You are likely thinking about what your marketing will look like in 2023.
I know the prediction and trend articles can be interesting and kind of fun but I want to do something a little different. I want to give some with more value.
As I started to write this, it was still a few weeks before the midterm elections and I was being hit by political ads in a way that would have made Mike Tyson jealous. And it seems like they all talked about was the economy.
When the words came to life on the screen I found myself talking about the economy as well.
There might be a time and place for this type of post but it’s not now.
Then it hit me. I am connected to some really smart people who work in marketing, communication, data, AI, and more. Why not ask them what’s on their mind as 2023 inches closer?
I have to say, they certainly delivered.
This post is going to hit on multiple subjects. Again, this isn’t about predictions or trends. It’s about the things you should consider in 2023 that will help your marketing and communication efforts.
Before I move on I want to thank everybody up front for sharing their thoughts and wisdom:
- Michelle Glogovac
- Christopher Penn
- Dave Irwin
- Michelle Garrett
- Corrie Oberdin
- Tonya McKenzie
- Matthew Stebbins
- Matthew Fenton
Make sure to follow them if you aren’t already.
There is a lot to talk about so buckle up and let’s get going.
Podcasts have been around since 2004. Some would argue they started even earlier than this but there is no arguing they have come a long way.
According to data from Buzzsprout:
- 78% of Americans are familiar with podcasts
- 73% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast in the last month
- Over 104 million Americans listen to podcasts regularly
- 80 million Americans listen on a weekly basis
- 66% have an average household income of $75,000 or higher
These statistics are certainly compelling enough for you to consider how a podcast might fit into your marketing and communication strategy.
A podcast is a great way to discuss different topics, present new ideas, show and share your knowledge, and create a connection with the listener.
It can create affinity and also potentially drive leads.
The downside is that it takes time to create a podcast.
You have to find a topic, create a script, record, edit, and upload it somewhere.
But here’s the thing. You can leverage the power of podcasts without starting one yourself.
And so it’s not a coincidence that Michelle Glogovac, founder of the MLG Collective is thinking about “The importance of podcast interviews and how they create incredible marketing content. They essentially tie PR and marketing together.”
There are many podcasts that focus on interviewing guests.
They aren’t like the nightly news which is hitting a general group of people. Most podcasts are focusing on a specific audience.
This is a great opportunity for you and creates a win-win situation.
The podcast wins because you are somebody in the space they cover. You win because you can get in front of an audience that is valuable to you.
SparkToro CEO Rand Fishkin has forsaken the search engine optimization (SEO) approach of focusing on making a website rank in search engine results to drive traffic to it in favor of appearing as a guest on podcasts to reach potential customers.
This is somebody who co-founded and was the CEO of Moz, a company that builds SEO tools.
I’m not saying you should avoid SEO but you should give some thought to a podcast.
It gives you an opportunity to take your marketing and communication to the next level.
Years ago somebody I knew said she didn’t care if companies like Facebook gathered data on her. She felt it was a fair trade-off to be matched to products she might be interested in.
I was surprised by this but I was in the minority. Most people just didn’t seem to care.
Jump to 2017 and the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
People started to pay attention to the massive amounts of data they were giving to companies such as Facebook and Google.
Politicians started paying attention as well.
This launched an era of privacy regulation.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in the European Union (EU) in May 2018.
GDPR is a set of data protection rules and one of the big issues it addressed was personal data. Personal data is anything that allows a person to be identified and can include your name, your location, and even your IP address.
It requires businesses to protect personal data and erase it on request. There’s more to it so if you want to read up on it, this is a good place to start.
If you’re thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t live in the EU, you’re sadly mistaken. If you’re doing business with an individual who is a European citizen you have to follow GDPR or you’ll be fined.
In the US, there was hope that there would be a federal law that would create rules, similar to GDPR, that governed the use of personal data.
The thinking was it would be better to have one federal law than 50 state laws but this hasn’t happened.
California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2018 and it became law on January 1, 2020.
As you might have guessed, if you’re doing business with somebody who lives in California, you will be held accountable to the CCPA.
Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, and Utah have passed laws similar to CCPA and GDPR that will become effective at different times in 2023.
