Last week saw the 2022 Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Conference take place, this time at London’s National Gallery. Attended by hundreds of communications professionals from across the country, it certainly left us with a lot to consider.
This year’s theme – Influencing the Future – attempted to address the challenges that lie ahead for PR professionals and provide the learnings, wisdom and tools that underpin best practice in communications.
So, what were the key takeaways and what are the trends set to shape PR in the coming year?
Generative AI and the rise of Deep Fakes
Nina Shick, author and advisor on generative AI and its influence on humanity, gave a real eye-opener of a talk that was both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure. Addressing the capabilities Generative AI offers, Nina demonstrated the massive impact it will have on the creative industries.
“By 2030 we are looking at a world where a consumer can produce as high-quality content as a film studio, due to generative AI”, Nina explained. Content creation plays a leading role in the marketing mix for any business, whatever the sector, and the possibilities are incredibly exciting. However, it also introduces new potential risks – particularly when it comes to authenticity and reputation.
“If we are looking at a digital ecosystem where everything can be faked, why would the audience trust anything they interact with online?”, Nina asked, highlighting the wide-ranging impact on authenticity, the rise of synthetic media and the role PRs must play in reputation management, safeguarding brands from harm and preventing manipulation of content and the use of damaging deep fakes.
PR for good
Futerra’s Solitaire Townsend spoke about the role of PR in tackling the climate crisis – the profession hasn’t always covered itself in glory when it comes to doing the right thing so it’s more important than ever for PRs to harness their influence to drive positive action, while steering clear of greenwashing.
Solitaire gave a thought-provoking talk on the importance of understanding the role of communicators in the co-existing fields of ESG and sustainability. 71% of people working across the PR industry are worried about the negative impacts of the industry on the environment and more want their agencies to take climate action, while 91% state that knowing their organisation is taking climate action would improve their job satisfaction. Interest in a more sustainable lifestyle has jumped 4550% since January 2020 according to Google Trends, indicating the appetite for real change.
“I believe we can be the missing part of the solution”, Solitaire explained. There is no need for PR to communicate the crisis any longer, she said – it is communicating itself in the form of natural disasters. She spoke passionately about the need for PR to communicate the solution to make a difference. While the PR industry may be tiny in comparison to others, collectively it possesses significant power to influence, to drive change and, crucially, to inspire.
Watch Solitaire’s TedTalk to hear how PR can influence change and tackle the climate crisis.
The Evolution of Media
Sophia Smith Galer, reporter and TikTok creator, spoke about the evolution of media and the rapid pace of change – and the risk PRs face in failing to grasp new opportunities.
While TikTok found popularity as a singing and dancing app, today it features everything from DIY self-help guides and make-up tutorials through to travel reviews and mortgage advice. Lots of people now use the app to search for information, while news channels have dedicated pages. “I’ve noticed there was a time BBC was full of viral TikTok trends”, she explained, highlighting TikTok’s growing reach, credibility – and the fact that its popularity is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.
While TikTok may not be an appropriate channel for every business, PRs must keep abreast of new and emerging platforms to ensure that we are engaging with clients’ target audiences effectively and aren’t missing exciting new opportunities – whether it’s on TikTok, BeReal or somewhere else entirely.
Find Sophia Smith Galer on TikTok
The Outlook for PR
As we move towards 2023, PR and marketing professionals have much to consider. Along with economic and social turmoil, PR consultants must also grapple with technological change and its impact – some of it positive, some less so. At the same time, ethical standards must be upheld and protected, while continuing to provide leaders with informed counsel and safeguard reputation.
Alongside social purpose and concerns around the climate emergency, ESG will continue to grow in importance, expanding outside of the corporate sphere and adding further complexity to the PR role.
The Conference was an interesting and thought-provoking whirl through the big issues for the PR profession, leaving us better equipped to handle the challenges – and opportunities – ahead.