Are you looking forward to 2024? This year’s PRmoment crystal ball feature includes plenty of AI predictions (unsurprisingly), but these are more positive than negative. More good news is that PR will be more confident about its value and will fight to get greater recognition.
1. There will be better use of AI
Mark Seall, CEO of AI solutions provider InferenceCloud: “2023 has seen a LOT of talk about AI. What has been missing is the practical application of it.
“Both from a technology perspective (ChatGPT and other AI tools for communications and marketing do not by themselves solve actual business problems) and from an adoption perspective there is still confusion about how AI can help communicators do their jobs.
“AI is a technology with fundamentally transformational potential, yet few people have approached it this way so far. There are few case studies out there from businesses who are really using AI to rethink their operations.
“We predict that in 2024, more solutions will hit the market and we will see true leaders emerge - from in-house teams and agencies alike - who embrace the challenge of transforming the way that they work. The limitations of AI lie not in the technology itself but in how creatively we apply it. The gap between the true adopters and the tinkerers in terms of value delivered will increase… “
2. AI-assisted pitches and subject lines will be the weapon of choice
Siobhan Congreve, Digital PR Director at agency Bring Digital: “The biggest challenge right now for PRs is simply getting journalists’ attention. 2023 has been a year of pain for the big publications, with cost-of-living pressures and low revenues leading to unprecedented swathes of redundancies and increasing editorial pressure to monetise.
“However, 2023 was also the year of AI. That creates an opportunity for PRs to fight for the attention of increasingly time-pressured journalists with hyper-personalised pitches in 2024.
“I predict that AI-assisted pitches and subject lines will be the weapon of choice for the best PRs next year. Current AI can take us much further than the standard dynamic fields of yore (no more ‘Hello, FIRST NAME’). PRs can tailor their subject lines in bulk using AI to match the publication style or even the individual journalist they’re sending to. That gets noticed. Plus, it saves the journalist’s time since they don’t need to rework that headline for publication.
“PRs willing to embrace AI to customise content at scale will finally overcome the quantity vs quality conundrum that has too often tripped them up. Relevance comes first, and convenience is a close second. The best PRs will nail both every time with a little help from their robot friends.”
3. AI regulations and best practice will evolve
Caroline Miller, managing director of comms agency Indigo Pearl: “Our top PR prediction for 2024 is more discussion on how to ethically, openly and honestly implement AI in campaigns. Agencies and brands alike will be looking at how to achieve this in a meaningful way that enhances messaging and does not detract from the originality of content, while also taking into consideration copyright and impact on the creative industries. We’ll see regulations and best practices around AI evolve in 2024 as this technology moves further into the mainstream. This is true for the PR sector and beyond.”
4. AI will lead to job losses in PR…
Mike Maynard, managing director of B2B agency Napier: “2024 will be the year when PRs lose their jobs because of AI. There might be some people replaced by AI, but the biggest issues will centre around the misuse of the technology. PRmoment will be reporting about PRs who get sacked, and agencies who get fired, because their use of AI damages (or could damage) a brand. Whether it is a factual inaccuracy, badly written copy or plagiarism, the increasing use of AI is going to result in some costly mistakes!
“Of course there will also be some great uses of AI that help PR Pros too, but they probably won't hit the headlines.”
5. But there will be a shortage of senior account managers…
Dean Connelly founder and MD of PR and comms recruitment agency Latte: "There will be a severe talent shortage at senior account manager level.
“In 2020 there was a limited number of juniors being hired into the PR industry due to the pandemic. This has had a knock on effect on the available talent pool each year following. In 2021 it meant that there was a lack of available AEs, the following year there was a short supply of senior account executives and in 2023 agencies struggled to hire account managers.
In the New Year, PR agencies will find it the most difficult to hire at senior account manager level."
6. People will still buy from people
Olivia Prole, communications consultant at PR agency Definition: “Whilst AI is the hot topic and we are focused on how we can adopt technology to develop the work that we are doing and ensure our clients are staying ahead of the curve, I think in 2024 it’s important we don’t forget the basics. As the saying goes ‘people buy from people’ and it will be the agencies that remember that which continue to thrive! It’s more important than ever that we focus on great client service, building relationships with our clients and colleagues. We need to remember how important it is to get under the skin of our client businesses and get to know them, what they want to achieve and devise a plan of how to make it happen. Of course, there may be ways that integrating technology/AI can support this activity, however this doesn’t always need to be the first point of consideration. In my opinion, the best campaign and activity ideas still come when we get together in a (real life!) room and are scribbling ideas on big pieces of A3 paper - preferably with snacks!”
