Welcome to the Firebrand Tech & Media Culture Awards 2023, where we’re taking a break from writing useful content to reflect on the chaos and trends that defined our little corner of the universe. 

To be clear, this isn’t exactly a year-end round-up (this is much less important). We’re here to acknowledge the moments that made us laugh, fret, and shake our heads in disbelief. The Firebrand Culture Awards has it all: from the breaking news that kept us glued to our laptops to the everyday absurdities of agency life and the pop culture phenomenons we tried to use as news hooks. 

As we say farewell to a year that started with UFOs and spy balloons and ended with generative AI, let’s give 2023 the accolades it deserves. 

Best threat to PR: Gen Z, Generative AI, journalists

Best threat to journalism: Gen Z, Generative AI, PR reps

Best performance we saw: OpenAI’s Succession crossover, crypto after the FTX crash, chatbots professing their love, a holistic white-hat SEO strategy

Best performance we never saw coming: OpenAI’s Succession crossover, Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski trial, people actually going back to the office 

Best moment in history this year: The Eras and Renaissance tours stimulating the US economy, New York Times suing OpenAI, the SVB collapse, Firebrand winning a PRSA award!

Best book to recommend (did read): Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and THE WASHINGTON POST by Martin Baron, Radical Candor by Kim Scott, Extremely Online by Taylor Lorenz

Best book to recommend (didn’t read): Democracy Awakening by Heather Cox Richardson, Victory City by Salman Rushdie, The Deluge by Stephen Markley

Best blockbuster sequel that made us think we could’ve written a better script: Mission Impossible 7, Indiana Jones 5, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Avatar 2, Magic Mike 3 

Best VR eyewear we’ll buy when it’s cheaper: Apple Vision Pro, Meta Quest 3, Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses

Best news we heard all week: Wired digital subscriptions are on sale for $5, space tech is booming right now (full circle moment much?), that jacket we liked is back in stock  

Best three-word response to our very long strategy emails: “Sounds good, thanks”

Best length for a blog post: 600 words

Best meeting duration: 45 minutes (1-hour meeting), 11 minutes (half-hour meeting)

Best idea we had: refreshing VMware’s social media visuals, data-driven PR campaigns, leveraging FDA news at CES

Best idea we didn’t have: The Grimace Shake, Barbie selfie generator, olive oil in a squeeze bottle

Best skill to have: Microsoft Excel, the ability to politely say no, a sense of curiosity

Best thing we listened to:lofi hip hop radio 📚 – beats to relax/study to,” the sweet sound of a Slack DM, construction on our street 

Best founder: Morgan McLintic, the founding fathers

The Fresh Air Award for Excellence in Podcasting: FiredUp! – The Startup Marketing Podcast

Most iconic voice in podcasting: Richard Bagnall, Ilona Hitel, Travis Van

Best Slack emoji that says “Read your message but have nothing to add”: 🙏 👍 🤠 🤘 🫡 😎 💯

Congratulations to this year’s winners and our deepest regrets to those who feel snubbed. It was a competitive year with news, social media trends, and technology that changed culture as we know it. Here’s hoping that 2024 will be just as memorable (but with fewer bank collapses). Bring it on.

About the Author

Kristina Leal is a PR Account Director at Firebrand Communications. She has over six years of experience in tech public relations and marketing, having served large, well-known brands and fresh startups. She is driven and creative, always seeking to make her clients’ day.

Theresa Carper is a copywriter who uses humor and candor to craft compelling content. She also executes content strategy, campaign planning and media relations. Previously she wrote for a viral PR agency and a luxury furniture brand and was the comms lead for a smart city startup.