December 12 2022
Ethics and transparency, AI and innovations, ESG agenda and constant crisis mode – these are some of the key trends that will shape 2023 for brands and communicators, say PRGN’s leading global communications experts in our annual collection of PR predictions.
As the end of the year approaches, PRGN is asking every December its member agency principals and top managers for their PR predictions on what the next year brings to the communications industry.
With the majority of PRGN members expecting tougher external environment in 2023 – increasing prospects of a global recession, the war on Ukraine prolonging, social tensions intensifying and a race to fight climate change – this year’s PR predictions from around the globe list unprecedented opportunities for PR firms and in-house comms practitioners to show PR’s worth during hard times.
Crisis preparedness and mitigation, filtering and disseminating accurate information, building trust by maximizing transparency in brand communication, driving an active sustainability and ESG agenda, working with audiences as co-creators, engaging more in human-to-human interactions, supporting the C-suite more than ever before, and many more will be new and/or intensified roles for PR practitioners in 2023. Their work, however, will also be supported by more tools, resources and actors than ever before, such as the growing role of AI in PR measurement and analytics, wider social groups seeking allies and more integrated communications platforms.
It is impossible to foretell how exactly 2023 will unfold for each of the brands in the various markets globally, but the many pathways PRGN’s agency members present in this year’s PR predictions collection will help all communicators prepare better and find the focus for their own brands for 2023.
See them here below one-by-one.
“Many large companies will make the mistake of not wanting to communicate but hide from all media visibility, thinking that in economically and politically complicated years it is better to withdraw and not to expose themselves. However, this is the worst mistake they can make because it is precisely in complicated years when crises can appear and the best way to prevent a crisis is to be close to the media, with a strengthened image and increasingly transparent operations.”
Valentina Giacaman, Founding Partner, RumboCierto Comunicaciones, Santiago de Chile, Chile
“Ethics will become more and more pivotal for businesses and even more so for public relations practitioners.
Navigating through the complexity of social, technological, economic and political change implies a tight match between the ethical predispositions of a brand and the narrative structure of its storytelling in the ecosystem in which it operates.
PR professionals must be prepared to advise their clients to champion truth and transparency over KPIs to win the customers’ loyalty battle while safeguarding their reputation.”
Alessandra Malvermi, Managing Partner, Sound PR, Milan, Italy
“Consumers have had enough fake news – they can smell it, which will drive their decisions on where to consume their news and information.
As a result, the media will change. There has been a trend to spread editors and journalists over multiple traditional and online media, often across numerous subject matters. We see that changing to bring in dedicated subject matter experts.
As a result of the media change, professional public relations agencies will have to change in two ways. First, they will need to have subject matter specialists – moving away from less experienced, more junior staff – or find another way to create deeper content. Secondly, they will have to build stronger and more personalized relationships with the media.”
Nick Leighton, Owner & CEO, NettResults Middle East, Dubai, UAE
“Be ready for your next crisis.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reignited latent conflicts around the world.
With political risk escalating and economies shrinking, social unrest is expected. Less tolerance on private companies’ mishandlings will also be the rule. Keep your clients permanently trained on crisis management, both in media and social media. And to prevent conflicts, develop good social listening tools. Be part of the conversation, or at least be aware of the buzz before the battle begins.”
Dominique Biquard, Partner, Identia PR, Buenos Aires, Argentina
“2023 will bring even more media attention to the climate change crisis and human rights issues. Transparency continues to spur these conversations through effective use of social media.The continuing consolidation and staff reductions at media companies will make reporters and editors even more dependent on communications (PR) companies for trusted information. As communicators, we have to continue to take responsibility for disseminating accurate and timely information for the media.”
Sean Dowdall, President, Landis Communications, Inc., San Francisco, California, USA
“We may see an overall reshuffling of social media in the coming year. With the further politicization of some platforms, their recognition as a mainstream source of information will be diminished. The voluntary release of privacy associated with social media may also decrease as people pull back into less combative personal positions.”
Scott Hanson, President, HMA Public Relations, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
“2023 will mark the continued blurring of traditional public relations and many other elements that are now being folded into public relations programs. This includes digital advertising, sponsored programs and much more. As a result, those in public relations will need to truly embrace the PESO model – offering a blend of paid, earned, shared and owned media outreach in their programs. In addition, we are seeing clients seek direct lead generation opportunities in their public relations programs. All of this folds into the larger bucket of integrated communications which is becoming a true blend of many different elements. This melding pot aspect will continue well into the future.”
