Being Human In The Time Of Coronavirus

Maja Pawinska Sims, Associate Editor, PRovoke Media

The crisis is already taking a huge psychological toll on a communications industry made up of social, connected people.

“It’s all a bit weird, isn’t it?” Every conversation I have had over the past week or so seems to have started in this way: a measure of British understatement to help us handle a situation that, as we now know, is quite terrifying. Barely days ago, many of us working in the communications industry in the UK and the US were still kidding ourselves that it was, mostly, “business as usual”. How distressingly wrong, how ostrich-like and arrogant, that has turned out to be.

Even as a community of some of the most creative, agile, innovative people, the conversations I’ve had with PR professionals around the world show that the spread and evolving impact of the coronavirus is happening faster than we can psychologically process. No sooner have we adopted one brace position, than we have to shift to accept another new reality.

The timeline has escalated like nothing any of us have ever seen, in any lifetime. It’s not “just” a pandemic and it’s not “just” an economic crisis: in just one financial quarter, coronavirus has challenged the very foundations of modern life — the way we all work and play — and it’s proving extraordinarily difficult to deal with, in human terms.

In January, those of us in Western countries were distant observers of the virus, as news of its emergence in China reached us. When global business, political and NGO leaders gathered in the snowy mountains of Davos to talk about solving the world’s biggest problems, coronavirus was barely on the agenda. 

In February, we learned that Covid-19 had reached EMEA and was spreading particularly aggressively through Italy. In our industry, alarm bells only started to ring when “uncancellable” events attended by PR people and their clients started to drop, starting with Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, followed by SXSW.

At the start of March — just three weeks ago, but my goodness, doesn’t it seem like another lifetime already — most PR practitioners’ diaries in the UK and the US were still full of in-person meetings, lunches and events. 

Then the mood started to shift more markedly. Major marketing networks and many independents had announced they were shifting to home-based working. Stock markets plummeted. Schools and nurseries started to close. Supermarket shelves emptied and we witnessed, as elsewhere in the world, frantic hamstering as we sought to maintain the illusion of control. Practically every sports and music event due to take place before the summer — those great, joyous, gatherings of people, not to mention sponsorship cash and campaigns – was cancelled or postponed, even the mighty Olympics and Glastonbury. 

When Cannes announced it was delaying the Festival until the end of October, it brought home for many of us just what a long haul we’re in for.

Over the past few days, political leaders have become steadily firmer and more prescriptive and proscriptive, about where we can and can’t go, how we must live, work, shop and study now. For those of us used to a relatively light governmental touch, the new dynamic between state and citizen is proving challenging. Every daily briefing contains a new shock to our liberty. In the space of a couple of weeks, the lexicon has changed: barely a sentence is uttered that doesn’t include at least one of the “coronavirus bingo” terms: self-isolation, social distancing, panic buying, lockdown, quarantine.

So what will the impact of Covid-19 be on the human beings in the communications industry? For many, it will require a rapid stepping up of skills, since we’re all crisis communicators now, and while seasoned crisis management, corporate comms and public affairs practitioners may have an advantage in terms of expertise, the sheer scale and unprecedented nature of this issue means there’s not a PR pro in the world who has “been there, done that”. For some in particularly hard-hit sectors such as travel and tourism, entertainment, hospitality and retail, the situation may well prove overwhelming.

For leaders in the industry, from the heads of networks and in-house teams to the founders of independent agencies, there are already huge questions around how the crisis will affect their people. Heartfelt messaging around “the health and wellbeing of our people comes first” is reassuring, but how long before incredibly painful decisions need to be made? As the global economy tanks, it seems inevitable that — despite various government bailout schemes — in the coming weeks and months we’ll see agencies forced to impose paycuts, furlough staff, make redundancies and start to fail. The future of the huge number of freelance contractors working in PR is another question. Just how resilient will the industry, as businesses and individuals, turn out to be?

With best-guess scenarios all we have right now, the immediate focus has been on the day-to-day: the practical, technological solutions to working remotely and continuing to keep the industry functioning. After many of us spent the past decade avoiding video calls, within a week the entire industry has embraced them, wholeheartedly. Every meeting is now on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Webex. Even if — as the coronameme goes — we’re four weeks from discovering everyone’s true hair colour, we’re all allowing access to the webcam, now. (There is also already a lively virtual social scene: with the click of a link, a novelty background and a real-life cocktail, we can still be in the room together.)