Now, you have to follow five different laws, six if you do business in the EU, that are similar but all have their own provisions.
The question now is, what other states will pass privacy laws and what will they entail?
If you run a business, this could turn into a huge mess quickly as you try to follow the laws of multiple states plus the EU that are similar but different.
While I hope that the federal government finally passes a law that would trump a multitude of state laws, I’m not optimistic.
In the meantime, you need to pay attention to privacy laws because they will have a big impact on your business.
Privacy is a nice segway into talking about data.
It’s something that’s definitely on my mind.
Data is important to your marketing communication program. It can help tell you what’s working and what’s not.
Privacy laws have impacted how you collect and store data but there are also other issues with data.
The problem with marketing and communication in the past was it was hard to show its value.
The data was hard to come by if you could get it at all so there was always a question of whether marketing and communications programs were really working.
As the digital era arose, you were able to get more data and it became more granular.
It’s great for marketers because it helps us to better connect with our audience.
The downside was many people had no idea how much data they were giving to Facebook and Google and how it was being used.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal brought greater scrutiny but it was just the beginning.
Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency in April 2021. For those who have an Apple device, it means that you no longer have to fumble through the settings to block an app from tracking you. Apple made it user-friendly and asked users up-front if they wanted to opt-out.
Great for you but not so much for companies such as Facebook and Google who make money selling ads.
Apple launched Mail Privacy Protection in September 2021 which impacts any email opened from Apple’s Mail app on any device. It’s not turned on by default but when a user does turn it on it will show any email sent as opened even if it hasn’t been opened yet.
For email marketers, it means the open rate will be inaccurate.
Almost 50% of people open email on an iPhone, Mac, or iPad.
As you can guess, this has a huge impact on the data you are collecting from your email marketing.
Google will end support for third-party cookies in Chrome in late 2024. This is a big deal as Chrome is by far the most popular web browser.
This further erodes the data that was previously available and could be leveraged for marketing and communication campaigns.
Instead of getting more granular data, the trend is that the data is once agin becoming more general.
It’s not just causing an issue with data that you would use to target or re-target people with an ad.
Many marketers were using data to show attribution of what was and wasn’t working when it came to marketing.
“Without attribution, marketing becomes a cost that cannot be measured, which means cuts, replaced with further automation,” says Dave Irwin, Head of Marketing at We Are Global Irish. “It’s a spiral. Attribution/data analytics is needed.”
If you aren’t already, you need to start focusing on first-party data. This is data that you get directly from your customers instead of third parties. It’s always had importance but it as third-party cookies phase out, it has become more important than ever.
Collecting it and acting on it will make all the difference in your marketing going forward.
Data is something you need keep top of mind.
AI has seemed like the term du jour over the last couple of years.
I’ve seen everything from computer chips to software being touted as using AI.
Most of the time what we are calling AI is machine learning.
Machines are fed large amounts of data and create an algorithm out of it.
You’ve experienced machine learning for years. When Netflix recommends a movie, Amazon recommends a product, or Spotify recommends a new song to check out.
Every time I write, I use Grammarly, which makes recommendations in regard to spelling and grammar. It’s another example of machine learning in action.
None of these things are perfect but they can be of great help to you.
In 2019, I was watching an interview being done with the before-mentioned Chris Penn at Content Marketing World. He discussed machine learning and how it would change the way we create content.
He described how AI would be doing the heavy lifting creating a blog post and even creating graphics. He characterized it as an orchestra and talked about how you need to learn to be the conductor of the orchestra.
As the interview progressed, I noticed that the person interviewing him looked more and more concerned as he spoke. It got to the point where I couldn’t help but laugh.
Some people find the promise of AI exciting. Others see it as the beginning of the end as they think of Skynet from the Terminator movies.
However you feel, AI continues to become a bigger part of our world and marketing isn’t immune.
Just as Chris talked about in 2019, there are more tools to help with creating content.
As I was writing this article, Canva announced a free text-to-image AI tool that resides inside its image editor.
There are podcast tools, such as Podcastle, that use AI to edit.
The list goes on and on.
“For machines, the models are continuing to increase in quality at a crazy rate,” says Penn.
