2024 Outlook

Hand,Turns,On,The,Switch,,Moving,From,2023,To,2024.

If 2023 was the year of waiting-around-for-a-recession-that-didn’t-happen, 2024 can be summed up in one word: CHAOS.

Few people outside James Gleick and people with extremely questionable personalities want chaos. Business leaders seek stability and predictability, both of which will be in short supply this year. In an attempt to rein in the chaos of 2024, we at Purposeful Communications are coopting the design strategy of KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

Our KISS advice is to have a clearly defined purpose, speak with an authentic voice, and be judicious when responding to external issues. If trust is the objective (and it should be), doing these three things will help you earn it. According to Gallup polling, trust in big business (14 percent) and mass media (32 percent) are both down 9 percent from 2019. We think you could profitably assume those numbers will continue to drop in 2024.

Herein, we’ve outlined three core areas we’ll be paying attention to:

  1. Ballot Bedlam
  2. Geopolitical Garboil
  3. AI Anarchy

Ballot Bedlam

Approximately 40 percent of the world’s population will see elections in their countries this year – 65 elections across 54 countries. And for the first time (as far as we can tell), the U.S., U.K., E.U., Taiwan, India, Mexico, and Indonesia will all be voting for the Head of State (or its equivalent) in the same calendar year. Israel will almost certainly head to the polls – at least once – in 2024.

November will bring the (nearly) certain rematch of President Biden and former President Trump here in the U.S. – a rematch some two-thirds of voters don’t want – an election that is a coin flip at best. Despite the shockingly good economic state we find ourselves in and the incredible upside of President Biden’s major legislation, the country is split, and it will be an incredibly nasty election. We don’t believe any third-party candidate will emerge as a real threat, nor do we envision Trump not being the Republican nominee. In fact, the only way Trump manages to stay off the ballot is if there are legal reasons. That said, 2012 Obama reelection campaign manager Jim Messina wasn’t wrong when he said that it’s entirely possible that Trump wins the election in November from behind bars. Our working assumption is that Joe Biden will be taking the Oath of Office at noon on January 20, 2025.

Trump’s penchant for lying, obfuscating, exaggerating, inventing, and ongoing attempts to rile people up by saying outlandish things (and proposing outlandish policies), may compel corporate leaders to speak out. While the instinct itself is not wrong, being judicious in when to respond is essential. Don’t forget that Trump is looking for a response. As The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, recently reminded us (quoting his colleague Adam Serwer): “the cruelty is the point”. Over the last few months, we’ve seen organizations speaking out or staying silent to their detriment. Polling suggests most people don’t want businesses to speak out on social issues. Yet, we know staying entirely silent is not an option either. Leaders should consider speaking out only when their enterprise is threatened, when employees are directly impacted, or when something happens that is diametrically opposed to their declared values.

It’s going to be a long, challenging 11 months. Be smart in what you say and when you say it, and – this is important – remember that actions always speak louder than words.

Geopolitical Garboil

We enter 2024 with a world that is more unstable than in recent memory. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to cast a shadow over Europe, Hamas’ mass-terrorist attack on Israel and Israel’s ongoing defensive response continues to threaten to engulf more of the region, America’s ongoing immigration problem, China continues to threaten to invade Taiwan and Chinese-U.S. “coopetition-focused relationship” continues to dominate global and domestic economic concerns. And those are just the “big ones” we will continue to watch. For businesses, this creates another entire area of risk.

The trends of “friend-shoring” and building resilient supply chains will continue, and it’ll be incumbent on businesses to explain strategic choices to their stakeholders – especially if prices or quality will be impacted.

We also expect a few big things from the U.S. government that will directly impact corporations.

  • Legislation from The Select Committee on the CCP to follow the committee’s recommendations to “reset” the economic relationship with China.
  • Action from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to refine the FIRRMA regulations.
  • Release of the Treasury Department’s proposal for regulating outbound foreign investment in China and other countries of concern.

AI Anarchy

With a rash of artificial intelligence (AI) news flooding our news apps throughout 2023, opinions differ widely on how governments, companies, and consumers will use (and abuse) the technology going forward.

AI is being deployed in ways that impact all areas of our lives, which brings significant risks if not appropriately controlled. Indeed, Fortune’s Alan Murray warns of the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: data bias, data security, copyright infringement, and hallucination.” AI is a global challenge that needs a global response, and while AI offers endless opportunities, adopting AI practices must be done responsibly and with cybersecurity in mind.

The significant regulatory divergence between key nation-states could be counterproductive and ultimately lead to poor security and safety outcomes for all.

But it’s not all bad. The recent AI safety summit in the UK (the Bletchley Declaration) – alongside the G7’s Hiroshima AI Process and domestic moves like the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence – represent critical steps toward securing AI on a global scale. It is encouraging to see commitments from the Bletchley participants to ensure they will convene again next year in South Korea and France for continued discussion and international leadership, but talk is cheap.

Conclusion

We’re bracing ourselves for a complicated year, but we remain incredibly optimistic about our clients (and potential clients!) opportunities. The issues outlined above will almost certainly dominate the media, so companies and causes must double down on content development and clear messaging. One of the things we plan to do this year (in addition to KISS) is ask “why?” a whole lot. We intend to push ourselves and our clients to think hard about the strategic and tactical decisions we all make.

We’re big believers in Peter Drucker’s maxim that “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done in the first place.” Asking “why?” and really thinking through the rationale and purpose of something as simple as a document to as complex as an enterprise-altering initiative goes a long way to eliminating “that which should not be done in the first place .”

We hope 2024 will be a successful one for all of us. Never think twice about getting in touch with us. We’re an email/text/phone call away all the time.

We’re looking forward to reconnecting with you sometime soon.

-Frank and Elie

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