HELLO 2023: Public sector comms predictions for 2023

The greatest danger of turbulence, wrote Peter Drucker is not the turbulence is to act with yesterday’s logic.

Here are the 11th set of predictions for public sector communications that starts yet again with a quote that sums up the year ahead. 

Turbulence. If you think its been windy, strap yourself in for 2023. It’s going to blow a gale. 

There is little ahead but turbulence. The way to approach the gale is very much like coping with seasick. Focus on the horizon with a level head. Don’t be too worried by the detail.

2012 comms

One persistent thought kept emerging as I was drawing up these predictions. The danger is to act with yesterday’s logic. In summary, this is to run a comms team as though it is still 2012. Having Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and media relations isn’t enough. Nor is posting a link to a news story on your website to Facebook and Twitter. This is now as effective as hoping people will pick up the print edition of the evening paper and turn to page eight.  

New thinking needs to be done not just to catch up with 2023 but to move into the future.  

I’ve put what I got right and wrong in the 2022 predictions at the bottom of the post.


Turbulence with channels accelerates

We are at a crossroads with digital communications where the old hegemony of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is disintegrating. How they are used in 2023 is different to 2012. Being up to date with algorithmic shifts is an important part of the comms team. Make time for it. It’ll save time in the long term. Other channels rise. 

Permacrisis turbulence

Public sector comms is a reflection of the ambition, drive, trust and stability of the public sector as a whole. The UK economy has suffered because of its own poor political decisions. Liz Truss’s mini-budget is just one of these. Trust and stability are in short measure with strikes, power cuts, disruption and economic turbulence. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, all this will mean that pressure for independence creates further pressure on to-do lists. 

Your organisation may fall over and it’s not your fault

No matter where you are in the public sector there’s a chance that your organisation may run out of money or run out of staff and collapse. This will happen more often in 2023. You working an 80-hour week every week for 52-weeks won’t change this.  

Easing away from the Town Square 

The traditional social media model was the Town Square where everyone could see each other’s opinions. Abuse has made this model toxic. The public sector, like news, will continue to back away from this in 2023. 

Email lists will be more important

Email lists which are not beholden to the whims of Elon Musk or algorithm changes will become more important. 

Fractured channels

As the traditional hegemony of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube diminishes, the public sector needs to learn to be fleet of foot to identify sub-channels used by clusters of their audience and tailor individual messages to individual audiences. For example, the Quarry Bank Facebook group or the internal staff WhatsApp community, for example. The loud hailer of reaching mass audience will be less important.

SEO is back, baby

With the Town Square loud hailer no longer working so well SEO will become more important to connect to make a voice heard. SEO will be important not just on platforms such as Google but search on Instagram and TikTok. Google are also experimenting with search within video itself. This builds on an emerging trend.

The drift of staff to the private sector increases

The public sector is no longer a career for life. It is stressful, subject to abuse and poorly paid. Pay rises continue to lag behind inflation. The exit ramp from the public sector is a better paid career in the private sector in PR… or even stacking shelves. Those familiar with the talent drain from journalism in the last 20 years will find this scenario familiar. Long term this will lead to a talent drain. 

Viva the generalist

Those left behind in public sector comms must be a jack of all trades from media relations to comms planning to content creation to video editing. The silver lining is that this range of battle-learned skills will make them attractive to the private sector. New skills are needed not just as a once-in-five-years investment but constantly. Invest in your staff. 

There will be a two speed AI learning curve

AI has begun to make inroads into the popular conscience with public sector PR. In 2023, the bow wave will experiment with plugging AI into some areas of content creation. As budgets shrink the need for this will increase. In 2023, there will be examples of comms teams being reshaped to deploy AI by the end of the year. That’s one side of the learning curve. On the other side, teams will lag behind.  

Burn out is in danger of being institutionalised

The need for better strategic management is often not being met by the existing management skill set. Burn out as people try to fill the gaps and service expectations to run a comms team like its still 2012 will lead to staff suffering.

TikTok: more mainstream

There is little risk in this prediction. But TikTok will continue to seek an older audience.  

TikTok: the end of organic reach

TikTok has been flying and hoovering up audience. However, these are the salad days. Make the most of them because organic reach will start to curb in the same way that Facebook Zero curbed it.

Mastodon won’t be a Twitter rival

Those people looking at Mastodon as a chance to recreate old Twitter will be disappointed. It will be a network for the tech savvy but won’t become mainstream in the next 12-months.

Working with creators

This will become more important in 2023. If someone local to you is doing TikTok or Instagram really well, working with them will be more of a sensible idea. 

LinkedIn becomes helpful daily 

The platform once described as ‘like Facebook for accountants’ will really come into its own as the professional Twitter alternative. 

Predictions for 2022 I didn’t get right

I didn’t see three Prime Ministers in three months.

The online harms bill and GDPR Lite didn’t materialise. 

VR and AR didn’t make huge inroads.

Predictions for 2022 I got right

Looking back here’s what I got right…

2022 was be a hard year. 

People did walk off the job burnt out.

Political authority did dip – most notably with 10 Downing Street. 

Brexit did make things harder.

Comms teams did struggle to recruit and retain staff.

Political decision making was broadly poorer.

Diversity continued to get worse. 

The AI gap grew.

TikTok came of age.  

Organic Facebook reach did continue to deteriorate.

Video did increase – particularly vertical. 

Nextdoor did get bigger. 

One size fits all comms did get less effective. 

There was algorithmic upheaval. 

There you go. What did I miss?

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent Dan. Thought provoking. Wake up call to move on from 2012. Brilliant that you have thought about and speculated on the future for 11 years. Boss!

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