The PR Industry is in Solution Mode for 2023

It has been an unprecedented two years for the world since 2020. For businesses globally, it's been a test of resilience that only the most dynamic have passed.

The public relations industry — like the proverbial bamboo, bending with the wind but never breaking — adapted to these circumstances with grit and ingenuity.

In 2023 we will continue to see more disruptive changes in the PR landscape that will be fueled by global social, economic and environmental flux. Here are my observations on 2023 trends in the PR space.

The Future is Data

All growth-focused organizations have been pivoting to a data-driven approach for better business outcomes.

Big data and data analytics will take center stage this year, and that will mean laser-sharp insights into consumer behavior and, consequently, meaningful messaging and hyperpersonalized customer service. Data-powered insights also will help PR consultants do their homework better. And well-researched, statistically backed pitches will not only resonate more strongly with audiences but will be preferred by media outlets.

So, from mapping media and identifying the right audience to tracking various channels and utilizing appropriate metrics to understand the reach and impact of a campaign, data will play a critical role in informed decision-making and outreach amplification.

Tech Territory Beckons

2023 could be the year that PR practitioners become masters of the exciting, but still largely unexplored, terrain of New Age technology.

Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and machine learning are waiting to be adopted and optimized.

AI will be leveraged as tools that help get a closer look into customers’ behavior and habits. PR consultancies also will take to using AI to automate scheduling, data mining and personalization tasks.

With AR and VR, PR professionals will work on helping their clients build brand stories that audiences can “experience.” These technologies will allow PR innovators to push boundaries and create experiential campaigns that might have been written off as fanciful ideas even a few years ago. It will be a shift from story-telling to story-living. And imagine what that could do for media engagement. I am talking virtual reality tours of new stores, product trials, celebrity interviews. The possibilities are endless.

Social Media Forever

Social media will remain one of the most effective tools in the PR arsenal, especially with most campaigns now being integrated.

LinkedIn will remain important in 2023 to showcase thought leadership content and to develop professional relationships.

With Twitter in a sticky patch with Elon Musk’s “free speech” policies, other microblogging sites, such as Koo, might be ones to watch to fill the vacuum. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, BeReal and TikTok (outside India) will continue ruling the roost as nonconventional marketing content curators.

The current generation of consumers expects brands to be more transparent on social media; they want leaders to have a personal presence on social media channels. 2023 will see PR experts guiding business leaders to use social media more frequently, proactively and eloquently to share brand stories, show transparency and build consumer connections.

At the same time, social media crisis management will also become a major focus area. Given the free-for-all nature of social media, brands will need critical guidance from PR teams on managing any misinformation or miscommunication that can damage their reputation.

Health Is Wealth

Over the past two years, the pandemic put the spotlight on the importance of health and healthcare communication.

Healthcare will be among the top PR priorities in 2023, with private health brands seeking advice to create, manage and implement communication strategies — across platforms and geographies — to build trust and brand reputation.

Even government health agencies will turn their attention to pressing PR requirements.

Connecting with audiences using well-conceived, relevant and sustainable communication strategies is key to influencing behavior change that results in better health choices. Government healthcare consultancies will look at achieving this purpose with the help of PR firms that can craft and communicate the right message to the right audience at the right time to promote positive behavior change. PR expertise will be especially helpful in driving health campaigns with smart, human-centric digital tools. Think social media, apps, chatbots. Tools that not only engage the audience but also help mine the lifeblood of the Tech Age — data.

Purpose Is Still Priority

The emphasis on purpose over profit is here to stay. And rightly so, given the turbulent state of affairs in our world today.

PR organizations will keep strengthening Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) support for their clients.

The ICCO World PR Report 2022 showed that sustainability and environment top the social issues list for PR leaders in the APAC region, followed by diversity and social inclusion and economic inequality and poverty. In fact, WE Communication’s April 2022 research found that when global business leaders were asked to name the top three actions brands should take to address climate change, 69% of survey respondents said brands should invest in projects that protect the jobs and livelihoods of communities most impacted by climate change.
So, the spotlight will be on an intersection between the E and S of ESG.
PR advisors will have to guide brands to not just focus on their environmental priorities, like reducing their carbon footprint and achieving net-zero goals, but also to adopt and nurture diverse and inclusive outlooks, practices and spaces.

Consumers today are acutely aware that diversity and inclusion must be applied in theory and practice, and they expect brands to follow this. Monitoring and advising brands on including people from different ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds in their ecosystems will be a major lookout for PR consultants.

Grasp Geopolitical Shifts

The pandemic in 2020 and the more recent escalation in the Russo-Ukrainian war was an example of the domino effect that one disaster can have on the entire world order.

COVID-19 broke people, health systems and businesses. The ongoing war has impacted inflation across various parts of the world and triggered a global energy crisis.

At a time like this, brands often need quick solutions to handle situations born out of these challenges. For this, they will need to understand shifts in geopolitics and react and act meaningfully. PR consultants will play a key role in enabling their clients to do this.

So, PR in 2023 will be about understanding both local and global social, economic and geopolitical affairs. From this understanding, PR leaders will deploy integrated services like public affairs, digital marketing and brand consulting to develop and roll out campaigns that will be an intersection of different kinds of media and communication channels and will have a 360-degree impact.

In Conclusion

There is a reason Bill Gates famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”

It is because PR professionals have it in their DNA to find solutions. The more challenging the problem, the more ingenuous the solution.

Whether it’s mastering data analytics or taming the wild, wild tech territory; whether it is acing social media tools or fighting healthcare problems; whether it is keeping brands on the ESG track or nailing the integrated solutions approach, the PR industry is equipped to succeed. So, hello and welcome, 2023! We are ready for you.

January 25, 2023

Nitin Mantri
Regional Executive Managing Director for Asia-Pacific, WE and Group CEO, Avian WE