Albert Einstein once said: The only constant in the universe is change. So, what we can predict with certainty is that the coming year is unpredictable. The past few years have been an absurd mix of social upheaval, pandemics, and seismic shifts in the way we work, communicate and live. In a world in transition to something new, communicators are more required than ever to sharpen their skills: more agility, more focus, more know-how, more creativity. Without being able to predict the future, there are several trends that we can expect to see impacting all areas of communications.
1. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Probably surprising, but true: there are still companies (and especially entrepreneurs!) considering social responsibility as part of their marketing strategy. In fact, however, passivity, good intentioned goals or individual actions are far from sufficient and in the foreseeable future no brand will survive without an authentic and transparent sustainability strategy. No matter whether DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), CSR (corporate social responsibility) or ESG (environmental, social and governance): brands that are not sincerely in their efforts are exposed by consumers in a very short time with devastating effects for their reputation. This means that companies must spend a significant part of their communication activities to communicate transparently on how they want to positively influence the planet, their employees and society.
„Customers and employees are less tolerant towards delays or inaccuracies in communicating decisions and activities.“
2. CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS
Good crisis communication has always been important. Until a few years ago, however, criticism could sometimes be sat out or „countered“ with a simple statement. Today, in view of constantly changing attitudes and norms, communication professionals must be prepared to react more quickly and comprehensively to crises and to anticipate public opinion. Customers and employees are less tolerant towards delays or inaccuracies in communicating decisions and activities. To maintain their reputation and build trust companies must be willing to provide timely and accurate information.
3. AI & TECHNOLOGY
Communication professionals who have so far held back when it comes to new technologies and AI should have woken up rudely at the latest with the launch of ChatGPT at the end of last year. AI-based technologies have already been used for multiple tasks such as automating repetitive processes or processing large amounts of data to generate insights for years. What is slightly new on the other is that AI does not stop at creative areas such as text creation, illustration, interior design, and campaign creation previously “dominated by humans”. There is no doubt that the rapidly expanding capabilities of AI will have a major impact on the communications industry in the years to come. The winners will be those who do not see the new helpers as a threat, but as an opportunity to improve their skills and daily work processes.
„…experts are predicting an increasingly fragmented social media landscape just like we’ve seen with traditional media.“
4. SOCIAL MEDIA
Even the last PR manager has now understood that social media is an essential part of a successful communication strategy. Nevertheless: the times when Facebook, Instagram and Twitter dominated are long gone (and anyone who frowns now has already revealed themselves to come from an older generation). Facebook brings together the most users worldwide but is only used sporadically by many. Instagram has lost a lot of its coolness over the years and Twitter… yeah, who knows what Twitter will become. While TikTok appears to be well on its way to becoming the next giant on the horizon, experts are predicting an increasingly fragmented social media landscape just like we’ve seen with traditional media. The magic word of the decade is micro-targeting. Instead of focusing your campaigns on larger networks only, make yourself familiar with Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. and design tailor-made concepts for smaller (but highly affine!) target groups.
5. DATA, DATA, DATA
Although an inherent part in marketing for many years, an important trend in communications work will be the use of data-driven insights to create effective campaigns and adjust the communications strategy accordingly (keyword: inbound PR). With the wealth of data available, PR professionals will be able to strategize more effectively, track ROI, and target niche audiences more precisely than ever before. So, to stay ahead of the competition, communication professionals need to be able to understand machine learning, evaluate big data, and use the insights to optimize their campaigns. While this may seem like a daunting challenge to many, savvy PR professionals will have the know-how to get ahead in an increasingly dynamic and data-driven world.
6. VIDEO CONTENT
If you don’t yet feel fit in the field of video conception and creation, 2023 is the right time to change that (quickly). After all, the global appetite for video content is unstoppable and will continue to grow. In fact, 95% of all kids 13-17 use YouTube and the cohort spends about 5% of their waking hours on TikTok. The visual storytelling and personal touch that video can offer is only becoming more and more critical, especially in regard to short-form videos (1 minute long!) as the preferred format of Millennials and Generation Z. Creating videos that engage, educate, and entertain target audiences is therefore becoming an increasingly important part of every communication strategy, briefly, but above all cleverly.
„95% of all kids 13-17 use YouTube and the cohort spends about 5% of their waking hours on TikTok.“
7. INFLUENCER RELATIONS IS THE NEW MEDIA RELATIONS
Unfortunately, no news and still sad: the relevance of traditional media will continue to (rapidly) decrease. And the more the editorial departments are cut, the more communication work is shifted to other channels, primarily social media, and influencers. Despite the already acclaimed hype of recent years, brand spend with influencers is expected to increase by more than 23% in 2023. Additionally, 80% of marketers found influencer marketing to be effective or very effective, and 71% say it produces better leads than other forms of marketing. In this area, too, the use and evaluation of data will increase significantly and KPIs such as followers or reach will take a back seat to demographics and audience engagement and effective conversions. In this context, the use of micro-influencers will play a far more important role.
AI, data analysis, video production, podcast conception, new social networks, … Anyone who secretly hoped that life as a communication professional would be easier in 2023 should take a deep breath at this point. And yet, faced with a seemingly endless list of new trends and necessary skills, there is a very simple way out: step forward, one step at a time. Research, read, listen, learn. You don’t have to master all the skills, but you certainly do need to understand them properly to be able to use them in the best possible way. And it will help you grow not only as a professional but also as a person. Personal growth is a life purpose that you are never too old for.