And if we’re craving seeing glitchy faces, eyes and smiles after a week (even with our kids wandering into the picture) how are the social creatures of communications going to cope long-term? If even high-functioning introverts among our community are feeling weirdly isolated, it’s going to be much, much worse for the extroverts. PR people are good at being together and sparking ideas off each other, whether a productive meeting of minds over coffee or lunch, networking at a reception or awards do or being controversial on a conference panel. There are many more friendships and working relationships based on mutual respect in this industry than combatants. What will we do for the next few weeks (or maybe months) with all that energy, without all those double air-kisses, laughter and verbal sparring, without the constructive, creative, inspiring chat?

Added to this, focusing on the job is hard. We’re concerned about our clients, but we’re also concerned about the elderly parents we can’t look after. We’re working alone in unfamiliar environments. Being a working parent was hard enough with childcare and an office to escape to: we have no idea how, when we’re all at home, we can simultaneously be good parents of children who need home-schooling but are missing their friends, or young enough to need constant supervision, let alone morph overnight into untrained teachers. And the background to the logistics is that we’re probably all at some point on the spectrum of anxiety, right now. Operating at peak effectiveness against a background of fear is almost impossible.

There’s already a huge conversation around mental health and wellbeing in the PR industry. My instinct after many conversations with some of the most robust people I know over only the past week or two, is that the mental health toll of our current predicament will be huge. Among all the lovely screen shots of agencies cheerfully doing their team video meeting in excellent hats, I’m not sure how we’re really going to cope long term. Isolation and physical distancing will hit us all, to a greater or lesser extent, and even the most resilient of us will feel more vulnerable for a huge variety of reasons.

The industry is rising to the occasion in recognising that it’s not business as usual in psychological terms, and agencies are being as creative as ever in making sure mental and physical health during quarantine don’t fall by the wayside, from Blurred providing daily online team exercise sessions to Newgate offering bitesize language classes. There’s also been a lot more checking in with each other over the past week. Work calls and emails are no longer just about work. Even with relative strangers, they now mostly include some human conversation. How are you doing? Are the family well? Isn’t home schooling challenging? Did you manage to find toilet roll this week? We’ve all started signing off with take care, or stay safe, and genuinely meaning it.

It’s been a tough time, already, and it’s going to get tougher. Many of us are struggling, before even factoring in that people we know and love may not survive Covid-19. But, as ever with the people in our industry, we will adapt to the new normal, and come up with great new ideas, new ways of working, and new ways of supporting our clients to be the best they can be in the new world order. As poet Emily Dickinson said: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers – that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without the words – and never stops – at all.”

Hang on in there. See you on the other side.

PR Industry Partnership Unveiled For Cannes Lions 2020

The Holmes Report and ICCO are official fringe partners of the Festival of Creativity, including the Young Lions and PR-focused content.

ICCO have announced a partnership with The Holmes Report to lead the PR industry’s fringe programme at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in 2020.

The partnership will include a number of elements, including working with agency and supplier sponsors to create a two-day programme of content in a premium new location on the Croisette, podcasts with industry leaders, and hosting the official PR Lions pre-awards reception.

An evolution of the House of PR, our presence will be called PRovoke+ICCO@Cannes, incorporating the Holmes Report’s forthcoming rebrand as PRovoke in 2020.

It will feature regular elements such as the annual PR Jury Insights panel session – Weber Shandwick’s president and CEO Gail Heimann was recently announced as the president of the PR jury – and the prestigious CEO Roundtable for network agency leaders, chaired by Paul Holmes, as well as a new Indie Roundtable for leaders of independent agencies from around the world.

Holmes Report EMEA editor Maja Pawinska Sims said: “We’re elevating our presence in Cannes to reflect the broader earned media universe, and PR’s rightful place at its centre. We’re planning a provocative fringe programme of lively sessions, in the heart of the action, that really gets to grips with the future of communications.”

The partnership will also again be supporting the UK, Middle East and Southeast Asia Young Lions competitions within the annual festival showcase of the global creative stars of the future.

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham added: “Our firm view is that PR agencies must come together internationally to demonstrate our creative might in Cannes. Our 2020 partnership will amplify the voice of PR at the festival.”

Cannes Lions runs from 22-26 June 2020. The first PRovoke+ICCO@Cannes sponsors will be announced at ICCO’s #CannesUncovered event on 29 January. Come along to find our more about visiting the festival and putting together an award winning entry.

For more information about entering the awards or marketing your agency at Cannes, please contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

Earlybird  Entries for Cannes Lions 2020 open 16 January, with a final deadline on 16 April

World PR Report 2019-2020 Survey Launched

Share your views on challenges, growth and skills and receive a free copy of the report in advance – complete here

The World PR Report is the definitive study of the global public relations industry, conducted annually by ICCO and The Holmes Report.