Yes, they are.
In fact, I used an AI writing tool, Lex, to come up with the title of this post.
All I had to do was copy and paste the text of this article into it and click a button. Instead of spending 10-15 minutes brainstorming to come up with 5-7 titles different titles, I had a list of 15 titles in less than a minute.
Higher efficiency is certainly appealing.
AI tools seem to be popping up everywhere and as they become more accessible to the masses, it will be easier to create any sort of content you want.
And because of this, Chris Penn says one of the things he is watching is, “The absurd glut of machine-generated content.”
Dave Irwin adds, “I’m interested in what this means for content marketing, copyright (because AI trained in copyright images may be impacted)…”
As AI gets better at creating content, the idea of it “writing” content becomes something that many companies will certainly consider.
It seemed Google was in part taking a shot across this bow when it announced the Helpful Content Update leading to the question if AI content will be able to rank in search results.
There is no doubt AI can be helpful in creating headlines and short copy. As we move forward, it will interesting to see the impact it has on your marketing.
There are also ethical issues to consider.
If machine learning is using copyrighted materials such as images, music, or books as data is this copyright infringement?
My guess is at some point, there are going to be some lawsuits that address this question.
And, as humans are choosing the data that is being fed to machines, there is a good chance that AI will reflect the same bias as the people working with it.
We’ve already seen this create issues with facial recognition.
We’ve learned what should have known already. Machine learning is only as good as the data it uses.
IBM and Google learned this the hard way when pursuing their health initiatives.
Of course, there is the potential problem that companies could cherry-pick data to use for machine learning to get a specific desired result.
Having worked for a group that did this years before machine learning, I know it could happen and shudder when I think of the impact it could have.
Imagine an agency or a company you’re working with manipulating the data so that they can get their desired result. It could be new business or getting you to buy a specific product only to find that you did the equivalent of setting your money on fire because you were duped. It’s not if, it’s when.
Finally, what if the data that was used becomes obsolete? The algorithm no longer works.
This happened during the pandemic and in the most simple of ways. My city found the algorithms they used for signals no longer was valid because traffic patterns had changed drastically.
This happened within business as well. People stopped behaving in the ways that companies expected. Suddenly, the data they had was worthless.
It may not happen often but when it does, you’ll need new data so an updated algorithm can be created.
AI/ machine learning is here to stay. It’s something that you need to consider in 2023 and beyond. Both the good and the bad.
Owned Media + Earned Media
When you have something you want to share with your audience that needs to be more than a social media post, you have two choices.
You can get it out via earned media or owned media.
Earned media is also known as media relations. It’s a public relations (PR) strategy with the goal to get media placements. You work with the media to get a story covered.
It’s not a given because ultimately they decide what they want to cover. That’s why it’s called earned media.
It’s a popular choice as it can get you in front of a larger audience than what you might command on your own. This is television, newspapers, magazines, or radio.
It could also get you in front of a specific targeted audience. Think of blogs, podcasts, or a video series distributed via your website or YouTube. Magazines, which also often have a digital counterpart these days, could also be a good option.
The whole point of working with the media is to get in front of an audience that you’re interested in which they have already cultivated.
It’s a way to increase your visibility.
Owned media is where you own the content and the channel. Typically it’s the content on your website such as a blog. It could also be a newsletter.
SEO has been touted as a big reason for owned media, more specifically, blog posts. However, SEO is a long-term strategy and doesn’t generate the same results as it did several years ago.
I’m not advocating you ignore SEO but keep in mind there are other ways you can get visibility.
That said owned media has great worth. It shouldn’t be looked at as a second option in all cases. It may be a situation where it is the best option at the time.
“Because earned media is becoming more difficult to land (and there are stats that back that up), brands can self-publish their own content,” says Michelle Garrett, a PR and marketing consultant. “I think that will become more common, especially when a pitch/story idea goes nowhere through traditional media pitching.”
Just because you feel something is newsworthy doesn’t the media will agree.
If that’s the case you should strongly consider running it on your own channels.
You can always pitch it again. As Michelle told me, “Repurposing owned media as earned media will be a skill PR pros absolutely must have.”
The two can complement each other and help you reach your goals if done right.
