening to and understanding their key stakeholders and weighing the pros and cons of engagement. I believe this challenge will continue to grow as the workforce continues to evolve.” – Anne Marie Mitchell

Social Issues: Weigh In or Stay Silent?

“In 2023, companies learned some hard lessons about entering socio-political “culture war” topics without careful cost-benefit and other analyses. As a result, many have now become increasingly laser focused on externally and internally communicating about business-critical functions and public topics that materially interact with their business functions. 2023 saw many brands, from Bud Light to Target and many more, suffer reputational damage due to wading into controversial topics that alienated their customers and incurred major profit losses. In 2024, companies will scrutinize all marketing and communications efforts to avoid such crises.” – Michael Grimm

The Power of Authenticity

“Being authentic (whether it is speaking to reporters, clients or colleagues) is such an important part of what we do as public relations professionals, especially in a technologically advancing world. I heard a quote that really stuck out to me by philosopher Adam Watts, which is “aim to be sincere rather than serious.” Of course, professionalism is important when speaking to these groups, but if you lose your authenticity, you forget who is on the other end of the phone call or email, and your message will lack sincerity.” – Grace DuFour

“When it comes to video, authenticity is king. Let’s be honest: trust in organizations is at an all-time low, and people are on the lookout for manipulative PR and marketing tactics. To be effective, organizations need videos that feel genuine, striking a balance between refinement and trustworthiness. Fostering authenticity in videos not only captivates but also fortifies the trust crucial for meaningful connections between organizations and their stakeholders.” – Fred Walls

The Continuation of Unionized Labor

“The increased union activity and high-profile strikes of 2023 (SAG-AFTRA, WGA, UAW, Teamsters, etc.) highlighted just how important it is to effectively communicate before, during and after a labor situation. A key takeaway from this past year is that management must implement or adjust communications strategies that are quick to digest and regularly engage priority audiences when labor activity takes place. While some businesses have learned this lesson and were able to get their messages out, many more are still struggling to shift their approach.” – RJ Bruce

2024 Trends

CEO Reputation is Now a Synonym for Corporate Reputation

“After several years when many CEOs kept a lower profile, I believe they will opt or conclude they have to be more visible, both internally and externally. They will do so because they realize that company employees need to see and hear from them directly and external stakeholders will expect more interaction with the person setting the company’s direction and embodying their values.” – Nick Kalm

Building a Culture of Trust & Transparency

“I expect 2024 to continue the recent trend of organizations facing asymmetric communications challenges and conflicting stakeholder expectations. Whether this is when and how an organization weighs in on societal issues, or the further proliferation of mis- and disinformation and the potential impacts of deep fake content, or the distance between how an organization utilizes its communications channels and how its stakeholders expect to be communicated with (or communicate with each other) –organizations need to focus on building or enhancing the foundational elements of trust and reputation. It is a question of if, not when, over the next year an organization will find itself in need of calling in those reputational credits.” – Andrew Moyer

Integrating Digital Media into Traditional PR Strategies

“A trend/theme we’ve seen this past year and is likely to become more prevalent in our industry is the inclusion of digital and social media within a businesses’ PR strategies. It’s extremely likely the audience you’re trying to target is on at least one form of social media, so integrating traditional AND digital media into one PR plan is a no-brainer when it comes to reaching a target audience.” – Haley Hartmann

Combatting Decreased Attention Spans

“In 2024, there will continue to be a shift in information consumption due to dwindling attention spans. Rather than relying solely on traditional search engines like Google, consumers are looking to social media for concise and easily digestible content. Adapting and repurposing content across a variety of formats and channels will be essential to effectively reach and engage audiences.” – Paige Borgman

“I hope to see a recommitment to intentional content. We are overwhelmed by texts, emails, news, social posts and searches every day. People are feeling the weight of these messages and, this year, may begin to focus more on unplugging, snoozing, quieting, unfollowing. Our words, therefore, have to be meaningful enough for people to want to pay attention.” – Fran Fyten

Data-Driven Storytelling is Going to Continue to Drive Media Coverage

“With newsrooms shrinking and journalists’ resources dwindling, providing data-driven story angles and insights is going to be the difference between landing coverage for clients and not. Fostering true partnership with journalists by supporting them with resources like data, insights, research and newsworthy stories is how we’ll continue to successfully garner media coverage for clients in 2024.” – Natalie Wanner