Published together with The Holmes Report’s Global Top 250 Agency Rankings, the World PR Report provides agency leaders with vital information on the composition and direction of the public relations and communications industry. The report offers an analysis of where the global PR and communications industry stands today; how it has been performing over the past year; and what we predict will happen over the next few years.

With sections on challenges, growth, sectors, profitability, skills, evaluation and talent all being broken down by global region, the report provides a comparison of trends across both developed and developing PR markets.

This is a vital source of guidance for PR leaders operating internationally, please provide your views to receive your free copy in advance the published report later in the year.

The 2019-2020 report is being conducted in partnership with Opinium. To find out how to sponsor or advertise in the 2019-2020 report, please contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

Share your views on challenges, growth and skills and receive a free copy of the report in advance – complete here

How the PR industry rediscovered its Cannes mojo

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO

The year 2019 may well be remembered as the one when PR rediscovered its Cannes mojo.

Let’s be candid. The last few years have been years of disappointment for the PR industry at Cannes. The number of wins has been low. The ratio of PR firms entering compared with advertising ones has been going the wrong direction. And some judging decisions (e.g. the one last year to not award a Bronze in the Young Lions competition) have been puzzling and unhelpful.

All of which has led to a significant segment of the PR industry losing faith and losing interest in the Festival.

But… this year seems different. And hopefully we will be able to look back on it as an inflexion point for the industry’s relationship with Cannes.

PR agency heads will be leaving Nice airport with quite the haul of victorious trophies in their luggage, and with a fresh confidence that Cannes really isn’t all about advertising firms outgunning them.

Why does that matter?

It matters because Cannes remains the ultimate showcase of creative work, and the ultimate battleground of creative ideas. For a certain size and type of agency, winning or losing at Cannes is a defining part of their year; one of the key tests by which CEOs judge themselves and judge their teams. And, as marketing disciplines continue to blend, competing against firms that specialise in other forms of work isn’t an aberration -it’s increasingly a daily event.

The Cannes Lions Festival is by no means for everyone. But to some it most certainly is. To the future of our industry, it absolutely is. And that makes it highly relevant to us all.

To say that things are improving after some years of decline is not to say that everything is perfect, however.

Small agencies are still put off, thinking it is the preserve of much larger agencies. It is not, and we need to keep on saying so.

It is still too expensive, and Cannes would do well to lower prices – they might well find that their income rose if they did so. But there are ways of engaging in a cost-efficient way, not least by basing yourself at the ICCO House of PR, now in its seventh year.

And perhaps most crucially, our industry too often fails to showcase the stunning work it delivers because we are not quite strong enough with video content. Heavier investment here would not only help us win more Lions, it would also, and much more importantly, help us deliver even better work for clients – at a time when the marketing disciplines are blending in our favour, mastery of video storytelling is vital.

And so to conclude. Cannes 2019 was good for PR. But Cannes 2020 could, should, and I’m sure will be, better. We’ll be back next year, representing the industry, and helping its best work be showcased via our engagement with the Festival. And in the meantime, we’ll continue working hard to help our industry shine in the sun of Cannes, and roar on its award evening.

ICCO welcomes new leadership team

 

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has welcomed a new leadership team. ICCO has appointed Elise Mitchell as its new President, who will be supported by new Vice-President Nitin Mantri.

Elise is recognised as one of the USA’s top strategic communications and public relations professionals. She leads Mitchell Communications Group, which has achieved over 400% growth in the past four years, gaining the position of a Top 50 national PR firm. Elise previously held the role of Vice-President of ICCO, which she held since 2015.

Elise replaces Maxim Behar, who became ICCO President in 2015.

Nitin is CEO and Business Partner at Avian Media and the Co-founder of Chase India, a public policy and regulatory affairs firm. He is also the President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI).

Francis Ingham, ICCO Chief Executive, welcomed the announcement:

“It is a great pleasure to welcome Elise as ICCO’s new President for the next two years; and to welcome Nitin as her successor for the years 2019-2021.

“ICCO is a truly international organisation, representing over 2,500 PR agencies based in 55 countries. That internationalism is reflected in its leadership, with an Executive Committee drawn from eight different countries.

“Each new President decides on their own priorities, and Elise and Nitin will be no exceptions. What unites them all however is their determination always to increase ICCO’s influence, authority, and services to our members.

“I know I speak for the whole of ICCO when I thank Maxim for the unparalleled style, professionalism, and enthusiasm he has shown over the past two years as President. It has been a unique pleasure to have worked with him so closely.”

