Eric Yaverbaum
5 min readDec 19, 2023

2023 in Review: We Didn’t Start The Fire, But We Have to Come Together to Fight It

By Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications

Perhaps against the odds, we made it; so long 2023, hello 2024!

If 2023 was anything, it wasn’t boring. An incredibly difficult year following a string of difficult years, it’s no surprise that many are feeling so worn down. For a sobering recap of what it’s like to live in these unrelentingly unprecedented times, give Fall Out Boy’s updated cover of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” a listen.

2023 had more mass shootings than days, Twitter became X, a train derailment unleashed a poisonous cloud that devastated the environment and forced an Ohio town from their homes, war and violence claimed hundreds of thousands of lives from Ukraine to Sudan to Israel and Gaza, for the the first time in history, a former U.S. president is facing criminal charges, and with 2023 the hottest year on record, climate catastrophes raged across the globe, including wildfires in Canada that turned skies smokey orange and made the air dangerous to breathe from New York City to Miami. 2023 was quite literally on fire. But as we head toward a new year, I have hope; hope that if we use these challenges to bring us together, the possibilities are limitless. The fire doesn’t have to consume us — it can be what ignites us.

From the AI spring to a wave of energy fueling progress for labor movements to the power of Swiftonomics, the events of 2023 will undoubtedly shape 2024 and beyond. So with that in mind, instead of recapping the havoc and horrors of the past year, let’s instead look forward — as I’m often inclined to do — and consider the seeds of possibility that took root in 2023.

The Generative AI Generation

Only a few short years since OpenAI ignited what’s been dubbed the AI spring, the generative AI boom has accelerated to a breakneck pace. Wasting no time at all, 2023 kicked off with a massive announcement that Microsoft would be investing billions into OpenAI. From the largest tech giants to the most unexpected of industries, interest in generative AI has caught fire and could have sweeping impacts on how we work and live. While generative AI is far from new, the technological advancements of the past year and the potential they hold are boundless.

As with any new technology, especially one developing this rapidly, there are of course crucial concerns to consider and precautions that must be taken — generative AI has sweeping implications that raise critical questions about data collection and privacy, intellectual property rights, labor and worker protections, and safety concerns, just to name a few. That said, the potential AI is unlocking is undeniably thrilling.

Reigniting the Labor Movement

2023 was a historical year for the labor movement. Half a million workers — from teachers and autoworkers to actors, writers, and baristas — not only went on strike, but won major victories and reignited the labor movement. 2023 saw over 400 strikes, the impacts of which will be felt for years, if not decades, to come. Reflecting the movement’s growing momentum, President Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to join a picket line, and headline-grabbing, unprecedented dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in the entertainment industry helped fuel widespread support and solidarity for unions, the likes of which we haven’t seen in nearly a century.

Thanks to American workers coming together, standing strong, and fighting for reform, the labor movement has been reignited and its future is burning brighter than ever.

2023 (Taylor’s Version)

At the highest echelons of pop culture, where celebrity meets artistry, sit the select few of musical acts to reach true, everlasting icon status; think Elvis, The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. Today, no one better embodies this than Taylor Swift and Beyonce, who’ve redefined what it means to be a pop star and whose outsize influence cannot be overstated.

If you somehow had an infinitesimal sliver of doubt remaining, 2023 irrefutably proved the power of Swiftonomics. TIME Magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year, Taylor Swift has dominated headlines so much that there are dedicated Taylor Swift beat reporters, and for good reason. The Eras Tour has a projected gross of $2.2 billion in North American ticket sales, and that’s not even counting the movie. Taylor Swift’s influence is so profound, that she boosted entire local economies with each of her tour stops and colleges are teaching Taylor Swift courses that cover everything from economics to songwriting to psychology. Meanwhile, the economic impact of Beyonce’s Renaissance tour — generating an estimated $4.5 billion — was so great that it’s been compared to that of the Olympics.

We’re not simply talking about record sales and sold out stadiums anymore — today’s biggest pop stars have considerable influence on the global economy. What’s most exciting though is how these women have wielded their influence to create positive change. Throughout her tour, Swift donated to food banks across the country, which encouraged her fans to do the same. Similarly, Beyonce leveraged her tour as a philanthropic endeavor, donating millions to scholarship funds and entrepreneurs benefiting underserved communities, which in turn create further positive change.

I don’t want to downplay the horrific tragedies and struggles the world has faced — and continues to face — throughout the last year. But no matter how dark things get, we cannot give in to hopelessness. We have to hang on to light, we have to keep moving forward. As difficult as things have been, as much as we’ve lost, I can see countless possibilities sprouting from seeds planted over the course of 2023. Keep your head up and your eyes fixed just there over the horizon, and you’ll see them too.

Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications, is a communications, media, and public relations expert with over 41 years in the industry. Eric is also a bestselling author who literally wrote the book on public relations — the industry-standard bestseller, PR for Dummies — as well as six other titles, including Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEOS.

Eric Yaverbaum

New York Times Bestselling author of seven books. CEO of Ericho Communications