The 2023 PR trends are here! With another exciting year behind us, we asked PR professionals to share their predictions for the top public relations trends and challenges for the year ahead.
With survey feedback from 100 PR pros, the top 3 trends for both PR trends and PR challenges clearly emerged.
Read on to discover what they are and learn what PR trends they think should be left behind in 2022. You can then download the full report to see our detailed findings.
#1 – Social Responsibility (31%)
The clear winner has emerged: Social Responsibility, which encompasses the big 3 initiatives of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), CSR (corporate social responsibility), and ESG (environmental, social, and governance).
It’s no longer enough for brands to give a simple nod to their corporate values, ethics, and their responsibility to their communities. Consumers are quick to call out companies that aren’t sincere in their efforts and the effect can truly damage a brand’s reputation.
💬 Tonya McKenzie, PR & Leadership Consultant, CEO of Sand&Shores:
“Social Responsibility in brands has been growing in significance since Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers took a knee. That is a situation that forced many organizations to take a stand, one way or another.
Social responsibility increased in prevalence after the George Floyd incident because it put brands and organizations in the spotlight to see where they stood. When you look at long-standing brands, like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, it requires you to take notice of some of the things that they have done to maintain their status as a cult-favorite.
Being consistent about where they stand on issues is a big part of their brand and has led to their success. They have been able to build and strengthen deeply devoted relationships with their customer base. They set the standard for how smaller brands in the same industry function. Becoming performative has also been the downfall of many organizations.
You have to take a stand and be consistent about it. It should be authentic to your brand. Consumers have become much more socially conscious. So, it’s only natural that they have a desire for the companies that they spend their money on to do the same.”
This means brands must now dedicate some of their PR efforts to transparently share how they’re making a positive impact on the planet, on their employees, and in their customers’ communities.
#2 – AI and Technology (19%)
Almost 1 in 5 PR professionals selected AI and Technology as the top PR trend for 2023.
There is no doubt that the fast-growing capabilities of AI are going to have big implications for the PR industry in the years to come. While some may worry about how this could change the industry, many see technology as only improving the daily workflows for PR professionals.
💬 Matias Rodsevich, CEO of PRLab:
“Unfortunately, the PR field has much catching up to do with technology as there’s still a big chunk of how we work that relies on manual work, such as filling out spreadsheets. The biggest contribution of AI to our profession will be in identifying journalists that could have an interest in our stories. This will help us increase our effectiveness when pitching and help us understand how to tailor our copy to the personalities and styles of the writers we’re in touch with.
In return, we’ll have more time to focus on creating news rather than spreading it, which will hopefully get us to a more strategic level within organizations.”
Imagine how AI can potentially assist teams with editor matches based on past articles, or find influencers that perfectly align with a brand. We know we can’t wait to see how AI and technology change the PR landscape.
#3 – Digital PR and Link Building (13%)
It’s getting harder and harder to decipher the boundaries between PR and digital marketing, as these two marketing spheres intertwine in ways that can amplify outcomes.
💬 Jennifer Grey, Digital PR Lead at Green Park Content:
“Drilling down into SEO, as the landscape matures we’re seeing that many leading sites in all verticals have top-notch onsite optimisation and a well-oiled onsite content machine, which means marketers are increasingly looking to off-page signals to differentiate themselves from the competition in Google’s eyes. As our understanding of what links mean develops, it’s also easier to offer meaningful strategic recommendations and reporting on our activity than it ever has been before, moving away from siloed quantitative metrics and measuring our impact as part of holistic organic growth.
Senior Digital PRs are also increasingly working as a part of full-service agency stacks, opening up opportunities to connect seamlessly with other specialisms including traditional PR, offline advertising and social media.
As we move from an understanding of ‘marketing channels’ to a conception of branded ecosystems, from offering users performance-driven content through a variety of disciplines to engaging their trust and familiarity rather than just their awareness, Digital PR has been at the front of the cross-channel integration revolution. And who wouldn’t want to engage with an industry that’s about getting all eyeballs on you?”
