What’s Up So Far in 2023? Reflecting on PR, Communications, and Marketing Trends

We’re more than halfway through 2023, which means it’s the per­fect time to see how PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tion trends are pro­gress­ing. Were they what we expect­ed? What new trends have emerged?

Check out indus­try-wide forces impact­ing us all as well as what the Bell­mont Part­ners’ team is seeing.

Overall 2023 PR, Communications and Marketing Trends

These are the six trends we see as most impact­ful for the gen­er­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try, affect­ing agen­cies like ours, free­lancers and in-house departments.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

There may nev­er have been more buzz around an inno­va­tion but one thing is for sure: AI is about to change the game for every­one inside and out­side the PR and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try. There are many, many pre­dic­tions about the impact AI will have, good, bad and scary, but the only thing we know for sure is that it’s like any oth­er new tech­nol­o­gy: how we col­lec­tive­ly decide to use it will deter­mine its impact on our every­day lives. Have fun, exper­i­ment cau­tious­ly and pay atten­tion to eth­i­cal and legal ramifications.

Social and Environmental Responsibility

Employ­ees and cus­tomers alike expect brands to be trans­par­ent about their social and envi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives. They’re tired of green­wash­ing, want true change and hope their time and dol­lars are going toward a brand that aligns with their per­son­al values.

New and Changing Social Platforms

Treat your social media man­ag­er to a cof­fee or a tea. Between Threads being launched and Twit­ter under­go­ing count­less changes (includ­ing being rebrand­ed as “X”), exist­ing plat­forms are more rapid­ly chang­ing than they have in the last decade. Plus, there’s BeRe­al, the plat­form Gen Z is flock­ing to, and we’ve only begun to tap the pos­si­bil­i­ties of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty (AR) and vir­tu­al real­i­ty (VR) in the Meta­verse and beyond.

Video

Video con­tent has pro­gressed to the point where even novices can cre­ate high-qual­i­ty snip­pets through tools like Can­va and Tik­Tok. Video is no longer a “nice to have” but a strate­gic invest­ment across every com­mu­ni­ca­tions channel.

Authentic and Educational Content

Social media, email mar­ket­ing, web­sites and yes – media rela­tions – are all chan­nels where audi­ences expect brands to be authen­tic, offer help­ful and edu­ca­tion­al con­tent and to be enter­tain­ing. It’s a tall order for con­tent cre­ators, which leads us to the next trend.

Brands Need Content-Creating Machines

If it feels like your mar­ket­ing is a full-blown media pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny, you’re not alone. Con­tent is expect­ed to be fun­ny, help­ful, per­son­able and on-brand. Con­tent cre­ators are expect­ed to be expert writ­ers, pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers, illus­tra­tors, video­g­ra­phers and more. Teams are get­ting cre­ative with how to bal­ance these resource-inten­sive needs.

We asked our team what they see dur­ing their day-to-day and if it match­es these larg­er indus­try trends. Read on to see what they have to say!

Looking at the Economy and State of Work in 2023

First up is Bri­an Bell­mont, own­er and pres­i­dent of Bell­mont Part­ners. As not only a PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­al but also a busi­ness own­er, Bri­an keeps a close eye on larg­er eco­nom­ic trends and work trends that impact not just our agency but our clients as well.

Brian’s take on 2023 trends are…

Where’s that recession?

“There’s been a ton of hype around an impend­ing reces­sion, but so far it hasn’t mate­ri­al­ized. Sure, some clients are proac­tive­ly stor­ing nuts for the win­ter to be pre­pared if the econ­o­my does take a turn for the worse, but for the most part we’re see­ing con­tin­ued con­fi­dence in the val­ue of devot­ing appro­pri­ate bud­gets to mar­ket­ing initiatives.

“It appears many orga­ni­za­tions are putting into action what they learned dur­ing the worst part of the pan­dem­ic: while it’s impor­tant to be as effi­cient as pos­si­ble with resources in a cri­sis, includ­ing mak­ing cuts when nec­es­sary, shut­ting off the mar­ket­ing spig­ot can inflict even more dam­age over the long term.”

BP Take­away: Be effi­cient with mar­ket­ing resources but keep mar­ket­ing for long-term brand growth.

Hybrid continues to thrive

“Despite pun­dits con­fi­dent­ly and con­stant­ly declar­ing that the hybrid work­place is dying or dead, I’m con­tin­u­ing to see signs of life. At Bell­mont Part­ners, we’ve set­tled into a very work­able mix of in-per­son and vir­tu­al that con­tin­ues to give us the flex­i­bil­i­ty we need to do our best work.

“Many of our clients are embrac­ing a sim­i­lar approach: some­times we’ll meet around a con­fer­ence room table, oth­er times we’ll hop on a Zoom, Teams or even old-fash­ioned phone call. Often, it’s a lit­tle of each – some peo­ple are in an office while oth­ers are call­ing in from home.

