Revolutions in PR, Evolution in Mind ChangingsJanuary, 2024
A couple of years ago, at one of the Davos Communications Forums, the title of my presentation was “PR Man Never Grows Old…”.
Today, I would do the same presentation with absolutely the exact wording. Because the speed of change of our business – Public Relations – is even much faster than we could ever imagine. And we are not allowed to “grow old.” The speed of change must always keep us reacting and learning fast—every day, every minute even. And one more retrospective point – just months before the pandemic, my book The Global PR Revolution created many discussions about whether the social media “tsunami” had made a revolution or was just an ordinary change of media approach to the audiences. Of course, the past years have proved my vision right. It is a revolution because, with the appearance of social media, we have three “first-time” factors in the public relations business, which we have never had before. For the first time, media started being interactive – they could report any news or position, but readers could react and easily express their visions and opinions, too. For the first time, media became global, and with one “translation click,” the content became accessible and understandable to readers worldwide.
The third “first time,” which is even for the business, is the most important – indeed, for the first time, media is measurable with exact information – how many readers, clicks and shares, minutes on the article, and all other details. Accepting this, we see everyday changes in our business, which are not revolutionary but have made the PR business completely different. Of course, a single press release distribution does not work anymore; it must be supported with strong social media campaigns. Also, there is no place for press conferences anymore – the messages have strong and influential campaigns on social media, which also change rules daily and weekly. In other words – business is changing, clients are changing, needs are different, and tools for influence have become easier and simpler.
What's next, then?
2024 will be a demanding and extremely interesting year in public communications. The first and most important will be a more dynamic merger of the three main elements of the public communications business – advertising, public relations, and digital. This merger has been ongoing for the past couple of years, and undoubtedly, it will create a completely new business, which will have a new name – maybe social relations and real-time relations. There are also thousands of different opinions on which one of those three elements – at least – will have a leading role in the future of business, and I am more than confident that it will be public relations. The arguments are clear – everything in modern business nowadays is about earned content. Not paid, not artificially generated, and not digitally managed. Of course, the PR experts are nothing else than Masters of content, and their role these days in the world of communications is crucial and undoubtedly leading. And… on the top – not to forget the “hot potato” Artificial Intelligence! Go back only a year ago – there was no one to predict that the magical abbreviation AI would spread throughout the globe at the speed of light. Many users are more than happy having AI in their everyday lives, but at that stage, the concerned professionals are the majority. And for all the questionable hesitations about AI usage, we must remember that the most important are the ethical ones, and it will be the same soon. First – all AI-generated information must be at least double, if not triple-checked. Secondly, copyrights might be a huge issue as it is unclear where this information comes from and what royalties belong to the prime sources. The third issue will be the trust in all our jobs, strategies and campaigns. And very often in my offices, I say to the team – my dear friends, if you think that we sell services, you are in a very big mistake. We sell trust in our professionalism, in our sources, in our ethical and transparent approach, and in our understanding of the client's task. Trust is the keyword no one says loud and clear, but everyone has it in their mind. Finally – the biggest challenge in the PR business in 2024 will be people’s management. And this is why I always say that I am not afraid of artificial intelligence but of human ignorance, not to say even stupidity. We all understand that there is a completely different huge crowd of new people in our business. Some call them Gen Z, and some do not even call them with any characteristics. Still, the reality is that businesses never soon do something like that – young, knowledgeable, intelligent, truly independent, and – often, to my big surprise – not caring about the power of brands and traditions. And when we have often disputed these matters in the company, my statement to the team is obvious – this is a generation of professionals, whatever we call them, which will not change; it is us, the managers, to change our approach to the people and their demands and knowledge, it is us to change how we talk to them and how we transfer our experience. In any case, I will quote my favorite rule for decades concerning business management – the worst decision is better than no decision. And I still believe it is much more valid with every single day ahead. And yes – the changes in PR business are revolutionary, my only concern is that mind changes are still in the evolution stage and only our hard work and a lot of knowledge can change it in the right direction.