7. PRs will tackle the leadership gap
Louise Thompson, leadership coach: "In 2024, the comms and PR profession will finally have to reckon with the ‘leadership gap’, concerning our non-status around the board table. This has been caused by a lack of credible leadership development for our profession and a lack of clarity around the unique value we offer at C-Suite level, based on our specific strengths and expertise.
“This gap prevents so many talented comms and PR leaders from reaching the top table as decision makers, instead being treated as note takers and order takers (or maybe making the coffee...). Which leads to the exec leadership team thinking this is all we can offer.
“The opportunity is clear - for organisations to recognise the super powers that comms and PRs bring to the board table, for employers (agency and in-house) to support strategic leadership development in our field and for aspiring leaders to advocate for their professional needs in service of delivering on outcomes at the highest level in business."
8. PRs will get smarter about finding the news line
Liam O’Brien, associate director at PR agency The Romans: “It’s been a brutal year to be a journalist. Just last month it was announced that Reach PLC - the publisher of the Mirror, Express and a host of top regional titles such as the MEN and Liverpool Echo - was cutting 320 editorial roles. Even digital media companies once hailed as ‘the future of news’ have had swingeing cuts, with redundancies at Vice and 15% of staff laid off at Buzzfeed.
“What this means is those journalists still publishing are constantly under siege from PRs. We encourage all our staff to meet media, and many of those we catch up with report receiving more than 1,000 emails a day, whether that’s press releases or chasers. One of our team watched with horror as a journalist at one of the nationals block-deleted hundreds of emails in one go without reading them.
“Naturally PRs are going to have to adapt: making sure releases have a strong, unambiguous news line, not expecting journalists to do the hard yards by wading through acres of turgid brand messaging, and pitching smartly to match fixed print slots and online shift patterns.
“But most importantly, it’s knowing the journalists. If you haven’t got them on WhatsApp, you’re more than likely destined for the deleted folder.”
9. Authenticity will be even more important in comms
Jake Munday, co-founder and CEO of global retailer and manufacturer of custom-designed LED neon lights and signs, Custom Neon: “As we look towards 2024, my top PR prediction revolves around the escalating value of authenticity in brand communications. Being sincere and reliable in PR efforts will be more important than ever in a world when digital interactions have taken over society and disinformation may spread quickly.
“The greatest chance for PR specialists will lie in crafting narratives and messaging that not only speak to their target audience but also accurately capture the essence and core principles of their company. This will require a shift from overly polished and sales-driven narratives to more transparent, relatable, and honest communication. Stronger, more enduring ties between brands and their audiences will result from their ability to successfully deal with this change.
“We have always placed a high value on authenticity in our communications since we have personally witnessed the huge impact that it has on client loyalty and trust. As we move into 2024, I believe this will become a universal benchmark in PR, separating the brands that truly connect with their audience from those that don't.”
10. PRs will be more confident about the value of their work
David Lawrence, managing director at agency Platform Communications: “The big opportunity for PR in 20204 is to have much greater confidence in highlighting the value it creates. Organisations thrive when they have communications rooted in clarity, focus, and true understanding of their audiences. The role of PR is often to fight introversion by bringing insight into what’s happening in the economy, cultural trends, and competitor activity. That’s truer than ever in times of rapid change.
“PR professionals engage directly with a wide variety of stakeholders (from customers to employees, analysts, and the media) and so have always been best placed to provide rounded insight about what really matters. On the flipside, if activities aren’t grounded in clear insight and a strong, differentiated strategy there’s a risk they end up just being noise. In 2024, let’s not be shy to (re)claim PR’s business value.”
So all in all, despite the huge impact AI is inevitably going to have on PR, our pundits are generally positive about 2024, which only leaves us to add: Happy new year!
To see how accurate PRmoment’s predictions are check out last year’s predictions here.
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