Leeza L. Hoyt, President, The Hoyt Organization, Los Angeles, California, United States
“As for 2023 and beyond, I can see two major trends shaping the communications and public relations industry:
PR 4.0 has arrived!
The age of PR 4.0 has certainly arrived together with the massive shift to digital and social. We will see a great shift from information broadcasting to story co-creation. After all, we are living in the social sharing era, where most people are on one or multiple social media platforms.
This accessibility to audiences has changed the habits and attitudes of consumers and stakeholders towards media consumption, from “passive” to “active” and now “co-active”, in which consumers and stakeholders expect to have a stake in the news and information sharing process. This is when audiences are empowered to co-create content and be part of the conversations.
Sustainability and ESG
Today, the sustainability and ESG agenda dominates discussions in boardrooms. The ability to communicate this journey well is becoming increasingly crucial for brands as it builds trust and solidifies relationships with investors, customers, employees and other key stakeholders.
Sustainability and ESG is not just a current trend. It is about leadership and is the anchor of our purpose-driven communication. No doubt, it will take guts and grit to manifest brand purpose and values into the real world. Importantly, ESG cannot be just all talk – it requires people and organisations to take real, measurable actions to make it work. Communication and transparency are part of that.”
Andy See Teong Leng, Principal Partner and Managing Director, Perspective Strategies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Artificial intelligence will increasingly prove to be an effective public relations tool for streamlining processes. Some examples include, producing news releases with natural language generation; performing sentiment analysis on news coverage and social media posts; converting speech to text from media interviews, podcast episodes and meeting presentations; and translating content into multiple languages for global distribution.”
Brad Kostka, President, Roop & Co., Cleveland, Ohio, United States
“The recession is here. And with that comes even more scrutiny on every dollar that a company invests. It is now even more important than ever before that PR pros use analytics and measurement to qualify and quantify the results of their work. Company leaders will be demanding more of this in the new year and it is imperative that the industry adapt. Those who drive campaigns forward with data will come out on top.”
Aaron Blank, President & CEO, Fearey, Seattle, Washington, United States
“We expect ongoing growth in the healthcare sector and pharmaceutical industry – and as a result excellent opportunities for PR firms specializing in these fields.”
Robert Bauer, Managing Partner, accelent communications, Vienna, Austria
“In this chaotic period of transition, the need to preserve the license to operate and make the business meaningful is translating into an increased demand for the management of the media exposure of the CEO and top management teams, both in the mainstream media and on social networks, which lead to an ongoing growth of the related-PR services: messaging, media training, media profiling, content, issue management.”
Stéphane Billiet, President & CEO, we change, Paris, France
“With new ways of working firmly in place, companies will need to focus more than ever on promoting their company culture. Employer branding and employee advocacy, using a smart strategy across different channels, will be keys to successful business in 2023.
In 2023 companies and brands have to have clear and defined values. But it’s not about words. PR professionals will need to show these values in action, highlighting real accomplishments, understanding customer’s concerns and steering away from greenwashing.”
Kirsten van Pee, COO and Partner, two cents, Brussels, Belgium
“Overall, as uncertainty continues to build in 2023 amidst supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine, continued impact from Covid-19 and a looming global recession, 2023 will be another year of challenges for CEOs and communicators.
There are more issues to deal with than ever. And despite the turmoil and the day-to-day challenges, smart executives will work even harder to avoid distractions and keenly focus on their organizations’ North star – their purpose and core values.
And smart communicators will help them by concentrating on building trust through truth, performance, and most importantly, relevance.
Zeroing in on the automotive and mobility market we serve, 2023 will be a year of great opportunity. Huge pent-up demand for vehicles will drive the industry’s recovery from its own, early chip-shortage-induced recession that began during the pandemic … and the industry will accelerate its ongoing transformation toward cleaner, safer and smarter mobility.”
Jim BIanchi, President, Bianchi Public Relations, Detroit, Michigan, United States
“Agencies have to take a hard look in the mirror and prioritize making intentional business shifts to become firms of the future. Throw out the rule book and reimagine what a true inspiring workplace looks like to retain top talent, and give the next generation of communications pros a flexible, family-first environment with clear growth tracks. We have empowered our team to play an active role in recruitment, helping us walk the talk with bias elimination, explore nontraditional resumes and celebrate culture adds instead of culture fits. This helps us identify committed, long-term agency professionals who are using their unique gifts to actively contribute to our growth.”
