This decade has been a chaotic blend of pandemic, social upheaval and seismic shifts in how we work, communicate and, well, live.
Communicators can confidently predict that the year ahead will be unpredictable. It will be full of a world that’s still figuring out how it emerges from generational upheaval into something new. It will demand communicators to sharpen their skills more than ever before: more agility, more listening to our audiences, more creativity.
There are also some broad-based trends we can expect into the new year, affecting everything from the mediums we utilize and the audiences we engage to the reasons why we communicate in the first place.
Internal and external comms continue to merge
Internal communications and PR used to be firmly separate disciplines, often ensconced in their own impenetrable silos.
The pandemic changed all that.
Even PR agencies are seeing demand for internal comms services in a way they never have before. Red Thread PR told PR Daily that up to half of their client work involves internal communications in some way.
Expect to see even more convergence in the year ahead. If you work in external comms, get ready to soft launch your messaging internally so they aren’t surprised by major public announcements. If you work in internal comms, be ready to align messaging across audiences and make sure every message can also appear in the media.
And maybe, consider making the case to leadership that they should not keep distinct internal and external comms functions at all, and unite their communications teams under one banner.
Social media enters a new era
Social media is dead. Long live social media!
All right, that may be a bit dramatic, but there’s no doubt that the era of social media in which Facebook, Instagram and Twitter dominated are long gone.
TikTok had seemed poised to be the 700-pound gorilla, but questions about its privacy policies and ties to China are seeing the app banned on a growing number od state-owned devices in the U.S., with the potential for a full ban still possible.
Is BeReal the next big thing? Mastodon? Post? Will Tumblr, Pinterest or Snap come roaring back? Or are we set to enter an increasingly fractured social media landscape, just as we’ve seen happen in traditional media?
We’re confident in counseling you once again to not trust any one social network to save you.
Influencer relations is the new media relations
Here’s a statement too obvious to even be its own heading: Traditional media continues to wither. This brings us no pleasure to report. Traditional media not only has been the bedrock of PR for more than a century, it’s also been vital to preserving a healthy democracy and civic life in the U.S. But as newsrooms continually cut past the bone, we must look elsewhere for all these functions.
Enter the influencer.
It’s expected that brand spending with influencers will increase by more than 23% in 2023. Additionally, 80% of marketers found influencer marketing effective or very effective, and 71% say it produces better leads than other forms of marketing.
As social networks become more unpredictable, it’s better to invest in personalities who can bring your message to their vast audiences wherever they go. But remember that you can’t treat this as a simple add spend. You’re working with a person, and cultivating that relationship is just as vital as it ever was with journalists.
Short-form video becomes more vital
Short-form video is becoming an increasingly key part of any communications strategy. From talent recruitment on TikTok and the aforementioned TikTok/Instagram Reels/YouTube Shorts to videos on intranets and beyond, the visual storytelling and personal touch that video can offer is only becoming more and more critical, especially when speaking to Gen Zers who grew up on YouTube. In fact, 95% of all kids 13-17 use YouTube,.and the cohort as a whole spends about 5% of their waking hours on TikTok. Both Millennials and Zoomers indicate a preference for video under 1 minute long, so we need to get clever about tight storytelling.
When we speak to communicators, many are indicating they hope to bulk up their multimedia capabilities in the next year, whether that’s hiring new FTEs, contractors, or cross-training themselves.
If you don’t yet have a strategy for video, 2023 is the time to get with the program.
But writing is still in high demand
Yes, you need to add new skills to your arsenal. But the foundational skill of communications is — and will likely remain for some time — the written word. Time and again in surveys, communicators site it as the most important ability for new hires and an area where they themselves hope to grow their own skills. In fact, 40% of respondents to Ragan’s Communications Benchmark survey said they hoped to receive training in writing in the next year.
Whether it’s writing brand journalism, a good old fashioned press release, a moving pitch or even just a well-penned email, continue to find ways to grow your writing skill to thrive in this industry.
A sense of purpose
Arguably the biggest permanent change from 2020 that continues on to this day is the growing need for corporations to show what and who they stand for.
Both employees and consumers are increasingly demanding organizations that stand up for rights for Black and brown people, abortion rights, LGBTQ causes, the environment and climate change, and more.
And it isn’t enough to issue a “thoughts and prayers” statement or change your avatar to a black square. No, organizations are increasingly being pushed to take concrete actions, from their benefits to their charitable causes and even political donations,
Communicators in the next year will need to continue to step up to determine what causes they need to take a stand on how to achieve real change and which causes they’re better off staying silent in.
This is a test of our skills as listeners and advisors as much as communicators. But we’re up to the task.