Public Relation trends, the buzzword for 2023 when it comes to communications, marketing and public pelation trends (PR) is artificial intelligence (AI) and it seems that everyone is talking about ChatGPT, its benefits and threats. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of AI tools already available online – and that are often free or offering trial versions.

The chatter’s also about navigating the realms of Web3 and the metaverse. While it’s important to be at the cutting edge of tech advances, it’s equally important to not lose touch with the heart of PR.

Here are five PR trends for 2023 from Flow Communications:

1. Will AI take over the world?

The media and marketing world is abuzz with conversations about whether we’re all going to be replaced by AI. It seems that ChatGPT can create reasonable PR and marketing campaigns and even write a media release in a matter of minutes, given the correct prompts. Considering that AI technologies are still in their infancy, this may be a concern for PR practitioners. But AI is far from creating what lies at the heart of quality PR – understanding, strategic thinking and storytelling.

A good communications strategy is always based on understanding your client and your target audiences – human beings. For the moment, at least, humans are still better at understanding what interests and drives other humans. AI is only as good as the prompts you give it.

While communicators would be wise to investigate the plethora of mind-blowing AI tools out there, this should be done from the perspective of how these can enhance what we already do and make our lives easier, and possibly reduce costs for our clients.

We take the same approach to Web3 and the metaverse at Flow: while we’re keeping our eyes on the amazing opportunities on offer, these new technologies are unlikely to completely transform the “PR-verse” in South Africa – at least, not yet.

2. It’s all about human interest

Robots may be able to write, process big data, and spit out impressive facts and stats in the wink of an eye, but what they don’t quite get yet is human interest. PR experts intimately understand what interests the media and their audiences.

We keep working on new ways to tap into those interests every day. Human interest is about being able to weave a captivating tale – it’s all about storytelling. Humans are interested in other humans, in subtlety and nuance, in humour and wit. You need to know how to present cold, hard facts with the wrappings and bows that your audiences can’t wait to unwrap. 

3. The rise of on-demand media

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation across sectors. According to Statista, in 2018 about 62% of the total South African population was accessing the internet and this grew to almost 80% by 2022.

With this growth, the world of on-demand entertainment and streaming services burgeoned – leading to less reliance on television. But what does this mean for PR?

Well, that depends. In South Africa the majority of the population still relies on free-to-air television and listens to the radio, so if you are wanting to reach the mass market through PR, television and radio interviews are still the way to go. In fact, whichever market you’re targeting, you can’t go wrong with broadcast interviews. Radio is still alive and kicking, and DStv can’t be beaten in terms of access to sport and news. Prepare your clients for more in-person interview requests in 2023 than the previous two years.

Having said that, we need to be cognisant of the fact that if we want to reach the slightly higher LSMs, there is an ongoing migration to Netflix, Showmax, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video, and podcast listenership is also growing. These on-demand services don’t function in the same way as traditional media do, and we’re having to innovate to continue reaching their audiences.

4. Let’s get integrated

Crafting communications strategies that include paid, owned, shared and earned media is not a new trend, but in 2023 we will see further integration of marketing and PR across all available channels and platforms. There are two main factors influencing this – the continued shrinking of the traditional media landscape, as well as accelerated digital transformation.

Tiffany Turkington-Palmer, managing director of Flow Communications, predicts that we will see even more brands using owned media to earn media: “As the traditional media space contracts and the digital revolution gains pace, brands are increasingly thinking smart to leverage their own media or channels (social media, blogs and websites) to create talkability and earn headlines – creating groundbreaking PR that is immediate and connecting.”

5. Diversity, equity and inclusion are more important than ever

Global PR trends predictions for 2023 are espousing the value of diversity, equity and inclusion in communications strategies and plans. Welcome to the party; we’ve been doing this in South Africa for a while now. It’s about time!

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Daya Coetzee is an account director at Flow Communications, one of South Africa’s leading independent agencies. Founded in 2005, Flow now has a permanent team of more than 65 professional staff, working remotely across South Africa.