By Hilmarie Hutchison, CEO, Matrix Public Relations

With most COVID restrictions and disruptions being a thing of the past the outlook for 2023 is a bit different than the last 2 years. Most industries will be looking not just for a reset but for detailed insights to be better prepared for the new year. 

The PR industry will also be looking at a few key insights that are likely to influence the trends such as changes in behavior, technological advances, evolving habits, changing consumption patterns and a demand for better measurement. 

In 2023, there’s no slowing down as the Metaverse continues to open up. PR professionals are expected to respond with more action-oriented strategies, and value data and insights to create meaningful experiences.   Here are 10 trends that PR professionals need to be aware of in the new year to navigate their clients in the right direction:

  1. Expect Big Bucks in the Metaverse: With a market valued at around $800 Billion, it is expected that an increasing number of players will join the Metaverse market. Dubai’s ambitious Metaverse Strategy will experience mammoth participation with start-ups and organizations both private and public expected to enter the cyberspace market. Expanding business models will trigger innovation in PR strategy and PR professionals will experience a distinct shift in plans to adapt to the evolving digital landscape.
  2. The changing face of AI and Technology: As if we didn’t hear enough about Artificial Intelligence in 2022, expect these endless possibilities to make their way into your day-day functioning. It will simplify time-consuming processes like proofreading and automating tedious tasks and provide insights by monitoring campaigns for direct feedback. AI will be seen more as a business asset than a technological tool; improving content ranking through SEO optimization. Its merits include influencer identification, speech-to-text conversion, translations, etc. That’s not all – 2023 will be a good start to bringing in exciting new tools in PR strategies as clients have begun to like all the digital dimensions working for them. The need for virtual reality experiences in PR strategy is real, so start planning!
  3. Measurement to transform PR: Just like all other PR parameters, improving how we measure and report the impact of communications campaigns will continue to evolve and transform PR. Objective-based campaigns, with pre-defined measurement KPIs, will be the way forward. With the advent of social media, PR now has a broader scope for brand impressions. The measurement of digital footprint however will continue to evolve and vary, so I see it as a continuous adapting process to suit prevailing times.
  4. E-Commerce will continue to prosper: The pandemic only strengthened the e-commerce platform as it trained three generations of consumers to completely rely on online shopping. Even as markets open up for brick-and-mortar consumer experiences, the mere convenience of shopping at a click has compelled brands to offer online channels. Result? One can expect to see more new channels opening up to offer consumers a better choice.
  5. Diversity & Inclusion: Yes, these will come into sharper focus in the years to come. There’s a sizable number of companies that have made their commitment known and HR policies across industries are changing too. Consumers today want to support brands whose values are aligned with theirs and also see them in action! We’re looking at a period of value-centric communications which will be at the center of brand stories. 
  6. The environment: As we witness more and more natural disasters caused by climate change, the environment will be in the front row of communications campaigns. I see both brands and consumers teaming up for positive environmental impact. As we continue to experience a steep rise in CSR and ESG campaigns; there’ll be more of these with a push for change beginning at the grassroots level to see an overall and visible impact. Both, brands as well as consumers are now serious about a sustainable and eco-friendly business approach for a greener planet.
  7. High on Empathy and EQ: The pandemic truly changed sentiments across all parameters. From branding, strategy, and consumer behavior to lifestyle priorities; there wasn’t a single avenue that wasn’t affected due to COVID-19. Consumers now relate to brands that support causes and are aware of social situations to deliver change. While planning content and strategies, PR specialists need to thoroughly understand prevailing circumstances to avoid bitter backlash or unwelcome communication crises.
  8. Content partnerships with media: PR Agencies will adapt to creating stories and valuable content for media as opposed to sending out press releases. Expecting the media to write engaging and compelling stories? Then it’s best to brace yourselves to understand their changing roles and even build new connections. In a rapidly changing environment, PR professionals across the MENA region must focus on forming significant relationships that are firmly built on a better understanding of online conversations. This renewed understanding will encourage brands and consumers to bond better for meaningful experiences in 2023. PR agencies across the region will also be seen enhancing media outreach using social media to boost presence on crucial platforms. 
  9. New Standards in Social Media: Brace yourselves as this prediction is centered around nurturing trust, integrity, and honesty amongst consumers, especially in the context of fake news and AI-generated art. The grey areas between what’s real and fake will be a priority with Social Media platforms in particular as they seek to build trust with their audiences. 
  10. Podcasts to thrive: It comes as no surprise that Podcasts and other videos will soar to new heights. PR professionals will capitalize on this trend for its versatility in offering and content. Videos can compellingly tell a brand story so it’s a great way for communications professionals to expose their new products, services, and events too.

With 2022 fading into the past and as 2023 dawns upon us there is no doubt that the PR and Communications industry in the MENA regions will experience challenging but exciting times. Driven by the generational shift in entertainment choices and media in favour of digital content; the futuristic journey will continue to explore new avenues of PR tools and tactics.