What are the big challenges the PR and comms industry will face in 2024?
Being heard, not following the herd
It’s no surprise AI has been named the most notable word of 2023 by Collins dictionary. Without question, one of the biggest challenges in PR and the comms industry this year has been the role of AI and its implications for our industry. We are at an AI crossroads, where we must carefully evaluate the relationship between human input versus digital. While it’s hard not to be swept along by the cacophony of noise about the potential benefits, both in terms of cost and time, the challenge is to not simply follow the herd.
There will always be those quick to jump on the latest tech bandwagon and extol the virtues, claiming it’s changed their agency for the better, but we need a healthy dose of realism as we start the new year. We should be pragmatic, curious and questioning to be sure that our use of AI is ethically sound and will truly add value to the work we do for clients and the lives our employees.
The changing face of public relations
In an ever-evolving, more cynical world, it has never been more important for brands to earn trust and credibility. For some brands, the way to do this is through earned media. Take the Barbie movie campaign during the summer of 2023 – through the blending of carefully curated digital media and user-generated content, the whole campaign was extremely lucrative, making Mattel upwards of $1 billion.
Barbie had the added advantage of its legacy to fall back on, so earned media isn’t the answer for all brands, big or small. For some brands, earned media simply doesn’t achieve their aims, especially if their audience is more Baby Boomer than Gen Z. A key challenge for all agencies who were historically focused on media relations is adapting quickly to remain relevant. At Gold79, we’re ahead of the curve, already running campaigns with paid content pillars for many of our clients, having established a strong content and copywriting team and brought in SEO expertise.
Effective media relations are still essential to the PR and comms industry, but it’s a constantly evolving landscape and there is no time for complacency and a “do-what-we’ve-always-done” attitude.
Take creative PR agency 72Point, who ruffled feathers when it encroached further into PR agencies’ remit. With their access to SWNS’ newsfeed, the lines of when is coverage earned or paid becomes blurred, with many industry voices understandably calling for paid coverage to be labelled as such.
Another new player to the field is unified banking-as-a-service platform Synapse, who make no secret of their desire to transform communication between PRs and journalists. If Synapse becomes popular, it could play a significant role in altering PR/media relations in 2024 and beyond.
Finally, it would benefit everyone in the PR and comms industry to take a breath, reflect and remember that journalists are humans. It sounds simple, but if we can foster strong personal relationships, understand what they need and provide it when they need it, it will trump any third-party platforms. We as PR professionals just need to work a little smarter and harder to navigate our way through the noise.
What are the main opportunities for the industry coming up next year?
There’s no denying that the past couple of years have been challenging for consumers and businesses alike. Consumers have been feeling the pinch as energy prices and interest rates continue to rise, and businesses have faced supply chain issues and economic downturn. While consumer optimism is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, consumer confidence is “on the up” according to research group GfK. As inflation moderates and with gradual global recovery on the horizon, it’s possible to look ahead to 2024 with tentative optimism.
As we look ahead to 2024, it’s important for the PR and comms industry to understand the pressures and challenges faced by consumers and businesses. With the advent of AI modelling and other data tools, it’s taken some of the guess work out of understanding trends and made it easier to tap into the mindset of consumers. By harnessing the power of technology to plan more strategically, there’s more chance of reaching audiences and producing better quality work.
Politically, the new year is set to bring change with a General Election, which will hopefully bring a new wave of optimism and the green shoots of economic recovery. At the very least, we hope businesses and consumers will be more open to trying something new.
The future of PR lies in integrated campaigns, and these represent a huge opportunity for the industry. Speaking with clients, they are starting to see a blurring of lines between their agencies as PR starts to perfect some elements of paid media, including the incorporation of SEO. Gold79’s Senior SEO Executive Matthew Kozma explains: “SEO is a gamechanger for PR teams, enabling campaigns to be perfectly crafted for target audiences. SEO insights merged with PR strategies helps content to be relevant and user-friendly.”
Creativity and relationships are ever-more important and that is where PR excels, telling the stories that audiences want to hear. If the PR and comms industry can harness the tools of insight and measurement, then it will strengthen our position immensely.
In a similar vein, while stunts work well in the ‘real world’, there is untapped potential in the online space, with the likes of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) that can blend social, PR, and content in very exciting ways. ARGs became popular in the early 2000s, and with new developments in augmented reality and UGC being more popular than ever, it’s likely that ARG will have a resurgence in 2024. This blend of real world and the gaming world could be the perfect way for brands to immerse their target audience in a storyworld, providing shared experiences for users and generating valuable earned media.
Generative AI could significantly alter the PR and comms industry by streamlining admin tasks, increasing productivity, and making work processes more efficient, freeing up our PR teams to do more creative and inspiring work. Still, as with every tool, it’s important to ensure quality input to guarantee quality output, and it’s the critical thinking and creativity that will still be essential for winning consumers’ hearts and minds.
Finally, we predict that influencer marketing will continue to grow in popularity, as consumers crave more authenticity from brands. We expect a boom in 2024 for partnerships with micro influencers and nano influencers as brands target more specific demographics. We expect brands to aspire to deeper, more meaningful influencer partnerships in the hope of fostering longer term relationships with consumers and media partners.