Sometimes life throws you a twist that you didn’t see coming and you have to postpone your plans.
2020 was one of those times.
It was a moment to readjust so you could deal with the reality of what was happening.
For many businesses, it meant putting certain pieces of their marketing and communication plans on hold.
At the time it made sense because there were too many uncertainties.
You likely continued with those things that seemed safer. Things that you knew would work or felt more comfortable with.
It wasn’t a time to experiment or explore new opportunities.
While Covid is still with us, we’ve learned how to live with it.
People are shopping again in stores. They are visiting restaurants. Live events such as concerts, sports, and conferences are back and in full swing.
Is it time to revisit those old plans?
You identified those opportunities for a reason. You should revisit them.
Even if you aren’t able to implement everything you shelved, at the very least, you should see if they still make sense.
There are companies that are still not completely engaged in all the marketing channels that they were in the pre-Covid world. This is especially true of in-person events. This might be you as well.
It’s time to pull those old plans off the shelf and revisit them. There may be some great marketing and communication ideas that you can now execute.
Sales can be something that people feel is icky.
There are sales emails where it’s obvious the person sending the email didn’t do any research.
Email isn’t the only place this happens.
You’ve likely experienced it on social media in a myriad of ways.
Social media platforms have worked to make it easier to sell on their platform.
On one hand, it’s certainly convenient. On the other hand, it’s a play to keep people on the platform instead of going to your website.
However, I understand that there are businesses that will opt to sell through social simply because it’s easier than trying to get somebody to their website.
I also get that it could be much more convenient for customers who don’t want to leave the platform when they could just click a button and make a purchase.
Outside of the store that you create on social media, there is selling that happens.
How many times have you got a sales pitch five minutes after accepting that new connection on LinkedIn?
How many times did it irritate the hell out of you?
Yeah. That’s a problem.
Making what you think is a personal connection is one thing but what about actively selling on social?
There is an issue here.
“How do we authentically blend the two since it’s become so prominent on most platforms and we (PR, communication, and marketing) are not sales,” muses Tonya McKenzie, CEO of Sands & Shores, a public relations and marketing firm.
Salespeople aren’t typically running the social media account. It’s somebody from marketing, comms, or PR. And no, marketing is not sales.
How does social selling work in a way that doesn’t put off your customer?
Do you train your marketing, PR, and comms people to do sales?
Are you going to train your salespeople in marketing, PR, and comms?
Can you really imagine the spokesperson for a company running a press conference and then running back to their desk to sell on Twitter?
Can you imagine your salespeople scheduling sales calls around researching the right media source to pitch an article?
It’s kind of ridiculous.
The knowledge and skillset is completely different.
Another issue is if you are selling on social media how is it impacting people’s perceptions of your organization?
Are they going to feel like they just sat down at the bar to have everybody line up to hit on them?
I haven’t met a person yet who logs into their social media account so people can sell to them.
Frankly, while it may be a trend, I don’t see it as a good trend.
Let your marketers, PR, and comms people do their jobs, and let the salespeople do theirs.
For those of you who ignore this advice, good luck to you because I don’t know the answer to the question Tonya posed. At least not an answer that wouldn’t involve you exploiting your employees and making your social media followers feel like a piece of meat.
It feels like social media is having a mid-life crisis. Billions of people still log in every day but not necessarily for the same reason they did a few years ago.
Let’s face it. Social isn’t new anymore. Our relationship with it has changed.
The scandals and privacy issues have taken a toll. The negativity and bullying is also a downer.
The relationship that new generations want to have with it is different.
TikTok is about being entertained.
With the crazy times we currently live in,it makes sense.
Do you want to go to a platform that features people and bots complaining and arguing or would your rather forget it all and find some fun?
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn aren’t going anywhere but TikTok is the hot app.
But, there are questions about social.
Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, is committed to the Metaverse. So much so that Mark Zuckerberg seems perfectly fine with its stock shedding 75% of its value and blowing $19 billion on an experience most people don’t seem to want. At least, not yet.
While Facebook and Instagram seem too big to die, Zuckerberg seems fine with letting them rot on the vine as he focuses on his next big thing.
