We all know public relations plays a huge role in helping elevate, protect and build a brand. But that role continues to evolve. Over the last year, we’ve seen a shift in how our clients approach their communications plans as their key stakeholders continue to change their expectations when it comes to what and how messages are communicated from a company. To get a pulse on what we’re seeing across industries as we enter a new year, we asked our team what topics or themes have been rising to the top of their discussions as they help their clients develop their marketing communications plans for 2023.
Here are five trends that have risen to the top across the board:
1. Connecting the dots between external and internal audiences—Looking back even just a few short years ago, internal communications and external communications used to be seen by organizations as separate initiatives, often managed by separate teams with separate plans and strategies. Fast forward to today and that is no longer the case as businesses of all sizes and all industries continue to recognize the importance of consistent and authentic communications with all their stakeholders — both internal AND external. The line between internal and external communications has been blurring for some time now, but we’ve seen the merger of the two more than ever as organizations continue to be driven by the desire for greater transparency and authenticity. When you are being transparent, it makes the lines of “internal and external” more irrelevant, as all audiences are equally important. There is no doubt about it, the silos are coming down brick by brick as organizations see the growing importance of aligning messaging both internally and externally ensures everyone is singing from the same songbook.
2. When it comes to communications, it’s back to the basics—Whether it’s due to the pandemic, or in part to leaders recognizing the importance clear and consistent communications plays in every aspect of the business, many of our clients have shifted from the “just get it done” mentality to taking a good hard look at what is working and what isn’t when it comes to reaching key stakeholders. Whether that is reexamining and updating crisis communications plans, looking at internal processes for communicating throughout the organization, or rethinking how to communicate with external stakeholders, we’ve seen an increase in our clients looking to re-evaluate how they are communicating with their key audiences.
“Now that things are feeling more stable, there is a growing desire to take a look at what is working and what isn’t when it comes to communicating with key audiences,” said Johanna Holub, Account Supervisor and Data + Insights Lead. “Whether that is re-evaluating how effective their internal communications channels are to evaluating how well the content on their website is performing, it’s been a year to reset and refocus on the basics and asking, what are we doing well, and what can we do better.”
Senior Account Executive, Amy Moon agrees. “In a recent meeting, our client shared that their focus for 2023 is to ensure a strong foundation by making sure the right pieces are in place as they continue to grow their company. One of those key pieces is how they are communicating with both their internal and external stakeholders.”
3. Focusing on culture—Company culture continues to be a significant topic for employer brands, for both internal and external audiences. Company leaders are elevating their discussions on the subject, and they’re talking about it with more passion and more authenticity than in the past. At the same time, the most engaged and successful leaders are recognizing and consistently reinforcing one of the most important elements of a thriving culture: empathy. It’s not a new trend – we wrote about the emerging focus on empathy two years ago. But as we all continue to navigate the numerous professional and personal hurdles in our way, from the pandemic to a looming recession, empathy is playing a more critical role in maintaining a company’s culture than ever before.
4. Strengthening and feeding owned platforms—It may seem overly obvious at this point, but it’s worth saying again: social media continues to be key when it comes to connecting and engaging with key audiences and to build loyalty and preference for a brand. However, how consumers use social media and their expectations of brands on social platforms continues to change. We’ve been working with our clients to identify effective ways to not only strengthen their social platforms, but also in developing a steady cadence of content that is engaging and consistent across all marketing efforts.
“When the pandemic took hold, we pivoted more toward helping our clients strengthen a rare thing they felt in control of: owned media,” says President Brian Bellmont. “Today, we’re seeing the lasting effects of our pandemic efforts as clients continue to focus on and devote additional resources to ensuring websites, newsletters, email marketing, podcasts and more are more effectively engaging with their audiences than ever before.”
Content Marketing Strategist Maddie Michaud agrees. “I’ve been seeing a huge push toward building and ensuring cohesive brand narratives across marketing channels, especially with clients who have digital and brick-and-mortar presences. Clients are working to make sure their customers have the same experience, no matter how they interact with the brand.”
And when it comes to feeding owned platforms, video continues to be a top priority.
“Social media platforms have been prioritizing video content in their algorithms, and people are consuming it as fast as it’s produced,” said Stacey Robertson, Account Strategist. “It’s become an incredibly effective way to communicate a brand’s story, gain brand awareness and loyalty.”
5. Continued focus on influencers—For brands looking to connect with consumers of any age – but especially millennials and Gen Z – working with influencers can be one solid tactic to build awareness and preference. This helps build third-party credibility for brands and reach more potential customers.
Account Supervisor Sara Grasmon has been helping clients navigate the world of influencers. “As influencer relations continues to be a top priority for several of our clients in the tourism and events space, we’ve been helping them establish successful partnerships. By setting clear goals and being transparent about what we’re able to offer from the get go, we can work with each influencer to determine if the partnership will be a good fit. Upfront, honest communication is key in navigating the world of influencer relations and developing successful, mutually beneficial partnerships.”
While there are likely more changes ahead when it comes to communicating with your key stakeholders, these are just a few insights to keep in mind as you continue to refine your plans for the year ahead. And as always, we love to hear from you as well. What trends are you seeing when it comes to marketing communications strategies in 2023?