Louise Oliver, APR, President, Peritus PR, Birmingham, Alabama, United States
“Agencies will have to step up for more transparency in ESG reporting of their clients. ESG issues will dominate the communication agenda of more and more companies globally.”
Michael Diegelmann, Managing Partner, cometis AG, Wiesbaden, Germany
“2023 will bring an increased focus on social responsibility at events. Organizers will take a more holistic approach to goal setting, placing as much importance on inclusivity, sustainability, and community as they do on profitability.”
Wendy Spivak, Principal & Founder, The Castle Group, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
“For my part, I’ve got three key advices for the coming year:
H2H communication: more critical than ever
Human-to-human (H2H) communication is no longer a buzzword. It is fast becoming one of the most important concepts in marketing and PR.
H2H puts people first. It is about building close personal relationships that focus on communication and support, not sales pitter-patter. This might seem obvious, but organizations rarely pull it off.
Today we believe that H2H is unavoidable. In our social media-driven world, customers both want and expect personal connections. Achieving this human touch encompasses many things and is unique to every organization. Still, there is one general rule. Messages should be tailored and focus on people and emotions rather than cold-robotic language or marketing cliches.
Bursting social bubbles
When analyzing the field, it is vital to use more than just the media or the social networks we are used to. We need to explore closed communities and social bubbles more deeply. Put simply, people that you do not normally encounter.
We have to get our brands and staff out there. Use new platforms, join different online groups and pages, contribute to online discussions, and follow up with face-to-face contact.
When communicating with people in PR campaigns, it is also important to remember they seldom conform to stereotypes. Young people may share the interests of the old, while older folks can have a youthful streak. Gender stereotypes should also be challenged. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional.
Actions, not words
And finally, go for it. In these times of information overload, we believe that actions make an impact – not words. Now, more than ever, we need to show our audience respect, speak the truth and be present in our communities.”
Ieva Naujalyte, Managing Partner, Adverum, Vilnius, Lithuania
“One of the biggest challenges we’ll face in 2023 and beyond is the power of unchecked disinformation. Unmoderated social media platforms and propaganda disguised as news – or worse, as fact – will continue to negatively impact the exchange of objective and factually accurate information. We must wade through these muddy waters as strategically and sensibly as possible, taking care to keep our heads – and our clients – above the surface.”
Philip T. Hauserman, Vice President, The Castle Group, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
“With a growing focus on dynamic content, mobile usage and alternative news sources, we will likely see brands investing in influencer partnerships, paid opportunities and focusing pitching efforts on podcasts and subscription-based newsletters.
Now more than ever, brands need to invest and actively participate in the communities they serve. There will be an increased need for relationship marketing, public affairs, and collaboration with movement makers over what trends and issues directly impact the community. It will deeply impact the way organizations of all industries work.”
Sandy Lish, Principal & Founder, The Castle Group, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
“Corporate ESG goals and social involvement will be further scrutinized by the media, as well as consumers, advocates, and policymakers. Businesses will not only be beefing up their public affairs teams and budgets, but looking for strategic communicators who practice those shared values, can offer strategic counsel, and who can position them in rooms and in the media as industry stewards practicing what they preach.”
Taylor Connolly, Senior Director of Public Affairs/PR, The Castle Group, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
“All macro-economic – and micro/anecdotal – indicators are that 2023 will bring a deep global recession which batters some industries (others will rise up, challenge and use their uniqueness in solving consumer problems and their share of voice to grow market share, and change the world for the better despite the environment). In the face of this, C-suites and boards should be carefully managing strategy, performance, and risk, including reviewing the reputation and PR risk strategy for each key element of the business. Effective issue management can forestall many crises, and when crisis is unavoidable, the prep work will help the enterprise and its people move more easily through the cycle and toward recovery.”
Kate Alexander, Founder & Corporate and Financial Communications, Alexander PR, Auckland, New Zealand
“A growing search for social purpose (brands going beyond their commercial raison d’etre and aspiring to a more righteous voice in the public sphere; the public expecting better offerings with lesser resources; communicators finding common ground and language between them)
Creativity goes through a less-is-more phase, as opposed to the baroque communication we had in the 2010s. Saying as much as possible with less, reaching out to the essence of what needs to be communicated. Creativity itself needs a training in philosophy and conceptual thinking.