Twitter reaction has become a staple in the news but now the big story is the platform itself.
The soap opera is ongoing and I don’t about you but I don’t get the feeling that Elon Musk understands the product he bought even though he has been a long-time user of it.
In short, Twitter is a car wreck that people can’t turn away from. Goodness knows what is going to happen to it.
It’s been a great place to promote, communicate, listen, and make connections but times are changing. I’ll hold off judgement on whether its for better or worse.
It feels to me like it could turn into a pay-to-play platform whose algorithm favors those throwing down the money to those who don’t.
The question is how many will pay Musk for a check mark (whatever color it ends up being) and how will that affect your feed? Will Twitter shove content down your throat from people you don’t even follow because they paid?
LinkedIn has grown and it seems like it could become a place where Twitter refugees go but the interactions sometimes feel less authentic and plagiarism is an issue.
Snapchat and Pinterest are both present but neither have taken off in the same way as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have.
TikTok is the hot platform so it looks like it could lead the next generation of social media but there is an elephant in the room. Will it be banned in the US?
Time will tell but if it does will people revert back to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook or will they go to something new like Mastadon, Hive, or Post?
I don’t know the answer but stay tuned.
The one thing I do know for certain is the conversation we have about social in a year will be different to the one we have now.
I was on Reddit recently and somebody posted the following: Name one book on marketing that’s exhaustive to the extent I won’t need to read anything else on the subject.
I wasn’t sure whether this person was serious or not but then I saw the subhead: No trolling, please, the question is 100% serious. Very busy guy here, trying to optimize my self-ed time.
Maybe you’ve wondered this too.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this book doesn’t exist. It will never exist.
Change is a constant and I can’t believe how much the world of marketing communication has changed over the last five years.
If you’re a marketer you need to have your finger on the pulse on what is happening now. This means staying abreast of changes and trends that could negatively impact or present opportunities to those you work with.
This could be your boss. This could be a client.
They are partners and they need to at least have a basic understanding of the environment.
“Some sort of educating of our customer base is always going to be needed,” says Tonya McKenzie. “As we adjust to new trends in marketing, PR, and Comms keep mental notes or actual ones on how you explain and teach them.”
This isn’t easy.
No two people are the same so you have to discover the best way they learn.
You will also likely have to deal with partners who are resistant to learning.
Make no mistake, if they aren’t engaged in the process other than getting a report, you’re going to have a pretty miserable time working with them.
How do you educate the partner who wants to know everything?
How do you educate the partner whose eyes glaze over as if you’re explaining a complicated physics problem?
How do you engage with people who are solely interested in data?
How do you engage with those who don’t like data?
I wish I had an answer for you but I don’t. It’s something you have to discover on your own and it’s likely to be a little different for everybody you work with.
I do know that it is something that should be on your mind in 2023 and beyond.
I was initially going to roll this into the next section which is about getting back to the basics but I feel communication is important enough to have its own section.
A quick disclosure. After working in the corporate world for nearly eight years, I went back to school and got a degree in communication.
I’ve seen many a debate on social media on whether somebody needs a degree in communication to work in PR. Not necessarily but it certainly doesn’t hurt and there are times it definitely helps.
While I do enjoy theory, this isn’t a section where I’m going to hit you with a myriad of communication theories that will help you in your everyday life.
The one big takeaway I learned as a communication student is that it’s really hard. The second big takeaway is everybody thinks they’re a great communicator.
There are all sorts of little things that can either make your communication great or awful.
This is something that I come back to frequently. It’s easy to take it for granted.
The whole idea of communication is to share ideas in a way others understand.
In 2023, I think you should pay more attention to how you communicate and whether its effective.
“Coming at it from broader communication, but the timing for your audience (will your audience even see/hear what you have to say), clear concise language (succinct language limits attention drift), and lingo/jargon choices come to mind.”
There is a lot here so let’s break it down.
Just because you communicate something doesn’t mean your audience will catch it.
I started getting emails in regard to Christmas in June. I didn’t even open them. They went right to the trash. By the late-July they had stopped coming and I haven’t seen any since.
If I was in retail or eCommerce, I can maybe understand bringing up Christmas in June because there is a certain amount of planning that you need to do to get ready for the season.
