By: Natasha Hatherall, Founder and CEO of TishTash Communications 

2022 has seen ongoing shifts in the communications and PR space, in many ways seeing it moving quicker than ever before. In the upcoming new year, fundamentally I expect to see a consolidation of what we have seen and learned, as I believe they are here to stay. Future proofing our industry, internal learning and education of clients is key as we all work together on sustainable objectives, whether creative, impact driven or commercial.

The old ways are the new ways

No, I am not suggesting that we fail to embrace the pace of technology, trends and tools that are coming at us all thick and fast, quite the opposite in fact. It would be remiss not to start with the overarching theme of current comms and matching these with both the appetite of consumers and the media itself.

Human connectivity is key – it always was, and yet with the plethora of tech enabled advancements it became lost. Consumers are savvier than ever, impact and cause driven and desperate for transparency from brands and entities that they buy from and are engaged with. Whilst there is ever a human behind the screen, a human at the end of a call to action or needed across the threshold of a store or to ‘check out’ then we must communicate with humans, and not at the behest of algorithms. User experience, customer experience and values driven communications are key.

It’s not about the Metaverse, but it is about AI

We’ll see less chatter around the omnipresent Metaverse in 2023. Why? It’s time for consolidation and action after the seemingly non-stop PR around this and Crypto and Bitcoin. The public, and brands need to understand how this will work for them and the value it will bring into their real lives (the human touch, again). I am far from dismissive of the Metaverse and opportunity it brings to our industry and further, but the public are looking for less novelty and more solutions that will truly entertain, inform or educate that fits with their real lives. Hardware seems to be the stumbling block here, so let’s see what 2023 will bring from the tech giants to solve this issue. AI is seeing a maturity now that makes it more relevant to brands and businesses and what it can do for them. Creatively it is a winner – and campaign wise easier to employ alongside an appetite for new on a consumer level. AI generated copy? Not so keen on that idea yet, but anything that saves time and delivers beneficial results is much welcome.

The customer is Queen

Back to the basics again, but any brand or business that is not filtering their comms right down to the shop floor, whether virtual or real will see a true loss of goodwill, loyalty and sales. First impressions, user experience and after sales service alongside a positive fulfilment process are far more important for the post pandemic consumer than glossy campaigning or assets. That said, there is then the opportunity to showcase your people, your processes and really double down on promoting these aspects via comms across any platform. If customer service is an issue, I guarantee that this is being talked about online by consumers themselves and do not forget, they trust each other’s opinion far more than they trust yours. Get the service right, from top to bottom and shout about it.

Owned, earned and paid

One of the difficulties facing PR agencies and therefore clients is the rise of the paid editorial being utilised more and more across media outlets. We see this globally, with more transparency but it has led to less opportunities for earned media coverage across the region. Facing 2023 with a focus on owned media, alongside a solid earned and paid strategy is a core way to future proof your brand comms gouging forward. Savvy brands are becoming their own publishing houses and are seeing the benefits of social proof, search opportunities and consumer trust. This should lead to more quality control required for content and brand messaging at all touchpoints. We have to look also at paid as more than social media advertising and allocate budget toward user generated content and opportunities beyond the internet itself. A spray and pray approach to paid advertising needs to drill down into serving your target demographic ‘where they are’ and the results we see for clients on the ground pay dividends.

The full circle

Understanding the lifecycle of the target demographic and with solid objectives and KPIs means understanding the full mix of comms activities available. As lines blur between these tactics and strategies daily, it’s up to the ‘experts’ to communicate this back to clients. Matching paid ads with a poor quality UX for example or ignoring staff training and employee communications shows a clear disregard for consumers and will backfire more than ever into the new year. Understanding word of mouth marketing, the platforms on which your customers truly ‘live’ and share their experiences, treating your staff as the true brand ambassadors that they are (whether this is comfortable or not) shows everyone the true ethics and values of your business, and the consumer will thank you for it.

Meeting people where they are

Quite literally. Throwing budget entirely at digital, for example, with a solid strategy and monitoring will lead directly to sales, but again, the human touch is more important than ever. Regionally, we love an activation or event historically, but extra thought must be applied so that these are not just a tick box exercise. Collaborations sound obvious, but the consumer is looking for something unique and engaging. You can no longer ‘build it and they will come’ – you are better off not building at all if the consumer experience of your offering does not match expectations or the merge between brand promises and the human expectation. Get these interactions right and you have a customer on repeat, not just for the freebies.

We are most definitely in interesting and transient times to say the least, but I am looking forward to moving into a more consistent and mature 2023 by way of consolidation of lessons learned from the past 3 years and an agile, customer focused communications landscape.