Public relations industry trends for 2024

As the year quickly draws to a close, it’s time again to look towards what the new year may hold for us in the public relations (PR) industry. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen many changes and the industry has had to pivot like never before.

There are several external factors that affect the PR industry, and I’ll endeavour to cover the major ones.

Economy

On Nov 6, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was quoted as saying that Malaysia’s actual development expenditure has been shrinking every year despite increases in allocation under the country’s annual budgets. At about the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasted that Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) between 2023 and 2028 would be relatively flat, between 4.5 and 3.9 per cent. These two factors will set the tone for 2024. What it essentially means is that both the private and public sectors will be cautious with spending.

Media

The media is still grappling with the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Decreasing advertising revenue and reduced headcount have resulted in media houses being very lean these days. This has led to two things:

  • less personnel available to assign to cover events. Hence, the media is very selective about events they commit to; and
  • the increase in paid media / branded content.

We have seen over the last couple of years, and will continue to see in 2024, the rise of social news sites.

Popularity of social media influencers

Malaysia has approximately 16,800 social media influencers, and according to an online survey conducted in May 2023, approximately 80 per cent of Malaysian respondents stated that they followed at least one influencer on social media. Suffice to say that social media influencers are here to stay and the use of influencers is a key component of any PR campaign, particularly for consumer-oriented and business-to-consumer (B2C) communication. And just so we’re clear, there is a big difference between a social media influencer and key opinion leader (KOL).

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and the 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Sustainability is the latest buzzword and any organisation that’s not doing something meaningful and long-term in this space is going to be left behind. A word of caution: If you’re ‘greenwashing’, you will be found out and taken to task; that’s the one thing I love about social media – you can count on it to expose misdeeds and fraud.

Social factors

Close to 40 per cent of Malaysia’s population is aged between 13 and 34. The youth are the bulk of our population and their digital usage trends have significant impact on the communication platforms employed. While WhatsApp, Facebook, and X are the most popular social media platforms today, who knows what new platforms will catch on next year. Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing’s for sure, communicators and PR practitioners will definitely have to jump on it to keep with the times.

Technology – Big data

Big data analytics describes the process of uncovering trends, patterns, and correlations in large amounts of raw data to help make data-informed decisions. Communicators and the C-suite are increasingly seeing the benefit of big data. The numbers don’t lie, but it doesn’t come cheap, either.

Collaboration is the order of the day

There are multiple communication platforms available today, and there may be even more, next year. For a campaign to be effective, PR will need to collaborate with mainstream media, social news sites, digital media, social media influencers, and key stakeholders. All parties will need to work cohesively for success. Campaigns will have to be 360-degrees, with PR taking the lead coordination role.

If all this seems a little daunting, take heart that good writing skills is always in demand. Whether it’s a news release, a questions and answer (Q&A) document, speech, social media post, branded article, short format video content, or podcast script, good writing never goes out of style.

The good news is PR is still very relevant and there is absolutely no replacement for the human touch.

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and a very happy and successful 2024!

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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