“In my expe­ri­ence, the orga­ni­za­tions that are most suc­cess­ful with the hybrid approach are the ones who decide what each spe­cif­ic sit­u­a­tion needs and then do it. Flex­i­bil­i­ty is key. If it’s impor­tant to trav­el to an in-per­son trade show, no prob­lem. If we can tack­le a meet­ing by flip­ping on a web­cam, that’s great, too. Yes, we’re con­tin­u­ing to look for more oppor­tu­ni­ties to get our team togeth­er in real life, but we’re doing it because we want to and not because we have to.”

BP Take­away: Hybrid is here to stay and we like it that way.

Generative AI in 2023

Direc­tor, Megan Derkey, has been keep­ing an eye on gen­er­a­tive AI. We’ve all seen count­less head­lines about Chat­G­PT and oth­er tools that will change the way we work.

Megan says about the new technology…

“We’ve been talk­ing about it for a while, but Chat­G­PT and gen­er­a­tive AI has been a big deal so far this year, and I’d expect we’ll keep hear­ing about it for the rest of the year. The oppor­tu­ni­ties are excit­ing and we’ve seen a lot of neat things that peo­ple are doing with AI both from a graph­ic and image per­spec­tive as well as con­tent generation.

“At Bell­mont Part­ners, we’re approach­ing it from an eth­i­cal stand­point and using it when it makes sense from an effi­cien­cy or brain­storm­ing per­spec­tive, but we will not use AI-gen­er­at­ed con­tent in any client deliv­er­ables at this time.

You nev­er know what the far future holds, but we just don’t see AI doing our jobs for us any­time soon!”

BP Take­away: AI might be here to stay and while play­ing around with it is encour­aged – it is always worth it to take a beat and make sure you’re using it ethically.

2023 Change Management Communications Trends

Vice Pres­i­dent, Bre­an­na Welke, has found her year filled with change. Change com­mu­ni­ca­tions, that is.

On the increased need, she says…

“One com­mu­ni­ca­tion need, or trend, that I’m see­ing with a large num­ber of our clients is guid­ance and sup­port on how to effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate through change. Whether it is a change in strate­gic direc­tion, change in lead­er­ship, or even small­er changes in work­place poli­cies, find­ing ways to not only com­mu­ni­cate those changes, but more impor­tant­ly the ‘why’ in a way that makes sense and res­onates with your key audi­ences is essen­tial, yet often­times very challenging.

“For many of the CEOs or C‑Suite exec­u­tives that we work with, often they are so close to what is hap­pen­ing and the deci­sions that are being made that they some­times can’t see what’s miss­ing for those that haven’t been involved in the con­ver­sa­tion from the begin­ning. Or, some­times, they may have com­mu­ni­cat­ed the change and are con­fused about why their key audi­ences don’t see the big pic­ture and under­stand why these changes are being made for the bet­ter­ment of the organization.

“In these instances, an out­side per­spec­tive is crit­i­cal in mak­ing sure you are deliv­er­ing the right mes­sage at the right time to not only be suc­cess­ful, but more impor­tant­ly, to get your key stake­hold­ers on board and sup­port­ing the new direction.”

BP Take­away: Take a step back from the trees to see the for­est to be able to effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate the “why” dur­ing orga­ni­za­tion­al changes.

2023 Content Marketing Trends

Mad­die Michaud is Bell­mont Part­ners’ Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Strate­gist and has been nerd­ing out about all the new tech­nolo­gies and plat­forms sup­port­ing content.

More Platforms Mean More Strategy

“This update feels extra time­ly after Meta releas­ing Twitter’s com­peti­tor, Threads. Social media man­agers and con­tent mar­ket­ing man­agers are work­ing to fig­ure out how to add yet anoth­er plat­form to their MarTech stack.

“Busi­ness­es must deter­mine what social media plat­forms are most ben­e­fi­cial to them as they work to reach audi­ences, espe­cial­ly since the “pay to play” mod­el is increas­ing­ly becom­ing the most effec­tive way to gain traction.

“I’m see­ing brands go one of two direc­tions: embrace it all or scale down. Some, like Lush, are aban­don­ing social media alto­geth­er. Does this sig­nal the end of social? Not at all. In fact, I’m heart­ened that brands are start­ing to under­stand that it’s more impor­tant to spend extra time to deeply under­stand their audi­ences and then choose the chan­nel that best meets their needs.

“Con­tent mar­ket­ing can include social media, email mar­ket­ing, SEO, PR and more. Hav­ing a cohe­sive mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is more crit­i­cal than ever to bal­ance the increase in con­tent gen­er­a­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion and measurement.

Over­all, I’m see­ing the most suc­cess when brands:

  • Dou­ble down on their mar­ket­ing strengths
  • Con­tin­ue to learn more about their tar­get audiences
  • Strate­gi­cal­ly invest in new chan­nels where their audi­ences are”
Storytelling is Forever

“Yes, the dis­tri­b­u­tion meth­ods are get­ting more com­plex, but what makes for good con­tent nev­er changes. We’re wired for sto­ries and we always will be. Don’t be afraid to tune out the noise and focus on telling the sto­ry of your cus­tomers, answer­ing their ques­tions and shar­ing brand sto­ries. These tac­tics will always res­onate with audi­ences and will nev­er go out of style.

