Gradually, over the course of the last few decades, the PR industry has transformed beyond recognition. A job that could once be handily accomplished with a Rolodex and a landline now requires fluency in a dozen complex fields, from data analysis to ESG to VR to content marketing, not to mention the constantly shifting universe of social media.
As we enter 2024, we find each of these fields more embedded than ever in a quality PR practice. In this new environment—where PR needs to be holistic if it’s going to function at all—understanding the evolution of these trends is essential.
Digital Transformation And Data Analytics
From the field’s inception over a century ago, PR professionals have dreamed of a frictionless audience connection of anticipating and meeting consumer needs in real time.
AI—and the ultra-precise personalization it facilitates—is making this dream a reality with whiplash speed. Has the rhetoric around AI been somewhat overheated? Sure. But it’s difficult to blame people for getting too excited, given that AI and machine learning really are transforming countless industries—PR very much among them.
At this point, the insight provided by AI—into consumer behavior and so much more—is fundamental to any holistic PR strategy, and I think this will continue to be the case through ’24 and beyond.
Influencer Marketing: Authenticity And Diversity
In the early days, influencer marketing functioned somewhat like conventional celebrity marketing, with attention largely focused on the biggest names with the largest followings.
Today, micro- and nano-influencers are on the ascent, and for a very good reason: precisely because their audiences are (relatively) small, they’re able to forge a more intimate connection with their audiences. When a micro-influencer makes a persuasive case for a product, it seems less like advertising and more like a recommendation from a trusted friend.
Online celebrities still matter in the scheme of things, of course, but expect more and more attention to be paid to small-batch influencers in 2024.
Sustainable And Mission-Driven Branding
The definition of quality corporate social responsibility (CSR) in 2024 is very different from its definition just a few years ago. Consumers have been gravitating toward sustainability-focused brands for a while now, and they’ve grown ever more savvy at distinguishing real commitment from half-hearted CSR boilerplate.
Accordingly, one of the central tasks of any PR firm in 2024 is going to be teaching brands the difference and helping them communicate their initiatives accordingly.
Evolving Content Marketing: Interactive And Engaging
Conversations around augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse have taken a backseat to the AI revolution in the last year or so, but that doesn’t mean brands should simply ignore these emerging formats.
If anything, the relative lack of attention currently being paid to this space means there’s more room for brands to maneuver, to experiment and (potentially) to reel in customers. Brands that deploy these tools effectively can create immersive experiences, fostering stronger connections with their audience.
Public Affairs And Advocacy: Shaping Public Opinion
When a hashtag, TV show, or activist cause suddenly starts to trend, it often looks spontaneous to the consumer. Sometimes, it is spontaneous. But just as often, that narrative has been carefully implanted into the discourse by diligent PR teams. There’s nothing nefarious about this—PR professionals have always been involved in shaping narratives around critical social and political issues. With a presidential election looming, expect to see many advances on this front in 2024.
Crisis Management: Proactivity And Transparency
So far, I’ve been discussing the intersections between PR and a variety of burgeoning fields, charting the ways in which new technologies have enhanced the holistic PR experience. But crisis management is pure PR, the kind of thing that only seasoned PR vets have the chops to pull off.
Of course, the rapidity with which information spreads today has required this playbook to be enhanced with new, tech-first tactics, which PR professionals have dutifully supplied. These tactics encompass not just proactive measures but also proactive planning—and, in every instance, aim to maintain trust while effectively controlling crises.
Digital Marketing And Online Presence
We live in an omnichannel world, and I think we can expect 2024 to be the year when the few brands still holding out finally catch up to this reality.
Consumers today expect to effortlessly toggle between channels: app, mobile browser, desktop browser, in-store and social. If any one of these channels is not up to par—is poorly designed or lacks personalization—brands risk alienating consumers. Expect much PR energy in 2024 to be expended on helping brands fully adapt to this omnichannel reality.
Video Content: A Dominant Medium
At this point, even your grandmother has probably scrolled through TikTok—in fact, she might even have an account of her own. Which is to say that, in 2024, we can expect video to continue its rise to dominance.
Conventional digital advertising will still matter, but there is no question that a solid majority of consumers—and the vast majority of young consumers—are now engaging with the internet primarily via video content. Of course, this landscape is in constant flux, with trends cresting and crashing on what seems like a half-hourly basis. In 2024, helping brands navigate this overwhelming landscape will be one of the most important services PR firms can offer.
What This Means For Brands And PR Leaders
Based on the above, we can say that, in 2024, any brand that wants to survive will need 1) cutting-edge analytical savvy; 2) a fine-grained sense of rapidly fluctuating social media micro-dynamics; 3) a deep-rooted commitment to (and complex understanding of) developments in sustainability and corporate responsibility—I’ll cut the list off here because it could go on for pages.
The point is that it’s a tall order, and it’s only getting taller. But luckily, the right approach—forward-thinking, flexible and holistically-minded—can make all the difference.
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