Link building is a prime example, where public relations teams can now point to clear outcomes like web traffic. Many PRs expect this marriage of PR and digital marketing strategies to continue into 2023 and be a major public relations trend.
Other 2023 PR Trends
Other new public relations trends that came up in the survey were:
▪️Data-driven PR that presents clients and the C-suite with clearly tracked ROI
▪️New social media platforms that will continue to grow in popularity
▪️Community management tactics that foster a positive community
▪️The return of face-to-face interviews
▪️Growing integration of PR software tools
Just like PRs love to look towards future PR trends, they also like to kick some of the prior year’s trends to the curb.
From the same survey, here is what PR pros said they want to leave back in 2022.
#1 – Mass Media Pitching (30%)
Almost a third of PR pros want to see mass media pitching left behind in 2022. The growing consensus is that in order to stand out in today’s crowded PR arena, it’s imperative that pitches are small-batch and custom-tailored to just the right media contacts.
💬 Beth Nunnington, VP of digital PR and content at Journey Further:
“There are more PR practitioners and fewer journalists than ever before. Taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach is likely to be ineffective as journalists are looking for relevant, engaging content that is tailored to their publication.
Journalists also have KPIs on traffic and engagement, so they are under pressure to publish content that is of good quality and is going to capture their target audience’s attention. A generic email won’t stand out in their inbox. Quality over quantity coverage always wins whether it’s for brand building PR or digital PR to generate links. By taking the time to really get to know the target media, and spend time nurturing conversations and crafting a really tailored pitch, you’re likely to see a higher percentage of higher quality results.”
As most PR professionals prefer a smaller network of close media contacts to a mass group of casual contacts, it’s no surprise this tops the PR anti-trend list for 2023.
#2 – Newsjacking (21%)
According to PR pros, trying to piggyback off of trending news topics is just so 2022.
💬 Michelle Garrett, Digital PR consultant:
“If you are going to use newsjacking, I’d say to take care and really think it through from all angles. Your very first consideration should be: is this insensitive? If your answer is yes—or even possibly—you should move on. The potential damage it may cause to your brand is too significant to risk. Then, consider if it’s a fit for your brand. If it’s too much of a stretch, it may not get the desired results.”
Many have come to realize that it’s a risky game, not only because trending topics can disappear from the public sphere as quickly as they enter it, but because great sensitivity usually accompanies breaking news.
PR professionals have decided they’re out of this game for 2023.
#3 – Online Events (16%)
PR professionals are ready to interact face-to-face once again after the pandemic years and are trying to maintain event normalcy through online-hosted conferences and meetings.
While the usefulness of some online meetings will remain, many expect things to return full-swing to IRL events.
💬 Gini Dietrich, Founder and Author of Spin Sucks:
“When the pandemic hit and we all sheltered in place, we had no other option to meet, greet, and learn outside of virtual events. They worked gloriously well because they gave us the opportunity to continue business somewhat as normal while sticking within the confines of governmental regulations. But, as vaccines became available and mask requirements were lifted, we found that we enjoyed being out and about with our people, in person. There will always be a place for virtual gatherings, but the online event/conference/trade show is slowly floating away because we prefer our IRL avatars.”
Other 2023 PR Anti-Trends
What other things do PRs want to leave behind in 2022?
▪️Global priority that overlooks local focus
▪️Paid media coverage that doesn’t carry the credibility of earned media
▪️Attempting viral campaigns, versus focusing on solid PR tactics
▪️Press releases and online newsrooms. These are clear signs of mass pitching, and PRs are turning to custom messaging as an alternative.
The big PR trend takeaways are that in 2023 brands need to walk the social responsibility walk and PR professionals need to explore and evolve with the new PR technologies that emerge.
PRs will also need to eliminate mass pitching from their pitching plans if they haven’t done so already, and many will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that newsjacking can be left behind in 2022.
