Four PR Trends to Watch in 2024
As we finish a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” and dump out the flat champagne, it’s time to talk about where PR is heading next. In the last year, we saw speedy evolution (AI), scaling back (the bird app or whatever it’s called this week), and a multitude of shifts in how the world consumes news – and how businesses can take advantage of new avenues to share authentic messaging.
What does 2024 have in store for the PR world? We are by no means psychic, but one can make some educated guesses based on what is already happening. Let us dig out the Caster crystal ball and take a look.
Trend #1: Further Adoption of Artificial Intelligence
Sure, this is a bit of a “no **** Sherlock” moment. Coming on the heels of the opening of the ChatGPT store and announcing Copilot Pro for individual users, AI is definitely going to become more prevalent this year, but not in a “Terminator” hostile takeover kind of way. Look for more iterations of ChatGPT to help with streamlining processes, but not to become an in-house PR team.
Caster has already found some practical applications for programs like ChatGPT:
- Brainstorming: Okay, we all experience a moment of fog or the occasional writer’s block spell. Generative AI can help you over that hump. Using a chat point to help brainstorm questions to ask, or story angles that might appeal to a particular audience can help you see a topic with fresh eyes.
Note: in our experience, these tools aren’t yet original thinkers or reliable researchers. You still must do the heavy lifting of idea development, research, verification, and stylish storytelling. ChatGPT should not do the writing for you – it just gives you a place to start.
- Transcription clean-up: This used to be one of the more manual and, quite frankly, painful lifts. But now you can simply use ChatGPT to do the heavy lifting for you. For example, you can prompt the tool to “reformat a raw transcription to remove time codes and combine longer statements into a continuous paragraph.” You can also direct it to export the results to Word.
- Keyword research for Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Once upon a time, keyword research took a combination of various Google searches related to what you believe is the top keyword to pursue and using paid subscription software. The paid subscription services help craft strategy quickly, but the research must come first. ChatGPT can help develop organic keywords from your existing website: pursuing these will put your site in the best position for organic success (aka finding you for free).
This seems like a good time to remind you that there are benefits to using AI, but buyer beware – you still need humans who can help map out a coherent strategy for how to tell a compelling brand story best.
Trend #2: Increased Emphasis on Authenticity and Transparency
Each year, the noise gets louder. The demand for our collective attention expands, email inboxes grow larger than Jabba the Hutt, media outlets and social platforms come and go, and it becomes even harder to decipher what a company’s true intent is. Influencer Marketing Hub reports, “86% of consumers believe authenticity is vital when deciding which brands, they like and support.” This means brands must figure out how to cut through the noise as a voice of truth.
We foresee more companies will focus their messaging on elevating customer stories and cultivating brand ambassadors this year. It’s one thing to have the owner of a company proselytize how great it is, but it is quite another to have a customer explain how and why a given service or company helped them.
Expect to see more testimonials in emails, case studies, and (dare I say it) social media. People gobble up TikTok reviews as though they’re gospel. ZDnet.com reports 40% of Americans are using TikTok as a search engine when looking for products. Data from TikTok shows 41% of consumers trust a brand MORE after seeing it on the platform, with 31% more likely to be loyal to that brand.
Trend #3: Expanding the Thought Leadership Pool
According to the MuckRack State of Journalism Report, “fewer journalists find CEOs to be credible sources. 74% found them credible in the 2021 report versus 62% this year.” As a result, we forecast more businesses identifying people within their organizations who can do the talking.
For starters, it’s not practical to have the CEO or COO be the only voice. First, they’re not always available. Second, they’re not always the right expert for the audience you are trying to connect with. Say you’re a SaaS company offering solutions aimed at improving the workflow for engineering design. Who are the best people to expound on this subject? Your engineers are the Subject Matter Experts in this instance, including being able to discuss practical applications. At a time when authenticity matters more than ever, the people who are in the trenches are going to be the best ones to talk about your unique value proposition. Just make sure they have the media training to navigate talking to the press with comfort and confidence.
The more subject matter experts you have, the stronger your argument will be for why your brand can offer relevant thought leadership for a given audience.
Trend #4: Faster Evolution, Faster Adoption
Everything keeps speeding up, including the flow of information. A news cycle that once was a day is now 24/7 and can pivot in literal seconds. In turn, this has transformed the approach to PR, becoming equal parts proactive and reactive.
We are already seeing how fast PR and marketing agencies respond when a story shifts suddenly. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the Stanley Cup craze. Not the giant trophy given to whoever wins the National Hockey League, but the “Quencher,” a 30- or 40-ounce cup by Stanley, a century-old brand known for making highly durable beverage holders.
According to RetailDive, Stanley started researching consumer behaviors and discovered people sharing their growing collections in a plethora of colors on TikTok and one specific video of a Stanley Quencher Cup withstanding a car fire.
As a result, Stanley started teaming up with well-known brands and doing launches similar to sneaker drops by streetwear brands, creating a sense of FOMO and quite the non-caffeinated buzz. Suddenly, women were lined up to get Stanley X Starbucks, Pendleton, and Target’s “Hearth and Hand with Magnolia” Quenchers.
This case demonstrates the importance of agility and adaptation. Stanley found the demand in studying TikTok videos as consumer research, a methodology that didn’t exist just five years ago.
In general, what we’re seeing is an expanded definition of “PR.” Once upon a time, it was a matter of sending a press release to the publications that best served the audiences you wanted to connect with. Now, what falls under the umbrella of “PR” is much more far-reaching and multi-faceted.
This means new tactics are needed to cut through the clutter to keep your story fresh and top of mind. AI can help to some extent, but it’s not a replacement for writers, PR professionals, and real testimonials. Relying too heavily on AI could devalue the authenticity your audience is seeking.
A product or service is only as reputable as the people behind it, which is why we’re seeing more companies looking to diversify their benches of subject matter experts who can step up to the plate and help share different facets of the larger story.
We foresee PRs continued evolution to roll at top speed right alongside the speedy flow of information, which means it’s time to put the crystal ball away, blow out the candles, and get to work.