Budget-wise, we brace ourselves for a few tough years, as a global recession seems to knock on everyone’s door, with governments spending more to protect people from various blows and banks pulling the brakes on lending. We must be able to do more with less.”
Alexandra Diniță, General Manager, Free Communication, Bucharest, Romania
“Crisis Communications is the new normal
With one global, geopolitical and economic crisis after another, corporate leaders and organizations are now more or less in a constant state of crisis management. In 2023 crisis communications can be seen as the new normal rather than a rare event. No leader can sit around and wait for things to get “back to normal”. Change is the only constant. So, if you can’t predict what is coming next – you must improve your toolbox to prepare for a crisis for a more successful adaptation to the next situation.”
Christina Rytter, Founder & Managing Director, Scandinavian Communications, Copenhagen, Denmark
“This is a moment of reckoning for many mainstream media outlets, and that will have implications for public relations professionals.
As a journalism professor reportedly said, “If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the [bleeping] window and find out which is true.”Rightfully criticized for devoting too much airtime and space to false narratives, media will return to focusing on more fact-based reporting with less oxygen given to “alternative facts.”
That shift, combined with dwindling newsrooms and a more fractured media landscape, will result in narrowed opportunities for earned media. The real win from an earned media hit will occur after the story runs; with consumption of mainstream media in decline, agencies and clients will have to aggressively merchandise every media hit. And they will need to employ owned and paid opportunities to supplement and amplify their efforts.
Public relations will continue to dominate as the most powerful and credible storytelling discipline for organizations, but its evolution to fully embrace paid, shared, and owned channels alongside earned opportunities will be complete.”
Anne Buchanan, President, Buchanan Public Relations, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
“What is the role of a PR agency?
There are two totally different roles for PR agencies. One is being the feet and hands for clients. And there are many newly born agencies with mostly junior staff doing small writings and posting on social media which does not require high skills of planning and strategic thinking. The other role is consulting top management which requires high quality in analysis, strategic planning, maintaining relationships with stakeholders, and, of course, needs strong experience. Having both skill sets within one agency is not easy.
We see the role of traditional media becoming weaker, while the importance of owned media is growing. Anyone can write a press release and put it on the wire. You can easily be an editor in chief of an owned media channel paid for by a client. People tend to believe what ordinary people say on social media. Influencers are becoming more important nowadays than traditional media. Our role is increasingly challenging.”
Judy, Kuramata, Executive Director, Integrate Communications, Tokyo, Japan
“Analytics will continue to be increasingly important for firms as brands look for further validation that earned media can deliver real value beyond awareness and credibility. More brands are looking for a quantifiable link between earned coverage and driving consumer traffic and ultimately sales and this will only intensify in 2023 with economic uncertainty and tight budgets.
More than ever PR firms will be called upon to justify budgets and the role of analytical tools, and new innovations will become increasingly important.”
Bill Southard, President & CEO, Southard Communications, New York, New York, United States
“In times of crisis, we need authenticity and love to build resilient societies.
Weaknesses can also be strengths, as we are all humans on a very small planet. We need trust and care in our relations, and it is our responsibility as PA/PR firms to put it at the core of our storytelling.”
Natacha Clarac, Director General & Partner, Athenora Consulting, Brussels, Belgium
“It’s been a turbulent year and I think most people are feeling a little bruised and uncertain about what the future holds. Heading into the new year, consumers want to be reassured that brands and businesses are doing their best to be a force for good in the world. As PR agencies, we can use powerful, purposeful storytelling to help our clients communicate their values and demonstrate their positive impact.”
Owen Cullen, Managing Director, Cullen Communications, Dublin, Ireland
“PR and comms practitioners might feel in 2023 like navigators of ancient seas: with fear of the unknown and what the uncharted waters might hold, crews and commanders will increasingly look to them to tell how to reach the ambitious destinations while keeping the ship safe. Marketing and PR teams of brands as well as an increasing league of C-suites will turn to PR consultancies for advice in the hard times on reaching comms goals while safeguarding brands. This is a time, more than ever, for public relations to thrive. Not bound so much by budgets as advertising, not fixed on one or two channels as some other marketing disciplines, but constantly gauging the zeitgeist and standing as guards of transparency and filtered information, PR firms with strong ethics and professional qualities always survive, grow and strengthen in times of recession and global crises.”
Gábor Jelinek, Executive Director, Public Relations Global Network (PRGN)