Along with the 2023 PR trends, we asked PR professionals to share their expectations for the biggest PR challenges they will face in 2023. Their responses included:
#1 – Standing Out in an Ever-Expanding Sea of PRs and Pitches
The competition is fierce for PRs looking to stand out in the crowded media landscape. Some of the responses that point to this challenge are:
▪️“Breaking through the noise in inboxes.”
▪️“Fewer journalists to pitch to.”
▪️“It already feels like a challenge, but competing for earned coverage in a landscape that is increasingly – both in social media and traditional media – a pay-to-play experience.”
▪️“The ability to keep the audience’s attention in the growing communication noise. The ability to conduct communication that will combine a wide audience reach with high substantive value.”
#2 – Lack of New Media Connections
The pandemic years made a significant impact on the ability of PRs to create and nurture media relationships. Some survey responses that note this challenge:
▪️“Creating genuine relationships. People are interested in making things go viral or being paid for a ‘one-off’.”
▪️“Rebuild networking face-to-face.”
▪️“The reduction in local journalists and outlets compounded with the distrust and possible downfall of Twitter. Twitter is a great place to connect PR professionals with journalists with little to no budget or time, and with the way the Twitter transition to Musk has been going, both PR professionals and journalists are leaving the platform or are preparing to leave.”
Some see opportunities with this particular challenge, however.
💬 Kristyna Mazankova, Head of PR in Europe, BTC Inc:
“A few years ago, PR was turning its focus on community first, building tribes, etc. I think brands are slowly coming to realize that this single-card bet approach is short-sighted. If you want to expand you need to reach out beyond the borders of your tribe, and certainly you must be out there if you are trying to protect your reputation. PR suffers from not being very well defined and its quests mistargeted. But it can also profit from this because it gives us – PR professionals – the space for improvisation and creativity.”
#3 -The Challenge to Impress Journalists
With fewer journalists and more competition, PR professionals will need to get ever more creative with their campaigns and pitches.
That challenge was identified with comments like:
▪️“Fewer journalists, the end of organic coverage, poor PR budgets.”
▪️“Breaking into the news cycle given major world events (e.g. politics, recession).”
▪️“Staying on trend as the current world of PR is shifting every day and it’s important to keep up or you will be left behind.”
Finally, we asked PR professionals to define what PR looks like as we enter this new year:
▪️“As companies continue to embrace digital technologies and social media, the understanding of what Public Relations is and what PR professionals do will shift. While traditional PR tactics such as media relations, pitching, and communications campaigns will remain important, Public Relations in the coming years will also require a strong focus on search optimization and data analytics.”
▪️“The definition of Public Relations will change to be more about positioning rather than just a brand’s public image. It’s about crafting a particular image to engage a particular audience and this will take businesses a few years to fully understand.”
▪️“More and more public relations merges with brand-building initiatives and social media activity. The importance of non-centralized, non-mainstream media outlets is on the rise and tactical positioning of brands and personal brands in specific, smaller outlets, like podcasts and/or social media profiles, shall gain prominence.”
▪️“Not much – it will all still go more towards digital. ESG, crisis communication, and strategic advisory will be the most important and valuable skills of PR professionals.”
▪️“I think the definition of PR is constantly evolving – but the core of its purpose being relationship-focused will continue to prove as its main differentiator to marketing.”
You can read even more responses in the complete report.
Now armed with the collective wisdom of PR professionals like you, we know you’re on target to meet the PR trends and challenges ahead of you in 2023.
As you evolve your PR workflows to address them, Prowly is here to support you with its PR automation software. It’s designed to make your work more efficient, whether you’re trying to impress journalists with a compelling pitch or track the success of a recent PR campaign. You can count on Prowly to provide the essential tools needed to boost your PR performance and adapt to the new reality of 2023.
Our survey was conducted on a sample of 100 PR practitioners and was distributed at the 2022 ICON Conference, the Missing Link event, in popular PR communities and groups, and as a query on the HARO platform.