As a marketing, PR, and creative agency, we have a lot of tried-and-true tactics we rely on to drive success for our clients. However, we also recognize that the market shifts and evolves. The only way for us to remain at the top of our game is to adapt alongside the market while also leveraging its changes to strengthen our strategic execution programs.
As we reach the end of another roller-coaster year, we are reflecting on the driving forces that have helped shape our business, and how we serve our clients in the year to come.
Read on to learn more about this year’s top market shifts and what we expect to see heading into 2024
The Top 3 Trends of 2023
1. Widespread layoffs forced marketers and media to get scrappy: 2023 was marked by a number of large-scale layoffs across multiple industries. Media companies, in particular, saw a record number of job cuts. Many journalists were either forced to freelance or find another gig. There are a few key ways that we saw layoffs impact marketers and PR professionals this year.
First and most importantly, we gained a deeper understanding of our personal networks’ importance. When layoffs hit, we aimed to help as many of our expert journalist friends as possible find their next opportunity. We also learned how to do more with less. Layoffs meant marketing teams were leaner than ever, so we rolled up our sleeves to ease as much of the burden off our clients’ backs as possible. In some instances, this meant working with what we already had instead of strategizing around new assets. Rather than rewording the same pitch and hoping for the best, we pushed ourselves to create new, compelling stories that captured the media’s attention.
Finally, we leaned into our Digital Marketing services to drive results with paid media. Although purse strings were tightening across marketing departments, media outlets increasingly turned to paid opportunities for additional revenue. We delivered value to our clients by helping them evaluate the ROI of paid opportunities with recommendations on the most effective use of their shrinking budgets.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) served as a productivity catalyst: Described as generative AI’s “breakout year,” 2023 brought a monumental surge of attention to the evolving technology, which was felt across nearly all industries and job functions, including PR and marketing. According to AgencyAnalytics’ Benchmarks Report, 78% of marketing agencies currently use AI for content creation, and 91% are expected to adopt the technology in 2024.
At Merritt Group, we used 2023 to internally test various AI-based tools to determine which are most effective and accurate for our unique set of needs. We recognize that technology will never completely replace the human element, and as such, we limited our experimentation to relatively basic functions like background research, initial outlines, and other administrative functions. Some of the tools we explored this year include ChatGPT-4 for initial brainstorming, Otter.ai for transcription, and Grammarly for initial content editing.
3. Vendors transformed news consumption, prompting new content ideas: Finally, one interesting trend that came out of 2023 is more and more vendors are ditching traditional blogs to roll out their own branded news sources. Some examples in the security space include The Record by Recorded Future and Decipher by Duo Security. We expect more companies will follow in 2024.
For marketers, this trend has a number of implications. We are not recommending that everyone go out and start their own publication. In fact, an initiative like that requires significant budgets, bandwidth, and buy-in—meaning it’s likely not the best move for most companies. Instead, consider other improvements to your content program. For instance, revisit your company blog strategy and ask yourself: Is this a place to get news? What value is this providing? What do I want the reader to take away from this? Another way to improve your content program is to explore a company podcast (if bandwidth permits). In doing so, you’ll give your SMEs a platform to share their expertise on today’s news while simultaneously strengthening your relationships with prospective customers and partners who listen to the show.
Whether you re-energize the blog, debut a podcast, or create an entirely new content marketing campaign, ensuring these assets are easy-to-use resources for the media will maximize their impact.
Looking Ahead to 2024
1. Generative AI—from exploration to experimental: While marketing and PR practitioners are still weighing the pros and cons, we will see more experimentation with generative AI in 2024.
In the marketing and PR field, generative AI offers a great tool for brainstorming and researching, and in careful cases, content development. However, that will likely change as models get more proficient. More ethics and stricter guidelines on how and how not to use generative AI will soon arise.
2. Influencer marketing—it’s not just for consumers: While influencer marketing is by no means a new concept, it is, however, breaking new ground in B2B and B2G technology.
Influencers are now taking shape in veteran tech leaders, media personalities, and public figures. This creates new opportunities and strategies for PR in 2024. Marketers can engage influencers by collaborating on primary research, connecting through tech trade groups, and prioritizing industry event participation.
3. The age of the B2B buyer is trending down, which means strategies need to change: One study from Forrester found that B2B buyers are trending younger. Gen Z is starting to saturate the market, causing marketers to be more cognizant of how to most effectively reach the growing demographic. We’re seeing content growing more interactive, users seeking more self-service, and above all, more short and concise information. White papers are out, short one-pagers are in. Long videos are out, reels are in.
4. Revisiting, refreshing, and reiterating values in brand messaging: The growing competitive nature of the B2B landscape prompts organizations to revisit and refresh their brand messaging at a more rapid pace. We’re seeing many organizations requiring a message refresh every six months in order to keep pace with competitors. This rapid rate of change is also pushing brands to watch the market more closely—ensuring they’re measuring and iterating their own marketing and PR efforts to stay a step ahead of competitors in their field.
Additionally, as the Gen Z demographic continues to grow and geopolitical issues stay top of mind, brands will continue making an effort to highlight their values and ideals in their messaging.
5. Events are back…in some capacity: Industry events have survived the pandemic slump and are finally back in motion for some industries such as healthcare and government.
Many events are enduring a hybrid model, where participants can choose to attend in-person or online. One study from Market Connections found that, while most people prefer virtual events, coordinators can promote in-person participation by offering something not possible in a virtual setting. This can include one-on-one access to SMEs, personalized demos, or networking opportunities. Taking this into account for 2024, B2B marketers should prioritize and activate strategy around event participation.
As we enter 2024, the PR and marketing landscape will continue to shift. We will continue to work diligently to understand the changing trends and help our clients remain leaders and become disruptors in their markets.
We recognize we are still in a rocky economic climate, and we know the media landscape will evolve and AI will continue to make headlines. However, just as we responded to 2023’s rapid pace of change with open arms and curious minds, we also know we must stay agile in the new year. We are ready for whatever comes our way!
What changes are you expecting for the new year? Comment below!