At Commetric, we’re in the habit of turning to data to answer any question.

So, when we wanted to look at the most prominent PR trends in 2023, we decided to check which of our analyses received the most attention from our readers – who are predominantly comms pros – and use this as an indicator of what was important for them during the year. Here’s what we found:

1. New health narratives emerged

2023 was a year marked by an evolution of health discussions, particularly in the area of public health.

This is evident from several of our most popular analyses. For instance, we found that PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “forever chemicals”) became a new challenge for PR and comms, as there’s been growing media scrutiny of companies like 3M and DuPont, which marketed products containing PFAS for decades despite knowing they cause cancer, developmental defects and other health problems.

One of our main findings was the PFAS problem is becoming an increasingly cross-industry debate, so no industry is safe from scrutiny.

Another major public health development involved the pharma sector, as the exploding popularity of weight loss drugs such as Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy changed the obesity debate forever.

However, our analysis on the subject indicated that pharma companies might lack a deeper understanding of how obesity is discussed in the public discourse.

2. Tech was brought to a reputation reckoning

At the beginning of 2023, the tech news cycle wasn’t dominated by the latest gadgets or innovations – instead, companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft were making headlines with their massive layoffs. In turn, our analysis of how their layoff comms affected their reputation became one of our top-trending pieces.

But the tech discourse completely changed later in the year, when ChatGPT generated an insane amount of media buzz.

Against this backdrop, our analysis found that while companies developing generative AI, from pioneering start-ups like OpenAI and Anthropic to established Big Tech entities like MicrosoftGoogle, Adobe and Snapchat, are leveraging PR strategies to capitalise on the hype, they’re missing a critical element of the narrative – consumers are increasingly worried about their privacy.

3. The finance industry faced some troubles

A big portion of the 2023 debate around the financial industry was overshadowed by the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapse, which sent shockwaves across the global financial system.

In one of our most-read articles, we found that while SVB made significant financial missteps, it was the firm’s failure to effectively communicate information and offer positive sentiment to its stakeholders that put the nail in the coffin.

Another industry issue that gained a lot of traction was the growing scrutiny of the UK neobanking sector.

In contrast to our previous analysis from 2021 where the potential for disruption was the most significant topic surrounding neobanking, our 2023 analysis revealed a significant shift in the narrative: the primary focus now lies on the business viability and profitability of neobanks.

4. Plastic regulations and Big Oil gave new impetus to sustainability

2023 was also marked by changes in the sustainability debate and plastic pollution in particular – in contrast to previous years, where the emphasis was placed primarily on consumer behaviour or industry initiatives, Regulation has emerged as a pivotal theme, presenting new challenges for companies like Amazon, Coca-Cola and Unilever:

And of course, there were no sustainability discussions without the energy sector. Throughout 2023, many oil companies like BP and Shell ramped up their efforts to turn into active electromobility players by getting into EV charging.

And, as many faced accusations of greenwashing, our analysis of the topic demonstrated how Big Oil can clean up its reputation by adopting new PR and comms approaches.

5. There’s a hunger for strategic pharma M&A comms

Judging by what our followers found most interesting in 2023, there’s a significant appetite for a more strategic approach to M&A communications in the pharmaceutical sector.

One of our hit pieces delved into Pfizer’s acquisition of Seagen, the dominating narrative in the 2023 pharma M&A space, as per our media evaluation report based on 40,763 English-language articles.

Our key finding was that pharma M&A communications strategies shouldn’t be just about announcing deals. They should focus on weaving a cohesive narrative, underscoring the company’s vision, commitment, and evolution in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.

Similarly, another one of our analyses on that topic underscored the importance of stakeholder mapping in pharma M&A comms.

Our readers showed particular interest in how Commetric’s Influencer Network Analysis (INA) transcends the usual suspects of HCPs, academics, and journalists, encompassing a broader net, capturing patient advocates, health authority figures, politicians, and corporate spokespersons – each with a crucial role in the discourse surrounding M&As.

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