By Randa El Sawi, Head of External Communications & Brand for the MEA region, Ericsson

I still remember the old days when I started my journey in External Communications back in 2005. At that time, printed press was still the leader of the game and Corporate Communications professionals like me were not any different. Believe it or not, but we used to hand media their press kits in a printed format because most of the media didn’t use e-mails to receive their press kits as a soft copy! I still remember staying late at the office to finish printing press kits and inserting them in branded folders on the night before our planned press conference. It was indeed a slow era of journalism and corporate communications compared to today! 

Especially with the huge amount of technology at our fingertips today, there has arguably never been a more exciting time to engage clients and consumers in our work—from applications of artificial intelligence to virtual reality, augmented reality, and the exciting evolution of the metaverse. 

At the same time, one must be cognizant of ongoing geopolitical tensions, supply chain concerns, rising inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis across many countries around the globe. 

Communications professionals in the Middle East must navigate all these forces carefully in what is a fast-changing business landscape. Those that do will be able to set the foundation for what’s possible in 2023 and beyond. Along the way, I believe there are five specific media trends that we must all keep a close eye on. 

Resilience of social media

There is no doubt that social media is more powerful than ever—and will remain so in 2023. The category as a whole will continue to command a large share of brands’ media spend. It will be an even stronger touchpoint to engage consumers and to tell rich multimedia stories. Advances in high-speed mobile connectivity, virtual malls, and AR try-ons will also see “social commerce” rise further. What exact form social media takes—and which platforms remain on top—remains up for discussion. But that’s not really the point, as long as communicators know where their audiences spend time and how to create meaningful experiences for them wherever they are. 

Sustainability of the print industry

Many print publications have been suffering a slow, drawn-out death for the last decade. The bad news for those in the industry is that it’s likely to get worse in 2023. Data from Grand View Research suggests that the global print newspapers and magazine market is expected to shrink at a compound annual rate of 2.3% from 2022 through 2028. I think this is a pretty conservative view, and that the fall will be much larger for many publications in the Middle East. But it’s not all doom and gloom. With this pivot comes a rise in digital formats, with new publishers and titles constantly coming onto the scene across nearly every vertical. It’s not too late for legacy publishers to make this same pivot.

Expertise of influencers

The region’s “influencer” market has certainly matured in the past 3-5 years. Verifying genuine followers and overall credentials can remain difficult, sure, but regulatory frameworks are building new confidence in the ecosystem. As a result, studies have started to show that so-called influencers—often using the power of social media—can often surpass the influence of traditional TV, radio, and newspapers amongst certain demographics. Especially when looking at niche, micro-communities, some influencers now possess just as much expertise as (or even more than) a mainstream journalist. It is that expertise that is building credibility and trust, and which will create new opportunities for communications professionals in 2023.

Seeing is believing

For better or worse, press releases are still a staple in the diet of the communications and public relations industry. But with so many channels now open to brands, I think there’s a genuine shift in treating visual content as king. Can announcements be turned into videos and shared on social media? Will they work better as a podcast? Many audiences simply don’t have the time nor the inclination to read a 500-word article accompanied by one still photo. There’s a time and place for that, but 2023 is gearing up to be much more diverse and visual-led than at any time previously. 

Less will be more

With so much information and so many distractions in the world today, I suspect that consumers’ desire for short, sharp content will remain intact in 2023. A report by the University of California – San Diego revealed that the average American consumes roughly 34 gigabytes of data and information on a daily basis. That equates to around 100,000 words heard or read every day. When it comes to the Middle East region, in my conversations with customers and journalists alike, there seems to be a real sense of content fatigue. And perhaps that’s an appropriate place for me to close my own thoughts in this article!