With predictions of an economic crisis mean that it will be necessary to build engagement and motivation in teams, in order for companies to remain profitable, with rising costs and falling demand. In times of expected market collapse, withholding recruitment and even downsizing, employees will be looking around for last chances to find a more stable job. The challenge for HR managers and communications specialists will therefore be to retain talent so that they do not flee to larger, more crisis-proof employers in fear of an impending crisis.
In external communication, 2023 will be a year of shrinking teams in media publishing, which will increasingly be supported by external content created by PR specialists, among others. Consumers will look for authenticity and empathy in communications. The ways of working with journalists, increasingly working from home, will change. There will also be a return to face-to-face meetings with journalists who are keen to meet business leaders, experts and decision-makers face-to-face to source new and unique content. The coming year will also be an important one in terms of creating quality messages and personalised communication with the media.
Less journalists, more PR content
For more than a decade, employment in newsrooms of publishers in the United States, has fallen by more than ¼. In Poland, dismissals have been announced by major media publishers such as: Agora, RAS Polska, Burda, Bauer, ZPR Media. This means more and more content to be produced by increasingly smaller editorial teams. However, the reduction in print titles does not significantly reduce the demand for unique content, increasingly sucked up by online media. However, due to the shift to subscription-based payment systems for readers, content will need to be increasingly clickable and personalised for the particular medium. In their external communications, companies and PR specialists will place increasing emphasis on customised content, which is high-quality and developed for the medium.
Increased demand for unique content that digital media subscribers will pay for
More and more, the standard for communicating with the media will be a finished article instead of a press release, and a PR specialist’s work will be valued for knowing how to position content and deliver unique content. One-on-one, face-to-face interviews with managers, experts and board members will experience their comeback. Press conferences will become increasingly difficult to organise due to the fact that journalists will work more and more from their homes and seek content that other editors do not have. Industry media reaching a specific target group will also become increasingly important, needing more and more expert content from a particular area and shaping opinions within the industry.
Fight for talent vs. communication of acquisitions and restructuring
Internal communication aimed at employees will play an increasing role in the coming year. Its objective will be to calm the mood, ensuring a good climate of cooperation and team commitment in difficult times of market change. PR and communication will have to address the demanding expectations of employees, with the market turning into an employer’s market. Increasingly, PR will also be tasked with communicating restructuring processes, e.g. group redundancies and mergers and acquisitions. Communications related to company sales transactions will be directed at employees, customers and business partners.
The era of ESG and DEI is coming
2023 will most certainly be a year of challenges, as many years of communication focused on meeting the needs of the employee will have to be shifted to new tracks – change processes and restructuring processes. At the same time, such a change may not affect all industries and market sectors equally, as there is still likely to be strong demand for, for example, IT specialists, automation support engineers and other professions resistant to the downturn. This means that companies will need to diversify their communications and target specific groups more, as well as addressing inequalities in the way different employee groups are treated.
Similarly as in the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies, especially those who work for a foreign client, may still maintain growth, hence the expected migration of workers between industries, resistant and less resistant to crises and recessions. This could mean social delamination and immense pressure on company managers who will not be able to defend themselves against the crises. Globally, these trends are being addressed by communicators with new corporate social responsibility policies DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).
From a global perspective, PR is paying attention to issues of diversity and inclusivity within company structures. Openness to diversity can be an important, from a public relations perspective, way to attract and retain Generation Z employees and consumers. A growing number of respondents also say they want to buy from companies that act responsibly and show empathy.
Real implementation of accountability policies, not another greenwashing
This year, for may companies, will also carry the challenge of implementing a global ESG policy in companies, or fighting exclusion and implementing DEI. A very important issue in this regard will be to ensure that the new values and ways od doing things are truly implemented, as due to insincere intentions , inept implementation or misunderstanding of the true essence of ESG or DEI, many companies have failed and the image damage has been greater than the expected positive impact of the companies’ planned changes.
It is reasonable to assume that in many companies, communication in 2023 will also focus on the correct use and saving of resources, due to rising costs for e.g.: energy, consumables etc. Saving resources and climate-friendly operations is also a key tenet of ESG policies, which are now also being implemented by indigenous companies.
Data, data and more data as the basis of a PR strategy
A central role in communication in 2023 will certainly be played by data analytics. Communication strategies will increasingly be based on reporting and analysis of message effectiveness and evaluation of measurable effects of communication activities. For smaller PR teams, this will be an opportunity to use their own resources more effectively to communicate, for larger ones to extend the reach of influence over the organisation’s operations. Linking media and social media performance to data on, for example, share prices can lead to an increased role for PR in the organisation.
Authenticity – the most desirable word of the year
The theme for 2023 should be authenticity in communication which is why communication should be as natural as possible and as close to a face-to-face conversation as possible. Communication should deviate from the typical ‘marketing newspeak’, and it is not enough to talk about positive emotions, being together and creating touching stories, but it is also necessary to back up this communication with real actions. How brands engage in social activities and how active they are online or offline will translate into consumer trust. At the same time, it is to be expected that consumers will become increasingly demanding.
Customised activities with micro-influencers
Further development of influencer-based communication is to be expected. Many companies moving away from working with celebrities and shifting their activities to influencers, not only the biggest ones, but increasingly micro-influencers and those focused around specific specialised topics and industries. An influencer can increasingly be anyone whose opinions on the web are considered trustworthy. However, future good communication with influencers is based on one-two-one communication, with collaborations developed on the basis of customised activities created with a particular influencer, in their style and taking into account their way of communicating with their audience. In communication, micro-influencers will of course have a smaller social media reach, but they will reach a much more engaged audience who will continue to multiply, comment and pass on brand-relevant content and respond to the influencer’s activation with appropriate actions, such as buying a product, showing up at a certain place or watching a video.
New communication channels
Further development of social media channels is also to be expected. With the development of TikTok to the youngest audience, as well as completely new communication channels such as Discord.
Twitter remains the main and fastest channel for communication with the media and decision-makers. Journalists will also be more willing to use new platforms to connect with readers and audiences by creating podcasts, social media coverage etc. A greater importance will also be placed on brands’ own media channels, which will become increasingly active in building their digital presence. The second major communication channel in 2023 will be LinkedIn, which will increasingly reach out to users, becoming a daily news channel.
Planning campaigns for 2023 is already a challenge for communications managers and PR agencies. In the frenetic world of change, however, well thought-out campaigns based on good research and hard data will work well. Many companies will also opt for flexible campaigns that can evolve as the economic situation changes, and scalable ones that can be increased or decreased as the budget outlook changes.
All of this makes it worth inviting strategically strong entities that can anticipate and respond to changes in the market to co-create them.
Iwona Kubicz, Managing Director Procontent Communication
Expert and advisor in the field of corporate communication, crisis management and public affairs. Member of the Programme and Business Council of the University of Silesia in Katowice. Jury member in international competitions: IPRA Golden World Awards, Stevie International Bussiness Awards, Magellan Awards and the Złote Spinacze competition. She has coordinated projects for companies such as: Energa Operator, PKP Energetyka, Sanofi, Janssen, TEVA, Zentiva, Adamed Group, Polpharma, Kongsberg Automotive, Becton Dickinson, Disney Channel and infrastructure projects supporting R&D development in Poland.
This article appeared in the December issue of the “Business HUB” quarterly.