I recently attended the PRCA’s 2017: The Year of… where great minds of the PR industry gathered to gaze into their metaphorical crystal balls and predict the future trends in media and communications for the forthcoming year.
The legacy of 2016 loomed large in the collective consciousness: communications and the media played a major role in the enactment of and reaction to seismic events such as Brexit and the election of Trump. In the UK, bloody battles were played out on social media between Brexiteers and Remoaners; meanwhile Trump gained momentum off the back of two of the best soundbites of the year – ‘Take back control’ and ‘Make America Great Again’.
There is no doubt now that we are operating in a ‘post truth world’, proliferated with ‘alternative facts’. As people turn more and more to social media, to grieve, grumble and groan to those with the same political views as themselves, sharing soundbites without ‘fact checking them’, there is a fear that they are simply shouting into the echo chamber. This is compounded by the fact that we are now consuming more and more content dictated by algorithm. Will algorithms become the future authorities and editors? In a world where a Hong Kong VC appointed an AI to sit on its board, this reality could be scarily closer than we think.
So where does this leave PRs? If our readers are ‘sick of experts’, what does that say about authority and the traditional trust invested in us? How do we ensure that we continue to communicate broadly across all our stakeholders? And how do we deal with the rift between our polarised audiences?
One of the suggestions put forward by Trevor Hardy, CEO of the Future Laboratory was for us become ‘future fit’ by embracing uncertainty and randomness. Hardy’s thoughts were that moving forward, ‘positive complexity’ will have more currency than simplicity. That means being open to ambiguity, being a bedfellow of nuance and moving away from the traditional reductive nature of our craft. Brands increasingly operate in an emotional economy, driven by people and how things make them feel. Those who will be successful, Hardy predicted, will embrace these emotional responses, in all of the complexities they embody.
And all of this could be a good thing – because after all, what may emerge from the media ashes is a new dialetic – one of radical transparency, openness and, progress.
Here is a 5 minute sample of an hour long live interview I did, talking about the value of PR.
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