I write this on the day of the Honest Christmas party – a chance for the team to come together to celebrate a fantastic year and all that we have achieved together. So it feels fitting timing to reflect upon the year and what 2023 brought with it – both for Honest and our industry. It’s the final task on my 2023 to-do list (mainly as most have had to carry on to the ever-growing January list!) so a perfect way to end!
Highlights for Honest
When I look back at the year there are so many highlights to choose from but I’ve shortlisted here to just three!
A key standout moment was of course the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and taking care of the PR and social media for the Transcendence Garden on Main Avenue. It was a huge undertaking but so much fun and incredibly rewarding (even if I did break my ribs on press day…). Showing key journalists and influencers around the garden, and arranging exclusive interviews and tours, was an absolute career highlight.
Of course, everything this year wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible team we have here at Honest. This year brought new faces and with them even more passion, drive and commitment. Firstly, Laura joined us to cover Fay’s maternity leave, seamlessly taking the reins on her clients and flying with them. A huge thank you to Laura for all her help this year! As a new(ish) small business, maternity leave was an unknown for Honest so knowing Fay’s clients were in safe hands was a huge relief. Then of course came baby Luna – the cutest addition to the Honest team (I think I’m allowed to say that? I’ll check with HR…) – and Fay’s return in November. It’s been brilliant to have Fay back, and we’ve got lots planned for expanding her role on the leadership team in 2024. It’s like she never went away!
We then welcomed our two fabulous account executives – Kerry and Dani. Both bringing with them a fresh approach, and so much excitement and dedication. It feels like they’ve been part of the team forever. It’s been amazing to watch them settle in and flourish – 2024 is going to be a big year for both of them!
Finally, a big thank you to my two-together railcard partner, Beth, who has been an absolute superstar this year. She’s helped keep me sane, while working incredibly hard, building amazing relationships with clients, and charming everyone left right and centre.
My third highlight is easy to pick – the results! The results the Honest team generate make me proud on a daily basis. Each morning we receive coverage alerts brimmed with national features for multiple clients and I smile as I look through endless pieces of expert commentary, product reviews and articles about client news. It’s all a testament to the relationships with the media that the team invest time into building.
Observations and changes in the PR industry
The way PR works has undoubtedly changed this year. Most noticeably, the need for an even quicker turnaround on enquiries than ever before. Next-day deadlines that we previously classed as short notice are now seen to be a comfortable luxury as we’re now seeing turnaround times of just a few hours. So, we’ve adapted our ways of working and systems with clients to be able to jump on things instantly, get content approved and back to journalists with the efficiency of a military operation!
Enquiries from journalists seeking expert comments, tips and tricks have gone through the roof which is amazing for our clients and building expert positioning within their fields. Likewise, requests for shopping guides and product reviews continue to come flooding in.
A big shift in the way media are working is creating search-led content where digital writers are using SEO data, Google trends and search history to decide on their editorial frameworks – looking at what people are searching for, then writing about it instead of the other way round that it has previously been! Recognising this, we’ve adapted and now use new systems, processes and data analysis technologies to evolve our strategies, allowing us to anticipate trends and know what journalists will want to write about before they know it themselves! Read more about this in Beth’s blog from earlier this year!
Finally, it wouldn’t be a 2023 review without mentioning AI. As a PR agency, Chat GPT is one of the biggest AI challenges we face but there is of course so much more to it than just Chat GPT. The CIPR has reported that 40% of all PR work is being assisted by AI. While it could be easy to see this as a threat, at Honest we see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to maximise our resources, create more capacity for creativity and really showcase the value we (as humans!) bring to our clients by understanding the story, aligning our clients with the news agenda and using our knowledge of the brands to personalise the content. I could harp on about this all day as I find it such a fascinating area but instead, I’ll link to a blog I previously wrote about it.
How people discover brands has hugely changed this year too. Organic social media referrals are in decline, with search engine traffic across the board being found to be the main channel for discovery at 31.2%. This has created an amazing amount of opportunity for us to find new ways of placing features for our clients, while also increasing the importance of online articles, backlinks and reviews.
New social channels have emerged and while TikTok isn’t new for 2023, its unfounded popularity certainly is! It has brought exciting ways for brands to engage and new ways for agencies to tap into trends and influencers while telling creative stories with snapshot content. TikTok has been amazing for both organic and paid content, with ads said to have generated a massive £1.2 billion in revenue this year alone – so it’s not a channel to be sniffed at! It’s not just for Gen Z either!! Older demographics are turning to it as a key channel too.
This year saw the launch of Threads, although it has seemingly started to unravel already. Having hit 100 million sign-ups in the first five days it quickly became the fastest app launch of all time (but then seemed to drop off as quickly as it appeared). One to watch in 2024 though! Another growing platform to keep an eye on is Telegram. Over the past 14 months, its popularity has increased by 14% with 1 in to 10 people using the platform, with it now being up to 800 million users.
What’s in store for 2024?
As ever, we’ve got lots planned! Things never stand still here and looking at our 2024 plans, it’s set to be a busy one!
We kick things off in January with a new team member joining us and we are already recruiting for a second new starter so hope to have new people to introduce to you soon. We’ve also got a new client lined up that we’ll be unveiling in January to kick off the year!
Influencer engagement has become so core to our strategies that we are going to be launching our own influencer network in the new year too. Helping us to analyse performance, recommend the best people for our clients to collaborate with and really drill into the data behind everything. Stay tuned for more!
Before we know it show season will be upon us, and with four clients already confirmed for Chelsea, we’ll be hitting planning as soon as we’re back in January (after a good catch-up about presents, festive food and New Year’s resolutions that we’ll probably have already broken).
Before I head off to the Christmas party, I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported Honest this year. The business turned five in November which was a huge milestone that wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing clients, the fantastic team and anyone else who has helped along the way!
2023 has been a fantastic (albeit busy!) year. There’s been lots to juggle but that’s what we thrive on! As we step into 2024, I’m excited for the year ahead and what it may bring. The lessons learned and the experience gained in 2023 have bolstered us and will propel us forward into 2024 and all it may bring! As is the Honest way, we’ll continue to evolve, grow and frankly absolutely smash it, while exceeding the expectations of our clients, navigating the ever-changing ways of the PR world, and all with smiles on our faces!
Here’s to an amazing 2023, and an even better 2024!