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What does 2024 hold in store for the PR industry?

By Pat Southwell:

This time of year, there are a few things you’re guaranteed to hear. “I can’t believe it’s 2024!” “Where did last year go?” “Have you read Pat’s PR predictions for the year ahead? They’re amazing. He’s such a visionary. And so well dressed.”


Stop laughing at the back! What do you mean I look like Jacob Rees-Mogg with a paunch and a penchant for blue jumpers? OK, OK, so the last point might be a hallucination. But now you’re here, you may as well read what I think will happen in the PR industry. Well, at least our corner of it. The B2B one with a heavy serving of tech clients.


Talking of technology. My first prediction is one you’ll see just about everywhere else. Because it’s going to be HUGE!

Desktop file folders of 2023 and 2024


1. AI-ageddon

That’s right. My first prediction is hardly a prediction at all. It’s a self-evident fact. AI is going to change PR, just like it’s changing every other sector. This is going to happen in two ways.


Firstly, software companies that sell to PR agencies will embed traditional AI into their solutions. Media monitoring platforms and journalist databases will have AI functionality built in. This is important because we’re not AI experts. And we need the help of professionals to show us how to harness AI’s capabilities.


Secondly, AI’s new sibling, the generative type, is something we can all use. Even if we’re complete novices. It’s going to help write articles, do translations and even support with brainstorms. But because most PR people are rookies, they need to be careful.


We need to learn how to prompt it clearly and be transparent about its use. Otherwise, we’re going to see lots of people getting in trouble for plagiarism, poorly written content and simple inaccuracies. Agencies need to go into it with their eyes open and create guidelines for its use.


2. Meetings, meetings, meetings

With AI taking on more of the legwork of PR, people are going to be freed from mundane tasks. They’ll have more time in their working days. Rather than fill it with even more busyness, the smart agencies will use their time to do something uniquely human.


They’re going to meet people face-to-face. This is always better than a call because it builds relationships and allows clearer communication. You might think as a virtual agency, we might not see value in meeting people but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We made a point of seeing as many of our clients as possible before Christmas. And we got so much value from doing so.


With the pandemic a distant memory, 2024 will be the year of meeting and making memorable impressions on those we work with (or want to).

3. Quality over quantity

When I first started my PR career, I measured the coverage we got. Literally. With a ruler so I could calculate the AVE – that’s advertising value equivalent for anyone who missed the battering it’s got over the last decade.


This type of measurement led to the notion that quantity is better than quality. Because the more centimetres of coverage you achieve, the higher the value of the AVE. Of course, this has all changed and no one uses AVEs anymore. But the idea that more is always better lives on.


I think 2024 will be the year when agencies finally focus on quality. One great piece, in the perfect place, will be valued more than 10 elsewhere. Especially as the pieces that make a difference often take more time and effort.


This also means agencies will need to bill accordingly. We need to stop building budgets entirely on hours spent and outputs generated and more on the value we bring. This will be different for every client, so I can’t offer you a standard model. Sorry!

4. Tailored media relations

Linked to the above, there will be a continued shift in the way we do media relations. To gain quality coverage, agencies will need to increasingly build bespoke stories for journalists.


And it’s a reality that there are fewer journalists than ever. There have been numerous cuts in the industry. Which means those still in jobs have more PR people contacting them than ever. Without a new plan of action, PR agencies will struggle.


It also means we need to get more value out of the content and stories we create. They need to fuel social, marketing and sales. And every piece of coverage needs to have a life of its own. Merely appearing in a publication isn’t enough. Other channels need to amplify it.

Man and woman in a meeting, with laptops

5. The tech industry will continue to invest in PR

I’ve tried my hand at consumer PR. I wasn’t bad at it, but it’s not my passion. Promoting a new cider or opening a new hotel might seem fun, but it ultimately has little wider impact. I much prefer B2B and technology. Because it changes the world. You just need to look at point one of this list to see that.


Also, technology never stops. No one has ever said, “Actually, I’m OK with my old phone. I don’t need any new stuff.” They might want a simpler phone, but even that requires innovation. The tech sector might have ups and downs, but it will keep going and continue to invest.

6. More virtual agencies

Yeah, I know, it’s kind of obvious for me to say this. Shock, virtual agency leader says he was right! But I honestly believe it. What is the point of having an expensive office, costly commuting and hours wasted?


Working virtually is an obvious choice. And that doesn’t mean a lack of collaboration. When you all work remotely, meeting up is more important than ever. But why tie people to a single location and weigh down a business with rent?


It’s far better to be agile, meet with purpose whenever and wherever you want and make it an occasion. Work in co-working spaces, book a meeting room, see a client. Do whatever you want and put the risk of a tenancy agreement on someone else’s plate. PR agencies have enough to deal with.

7. My bad jokes will continue

Like the setting of the sun or the change of the seasons, there’s one thing that will always remain. My terrible jokes. I’ll be punning all the way to Christmas 2024. My kids are joining in too. Only this morning, my son said to me, “Dad, you could have been a model when you were young. A model for a potato.”


Just like the Terminator, my jokes can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever.



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