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 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.