Brands that have a sol­id con­tent machine that is cen­tered on meet­ing cus­tomer needs and sto­ry­telling will thrive, no mat­ter what plat­forms they choose.”

BP Take­away: Don’t pan­ic when new plat­forms or tools come out. Take your time, research if your audi­ence can be served by being on them and pro­ceed when you’re ready. No mat­ter what, ALWAYS put your cus­tomer at the cen­ter of your mar­ket­ing content.

2023 Social Media Trends

Bell­mont Part­ners’ Social Media Strate­gist, Sarah Schiltz, dou­bles down on the “don’t pan­ic” social advice and dives deep­er into how brands can choose the best plat­form for them, and what’s the right time for them to adopt new ones.

“It can feel over­whelm­ing when new plat­forms are pop­ping up, seem­ing­ly overnight, and the plat­forms we already know are con­stant­ly chang­ing. But just because some­thing is new, doesn’t mean you need to jump on it right away. Take a step back and watch how things unfold. Using Threads as an exam­ple, imme­di­ate­ly it felt like brands were estab­lish­ing a pres­ence and post­ing fre­quent­ly, but it didn’t take long for the excite­ment to die down. In just a few weeks, a plat­form that felt like the next big thing all of a sud­den wasn’t. It’s hard to pre­dict, so in a world where we already have so many projects and pri­or­i­ties, don’t feel like you have to add even more to your already-full plate. My sug­ges­tion? Lurk for a bit. Don’t make any big strate­gic deci­sions before any dust set­tles. With Twit­ter becom­ing “X”, algo­rithms chang­ing, and the future of Threads still up in the air, it adds a lot of stress to sud­den­ly com­plete­ly piv­ot before you tru­ly know what exact­ly you’re piv­ot­ing to. The change and evo­lu­tion of social is some­thing that makes it such an excit­ing world to live in, but it also means we often have to remind our­selves that it’s okay to sit back and just watch.

“As far as the plat­forms we already know and (maybe) love? Don’t for­get about them! If you’re track­ing your suc­cess and still find­ing it on Face­book, Insta­gram, LinkedIn, or even Tik­Tok and Twit­ter (or should we switch to X now?), know­ing when and how the algo­rithms are chang­ing is key. At the time this ques­tion is being answered and this blog goes live, things could be dif­fer­ent! One thing we know – organ­ic suc­cess is hard­er and hard­er to come by. More and more, mon­ey will need to be spent if you want to reach and engage with new audi­ences. How­ev­er, it doesn’t need to be expen­sive. As AI gets more advanced (AI has already been a major play­er on social media for years!), audi­ence tar­get­ing will be even more help­ful in expand­ing your reach in the most bud­get-friend­ly way pos­si­ble. The oppor­tu­ni­ties and fun to be had is endless.”

BP Take­away: In an increas­ing­ly “pay to play” world, don’t get dis­tract­ed by the shiny new object. If you’re still find­ing suc­cess on “old” plat­forms, keep going! Brand recog­ni­tion and cus­tomer engage­ment is valu­able and should nev­er be sac­ri­ficed light­ly. And don’t for­get to have fun!

What Incoming Young Professionals are Thinking About AI and ChatGPT

Last but cer­tain­ly not least, we have our 2023 sum­mer intern, Hope Hansen. We asked Hope what she’s see­ing as some­one about to enter the field full-time and what trends she’s most inter­est­ed in following.

AI imme­di­ate­ly comes to mind and Hope says…

“Chat­G­PT is an incred­i­ble emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy, but for a sec­ond it made me doubt my choice to major in Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I am pas­sion­ate about copy­writ­ing, but I have heard things from peers about Chat­G­PT becom­ing the sole, most relied-upon copy­writ­ing tool.

“After research­ing its capa­bil­i­ties and try­ing it out myself, I don’t think AI will replace copy­writ­ers or PR pro­fes­sion­als. I think we will always need humans to proof­read, keep out inap­pro­pri­ate infor­ma­tion and fix key mes­sages that Chat­G­PT doesn’t know (unless we tell it).

“Humans often have empa­thet­ic cre­ativ­i­ty that robots nev­er will. As com­mu­ni­ca­tors, we are all about telling sto­ries, and we’ll nev­er be able to tell Chat­G­PT all of the facts and feel­ings that come from a sto­ry min­ing ses­sion or per­son­al con­nec­tion with a client. AI can only do what we tell it to do, so let’s take the lead on doing the job our­selves and use AI sup­ple­men­tal­ly for boosts of inspi­ra­tion when we need it.”

BP Take­away: The next gen­er­a­tion of writ­ers and strate­gists are going to under­stand how to use new tech­nol­o­gy to get more and bet­ter work done but aren’t wor­ried about being replaced.

2023 has been one of the most excit­ing years in com­mu­ni­ca­tions yet. And while we feel like we say that every year, we can’t wait to see what’s yet to come! We’ll be stay­ing on top of the trends, adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies when they make sense and always lead­ing with authen­tic, eth­i­cal and client-cen­tered storytelling.

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