The fragmentation of media, the overlap of content and data, and the wave of technological innovations have evolved the face of the PR industry today.
In the era of instant connectivity, and shifting social dynamics, the practice of PR has had to evolve and adapt to accommodate the changing needs and expectations of audiences worldwide. In fact, according to a 2021 report by Muck Rack covering the PR and comms industry, over 70% of PR professionals no longer think the term “public relations” defines the work they are or will be doing in the next five years.
The job of public relations needs to be redefined. Moreover, close to 90% of PR professionals say strategic planning will be one of the most important skills for success in the next five years, followed by media relations (77%) and social media (72%)
A more recent 2023 survey by Muck Rack also states that public relations professionals are still seeing challenges across the industry due to a troubled economy with internal communications remain a priority for brands, with 44% saying their time spent on it is increasing.
So what then is in the cards for PR agency partners? In this first instalment of the "Where's the money?" series, we try to find out what will be the money maker in 2024.
Ashvin Anamalai, CEO and founder, DNA Creative Communications
Drawing on his experiences over the past few years, Anamalai said that “the marketing landscape has witnessed a surge in advancements, especially in artificial intelligence and machine learning.” These areas continue to enhance marketing automation tools, and consequently allow for better personalisation and improved customer engagement.
He added that there is a growing emphasis on improving the customer experience, with brands investing in tailored interactions, faster response times, and smoother user journeys.
“Simply put, the ability to bring in new audiences and engage with them have been, and will continue to be, instrumental in nurturing leads through the sales funnel,” he said.
Consequently, he explained that automation is really hitting its stride in marketing, from the way it streamlines tasks, crafts personalised experiences, and ramps up customer engagement. Beyond working smarter, automation will be about boosting brands’ connection with audiences to secure more profitable paths ahead.
Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee, chief creative officer, Asia Pacific, Golin
Citing 2023 to be a “tsunami of Gen AI innovations”, Mukherjee highlighted that AI has “disrupted every stage of the process of communication”.
“In 2024, we will see much greater impact of AI on the business of communications,” he said. This transformation would be further accelerated by emerging innovations, such as Adobe Firefly and Microsoft 365 Copilot, he explained. As a result, agencies will have to address fundamental questions related to the ethical, legal, technological, and talent imperatives of AI.
Mukherjee also touched on the actions agencies would need to take to keep up, such as in defining the ethical guidelines of AI exploration, articulating intellectual property contractual rights, and updating talent upskilling and recruitment strategies.
He noted that AI transformation is elevating work and creating efficiencies with direct impact. “As our clients go through the same process of transformation, it also presents us with new business opportunities to partner them in navigating this change,” he said.
“This change is inevitable, and it’s upon us to make it better and make it matter.”
Lars Voedisch, principal consultant and managing director, PRecious Communications
“Personalised and authentic content.”
Voedisch highlighted data-driven personalisation and optimisation as two ways in which content can provide customised consumer experiences, across digital and virtual platforms. He added that these experiences also include AI-generated content and customised virtual influencers.
In terms of platforms, he anticipated “further diversification in spend to platforms like Netflix, Spotify, or specific-audience and geography plays like vidio.com or Xiaohongshu”, adding that Google and Facebook might become “rather stale”.
At the same time, he added that authentic content that can create impact for more targeted audiences in B2B environments are also highly sought after. Brands and their ambassadors would seek more genuine storytelling, with less scripted and corporate tones.
“What marketers hope to save from the use of generative AI-driven content generation will mainly go into customisation of content,” he said. More resources for content ideation and format-specific production would be needed to generate original thought leadership that can connect with smaller target audiences.
Tarun Deo, founder and managing director, Progressive Communications
According to Deo, it is difficult to predict where clients are likely to put their money towards, given the “many imponderables” such as wars, inflation, and anaemic economic growth in a “very uncertain business environment”.
Given these economic uncertainties, he highlighted a need to focus on elements that can be controlled. For example, “doubling down and doing impactful work in strategic areas for fewer but more committed clients and companies” is one way to go.
He explained that this could involve strengthening commitment towards clients’ purpose driven transformations and preserving their brands and reputations amidst business transitions.
Manisha Seewal, president, Redhill
In particular, Seewal discussed generative AI in relation to content production. “Content production still remains one of the top marketing costs for any industry,” she said.
“If this can be automated with the right prompts to AI, there’s massive savings to be made,” she added. She also highlighted that AI has the potential to make marketing departments more agile by speeding up the content production process.
As companies look for avenues for cost efficiency in content production, Seewal stated that AI can also be useful in other aspects of content production. For example, using AI in keyword generation for SEO “can further reduce the cost of advertising over time for a brand”.
Pamela Tor Das, vice president, Singapore and emerging markets, TEAM LEWIS
"Experience is now everything when it comes to a consumer’s interaction with a brand," Tor Das said, highlighting that across physical and digital mediums, brands are investing more in bringing an optimal experience to customers.
"More importantly, brands must recognise the need for research and invest equally in obtaining the right insights that will help create an experience that is relevant to consumers," she added.
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