The future of PR: What you missed at this year’s CIPR Annual Conference

Having recently been awarded my CIPR Chartership, I am in full-on ‘sponge mode’ — yes, I think I just made up a new phrase. Basically, I’m in the good habit of learning from experts around me, and I’m really enjoying it, too.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true that the PR industry is incredibly fast paced, so it’s vital that we take the time out to pop our head above the day-to-day delivery to understand the context of the industry to be excellent consultants.

If you’re a CIPR member, then I’d advise getting your hands on the CIPR Conference’s content, which is now available on demand. However, if you are looking for a scoop on the key takeaways and highlights, then you’ve come to the right place! Here, I summarise the key points from my top-three most insightful speakers.

Theme

This year’s theme was ‘Influencing the future’, and the opening address by the CIPR President, and spottydog’s founder and CEO, no less, set the tone of the content to come. “The world is changing — so, today, we look at how we get ahead of the game and influence the future of influencing,” said Rachel. “Through the influence we build, we create value — we create champions, advocates, fans.” And so, with that, we began to meet our panel of experts…

1) Soli Townsend – co-founder and chief solutionist at Futerra

Before joining the COP27 Conference later this week, Soli lead the day’s proceedings with the topic on everyone’s lips: climate change. The crux of Soli’s insightful speech was about not just having an awareness of the issues but understanding how PR practitioners have the power to drive change and not just talk about the issues. Here are just some of the key points in Soli’s speech that got me thinking and wanting to learn more…

  1. PR has been accused of holding back the public’s perception of climate change in the past, working to seed doubt. Soli explained that the PR industry’s carbon footprint is tiny, but what we most need to focus on is our ‘brain print’. This is the power and responsibility we have to engage, excite, drive change and behaviour.

“We must PR the solutions,” said Soli, passionately. We need to be on the positive side of the story, uplifting the solutions and helping people to engage. PR can be the missing part of the puzzle.

  1. Talent — it’s a challenge to bring the brightest, most ideas-filled young people into the industry and, at the same time, we’re not recognising that the climate crisis is the war for talent crisis. Soli’s opinion is that the reason why it can be difficult to draw the very best talent to the industry is that the very best talent wants to make a difference. Food for thought, certainly — and something we’re increasingly conscious of at spottydog.
  2. Policy makers are not happy. The CMA reviewed a whole set of claims that were made around sustainability and the environment, and they deemed that half of them infringed greenwash rules. We have a responsibility as PR practitioners to not allow or encourage businesses to blatantly lie, spread disinformation, or cover up their truth.

Soli’s agency works with huge global businesses, such as IKEA and Google, so I would recommend doing further research into their life-changing and inspirational work.

2) Sophia Smith-Galer, reporter, author and TikTok creator

Sophia’s speech was the most relatable to me. I am the ‘lurker’, as Sophia called it. I have a personal TikTok profile, and I consume a lot of content on the platform, but I do not consistently post or call myself a ‘creator’. Sophia is also a journalist, and the purpose of her talk was about the power of TikTok and how we can leverage the platform to extend the reach and awareness of the brands we work with. In a nutshell…

  • “Are content creators on your media list?” Sophie asked the audience, to which there was a small show of hands. Just as we have a tried and trusted database of journalists, Sophia encouraged us to open our minds and think about building relationships with TikTok creators, just as we do journalists. This is something we’re completely on board with at spottydog and are already seeing huge success with.
  • Your brand doesn’t need a TikTok channel. Sure, if your target audience is young people, then you’d be silly not to – but, Sophia challenged us to research content creators who align to our brand and think about how we can collaborate to communicate a shared message that will be relevant to their audience.
  • The follower count isn’t everything. Sophia encouraged us to focus on working with content creators with great engagement and views, and not focus on follower numbers. She talked about the fact that TikTok is a ‘discovery’ platform — we don’t have to follow a brand to see and consume its content, which is down to the powerful algorithm.

3) Nina Schick, director at Tamang Ventures

AI is a HUGE topic, and it’s a term that has been creeping closer towards me in recent weeks. As I mentioned earlier, I recently became chartered, and one of the topics we covered in the assessment was AI and how it could impact the PR profession.

Nina’s presentation was an in-depth look at how AI will change our lives forever. It is easy to feel quite threatened by this phenomenon, but Nina focused on how technology will transform the future of content creation.

  • AI is ‘synthetic content’ – it can come in the form of images, text, video, audio. This means it will have a huge impact on what we do across all areas of communications. To the human eye, we will not be able to distinguish if something is authentic or created by AI — crazy, huh!
  • The era of generative AI has risks, too. It has the potential to be used for disinformation, misinformation, and even be weaponsised. Trust could become a big problem. Nina signposted to a great community called the ‘Media provenance and authenticity community’, with a lot of tech companies already putting processes in place to mitigate some of the risks. Phew!

It’s clear that there’s a lot potential and questions yet to answer about AI. One thing’s for sure — we can’t ignore it and we must continue to learn more about the advancements.

Interested in working with a team of PR professionals who invest in personal development to be the top of their game? Get in touch with the spottydog team today.

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