I’m not in either so I didn’t see whatever message they had.
This isn’t limited to email. It could be your content marketing, social media posts, or digital ads.
Timing is crucial. Communicate too early and people will ignore you. Communicate too late and you will miss your opportunity.
The language you use can also have a positive or negative impact. You want to make sure that you are using language that is understandable to your audience.
Avoid using industry jargon when you are talking to your customers. Not only will they be confused, they will be repelled.
Don’t use acronyms until you have explained what they are. Imagine if I would have dove into GDPR and CCPA without first telling what they were. There’s is a decent chance you would have immediately felt lost.
Don’t go off on tangents. This is as much for me as it is for you because I frequently do this. In my mind, it all connects but it can be confusing to others.
Be aware that the channel you choose to communicate with can have a big impact on your message.
Not all channels are created equal but some companies default to a particular way to communicate.
Internally it might be email or Slack.
Externally it might be a blog or social media post.
There are times when the default way you communicate is the wrong way.
I learned the lesson the hard way.
Many years ago I worked in human resources.
Our employees had two ways to contact us, by phone or via a web ticket.
When they submitted a web ticket, our default way to communicate an answer to them would be via the web.
We responded and they got a notification to visit the portal in which they submitted the ticket for the answer. If it answered the question they closed the ticket. If not, they could submit a follow-up question.
This was our default and didn’t deviate from it.
Then one day we were analyzing data and we noticed that there were times when our employees were submitting multiple follow-up questions. Not just one or two but four, five, and even sometimes six follow-up questions.
As we drilled even deeper we found this was either because they didn’t understand and needed a phone conversation or it was a more complex situation than warranted a phone call.
Sometimes you take for granted that you have more expertise than your audience.
Stop and think. Is the default way you communicate really the best way to communicate with your audience?
Instead of sending an email or posting on Slack, it might be better to call a meeting.
Maybe a video would be better for communicating a complex than a blog or social media post.
This isn’t about doing what’s easiest for you. It’s about what’s right for them.
Back to Basics
There are opportunities that you have that would make marketers from 25 years ago jealous.
It sounds great but it can have a negative impact.
“I’m less of a trends guy than an ‘eternal truths’ guy, so what’s on my mind in 2023 is about the same as any other year: Assess the landscape honestly & objectively, set a vision for winning, make clear choices for Where to Play and How to Win, and manage & resource accordingly.”
With all the tools and channels that are at your disposal don’t forget that it’s not the tool or the channel.
It’s whether you chose the right tool or channel.
You need to do four things well. They are:
Research involves understanding who your audience is, where they are at, and what they care about.
Corrie Oberdin also includes, “Understanding the multiple entry points to engaging with an organization and covering them all.”
This is important and can be missed. How does your audience want to engage with you? Are you making it easy or hard for them to do so?
A plan organizes and focuses your efforts in a specific direction so you can get the business results you need.
Going back to what Matthew said, this is you actively making choices of how you are going win and documenting them.
It does no good for you to have them in your head. Write them down. Then share them.
Execution is how well you implement your plan. You could have built an amazing plan that was tied to strong research and it can fail if you don’t execute it properly.
Measurement has become harder as I talked about in the data section, but you need to have at least an idea of how your marketing and communication efforts are working.
You don’t want to continue to walk down a path that isn’t working.
You also will need to fine-tune your efforts.
And finally, pay attention to how you communicate. I know mentioned it in great detail already but marketing and PR are really just a way you communicate. If you don’t it right the first time, you likely won’t get a second chance.
In a nutshell, if that nutshell can contain 6000 words, this is what you should be thinking about in 2023.
Yes, it’s a lot but much is going on in the world of marketing and communication.
I do hope it helps you.
Again, make sure you follow the fine people who contributed to this article. I guarantee you will learn from them because I do.
Think there is something that I missed or want to talk about what you’ve read? Hit me up on Twitter.
- Focus Your Marketing with a Strategic Plan - September 21, 2023
- Is X a Valuable Tool for Marketing and Communication? - August 3, 2023
- Measure Your Marketing to Unlock Valuable Insights - May 11, 2023