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  • Adam Riddell, Director

2024 Outlook: AI prompts, political listening and sustainability governance on the agenda for comms teams in 2024

It’s that time of the year when we tend to speculate on what might be on the horizon for the coming year – so here are my thoughts on what I think will be key areas for comms people working in the international finance and corporate space in 2024…

  • The language of ESG: It was no great surprise that the CIPR’s most listened to podcast in 2023 focused on how to communicate ESG strategies effectively. And it was fitting that the 2023 CIPR Maggy Nally Lecture was given by Melissa Fleming, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, focusing on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Melissa was also awarded the CIPR’s 2023 President's Medal.

  • Sustainability and ESG alignment are increasingly underpinning corporate strategies, both in terms of how they operate and the services they provide, and comms teams need to be on board with that – in fact in 2024 they need to be more than just on board, they need to be driving and influencing those strategies.

  • Comms teams can help shape how businesses both talk about their sustainability credentials and implement their commitments…and getting it wrong can have severe reputational consequences. There have been a number of big fines in 2023 for financial services (and other) firms found guilty of greenwashing. And over the year we’ve seen evolution to the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), new frameworks introduced around nature and climate risk, while in late 2023 the FCA introduced new measures to improve transparency around environmental claims and products. Communicating sustainability properly and with substance, backed up by an understanding of these evolving regulatory landscapes, is going to be a key area of evolution in 2024.

  • AI: AI didn’t just arrive when ChatGPT launched in November 2022 – it’s been around, of course, in various guises for much longer. But there’s no doubt that AI tools entered the corporate mindset in 2023, and in 2024 this trend will be turbocharged. A CIPR report in 2023 found that 40% of PR tasks are being supported by AI, and that will undoubtedly grow over the coming years.

  • This presents some risks, and roles will definitely change. Comms teams will need to continue to focus on understanding how AI can help them and testing out how tools can be embedded in their workflows. But there are definitely opportunities for PR professionals too, in particular in the governance and ethical space.

  • On a practical level, there’s also an opportunity to pivot writing and content creation skills in a new AI environment. One of the more interesting practical opportunities is around AI prompting – there’s a need for people who understand how to get the best out of AI Large Language Models (LLMs) through good prompts. As ‘good writers’, perhaps PR people are well placed to apply their skillset in that area.

  • Politics: 2023 was another unsettling year geopolitically – and the signs are things won’t calm down in 2024. Particularly when you factor in that it is likely more than 40 countries representing a big chunk of global GDP will go to the polls in 2024, the US and UK included, with the potential for some significant political shifts.

  • Another is being alive to the potential for policy changes and greater cross-border friction. Comms teams will need to up their listening game in 2024 to keep track of major shifts in policy.

  • And in the UK in particular, it’s likely we’ll see a rise in focus on tax as the political parties look to play to the electorate and get one over on their counterparts, in particular as we look to emerge from a cost of living crisis. For those in the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, expect to see a greater focus on tax and beneficial ownership transparency. It’s a deflection tactic that we’ve seen before and will probably see again in 2024. Again, comms teams should be vigilant and alive to what will be a rapidly evolving business environment; it will be a test of resilience.

Overall, these issues present some significant challenges for comms teams – but there is also a big opportunity for them to show their management mettle and work alongside marketing, sustainability, policy and IT colleagues for mutually beneficial outcomes.


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