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2024 will be a game-changing year for PR, says Sourcecode’s Giles Peddy

The economic headwinds we have experienced for the last 18 months appear to be subsiding. Confidence, while fragile, appears to be returning. Yes, we still face many global macro challenges. Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, US/China tension, inflation, high-interest rates, and more national elections in 2024 than at any other time.

Despite this backdrop, we must remain resilient and proactive. This is not the time to remain in the shadows with your fingers crossed. This window of opportunity only comes around once every ten years or so. Recovery from economic slumps has been a slingshot for many new businesses and unprecedented leaps in technology.

To harness the opportunity, businesses must out-market their rivals. They must out-communicate. They must deliver more memorable experiences. They must be more creative. They must move at speed.

So, what are the waves of change that we must navigate in 2024?

1. Trust in media versus social media

The rapid rise in AI, deep fakes, and sham influencers has accelerated the mistrust in social media. Forrester Research found that social media’s reputation is disintegrating, with 81% of online adults in the US, UK, Spain, and Italy agreeing that there is a lot of fake news and misinformation on social media. Much of this mistrust resides on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and TikTok. LinkedIn remains a strong source of trust among B2B buyers.

The by-product of this social media mistrust is a resurgence in traditional media as a source of truth. News outlets including the BBC, The New York Times, The Times, The Guardian, and independent journalists will become increasingly important sources of trusted information. In 2024, doubling down on trusted media will be an important part of a brand's marketing strategy.

2. Employee Advocacy

The pandemic revealed the importance of internal communications. However, most businesses don’t invest enough time or resources in it. Gallup has found that only 23% of the global workforce is engaged with their employer, and 6 in 10 employees don’t care who they work for. This is costing the global economy $8.8 trillion a year. This is staggering when research shows that good employee experiences (EX) drive better business results and performance over time.

Yet, according to Forrester Research, EX will see funding and focus decline. Funding in the DEI function with an endorsed strategy and personnel dropped from 33% in 2022 to 27% in 2023. Forrester predicts this to drop to 20% in 2024. So, I’d urge companies to invest in EX in 2024. Long-term EX will pay dividends.

3. ESG remains important

The importance of ESG is not going anywhere. The recent COP28 agreement was welcome news, and the huge proportion of young people now in the workforce means they want their employers to be making a positive impact. 75% of US executives say ESG has an impact on EX, yet the same survey found that over a third of businesses do no ESG communications. Interestingly, WARC found that 46% of B2B decision-makers think ESG has become more important in the procurement-making process over the last two years. In 2024, it will become imperative to increase and improve ESG communications both internally and externally.

4. Buyers are getting younger

Analysts say 75% of B2B buying teams will be between 25 and 44 years old. This much younger demographic will want more time in person with product experts. At the same time, they spend most of their time online and desire digital self-service capabilities. Engaging these younger buyers will require smart judgment as the volume, velocity, and variety of content will need to be optimal to drive buyers to purchase. Moreover, recognising that this audience is no longer a linear sales funnel buyer, means delivering a truly integrated marcomms programme.

5. Influencers remain critical

While traditional media will see a revival, the continued investment and use of influencers in B2B and B2C marketing will remain important. According to research by WARC, three-quarters of B2B marketers are using influencers, while 93% of CMOs are using them more frequently. That said, while 25% are still not using influencers, even among the brands citing their use, they are doing so sparingly and without much focus. In 2024, establishing a robust influencer programme will be an important part of the marketing mix.

6. AI will drive the need for more creativity

The use and application of AI is rising hugely. Indeed, we expect to see a lot of AI move into production environments. We will see dynamic shifts in workflows, time to market and personalisation because of AI. In turn, this will spur a new era of creativity, with upwards of 50% more time being spent on creative problem-solving, customer service, and innovation. 2024 will be the year when those who embrace AI will reap the benefits, and those who sit and wait will find they will never catch up.

2024 will be a game-changing year. It will be important that brands ride the waves of change and the opportunities that present themselves and not be paralysed by it. Those who wish to shape tomorrow will reap the rewards.

Article written by Giles Peddy, Managing Director / Executive Vice President UK & Europe, Sourcecode Communications.


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