Elise Mitchell added:

“Maxim has been a tireless advocate for ICCO for many years, but never more so than while serving as President. One of his most important contributions over the past two years has been spearheading a significant expansion of our membership. He has been and will continue to be a great ambassador for the organisation.

“Nitin is a highly regarded leader in our industry. He has made great contributions to ICCO, and will have an even greater impact as Vice-President. I am delighted to serve alongside him.

“I am honoured to serve as President of ICCO and look forward to working with industry leaders globally to advance our profession and help our members innovate, engage, and evolve in a transformational world.”

Maxim Behar said:
“ICCO is now the largest, the most influential, and without doubt the leading global PR organisation. The change is tremendous and during this hard work over the past two years I received fantastic support from Elise and the whole Board. A lot of new projects have begun and numerous new members have joined ICCO. Now we are much stronger and much more convinced that the organisation is on the right track towards huge development.

“Elise Mitchell is a professional with great managerial experience and I am sure under her leadership ICCO will have the same speed of growth and will keep steady its leading role in the world. I am also happy that Nitin Mantri will join the team and will support Elise in leading ICCO to greater successes.”

Nitin Mantri said:

“ICCO over the years has become a powerful international association that is binding the PR fraternity across continents. Maxim has worked with great vigour to realise ICCO’s vision and working with him has been an enriching experience. I congratulate Elise on her new role. With her at helm, I look forward to support her and implement various initiatives to achieve ICCO’s objectives.”

About ICCO:

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) is the voice of public relations consultancies around the world. The ICCO membership comprises national trade associations operating in 54 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Australasia, as well as agencies and networks with an international agenda. Collectively, these associations represent over 2,500 PR firms.

The Shifting Role of the Employee Expert in Communications

 

Article by Roope Heinilä, CEO, Smarp

Thought leadership, personal branding, knowledge sharing, employee engagement, employee advocacy… sound familiar? These are some of the leading trends today that come up in almost every conversation with communications, marketing and HR leaders. They are not just words but a driving force reshaping the way organizations think about their brands as they place the focus on individual employees and their collective ability to shape the brand.

This undeniable trend is a symptom of the knowledge-based economy that we live in today. We no longer hire people based on a single skill but instead on their ability to constantly gather and utilize knowledge while also being able to develop quickly in an ever-changing environment.

The Way We Consume Information Has Changed

The possibility to obtain information in real time by using digital tools and social networks has made information almost impossible to hide. At the core of the change is the way we consume information, which has changed radically in the last 20 years. And the pace of change is only accelerating. We have moved from relying on the media and a small group of acquaintances for our information to being able to impact hundreds, if not thousands of others with the simple act of sharing an opinion online.

20 years ago if you went on a trip, you likely read professional reviews on newspapers and magazines and asked friends for their recommendations. Today, you see photos from your friends’ trips on Facebook, are able to ask for suggestions with a simple post, and can go to Tripadvisor to access experiences of other travelers like yourself. The same applies to just about anything we choose to do or purchase, whether it’s a car, phone, laptop or movie tickets. We are all connectors of information and rely on each other to help us to cut through the clutter and provide the most valuable parts in byte-sized pieces.

Human-to-Human Communication

While this trend has existed on the consumer side for over a decade, it is now slowly making its way into B2B as well. The saying that there is no more B2B or B2C, just H2H (Human-to-Human), is becoming more relevant every day, as we move our trust from a select few sources we know, such as mass media, towards peers with a name and a face. Potential customers, job applicants and partners are now basing their decisions on the opinions of their peers.

This creates both an opportunity and a challenge for companies. How do companies gain more Share of Voice in this new environment where everyone has the potential to become an influencer? The most powerful resource is the company’s own group of employees, as they have a vested interest in the success of the brand.

The next question then becomes, how do you make sure all employees are always well informed while also empowering them to build their personal brands as they support the company’s vision?

Keeping Employees Well Informed

The first step is simple: provide a way for them to consume content in a manner they are already familiar with as consumers. Employees today expect to be kept up to date on the latest information, processes, and company news. At the same time, the tools to do so are lagging behind. Current solutions make it difficult to obtain relevant information and they require the user to know exactly what to look for. Employees are faced with either an information overload or information silos and are not able to keep up to date with the knowledge they need in order to be successful.

Companies are now struggling to reduce these information bottlenecks and have acknowledged that information sharing among employees is more beneficial than creating silos. The solution to this is that instead of trying to direct employee behavior in gathering information, companies should bring consumer behavior, i.e. the consumption of information on mobile apps, to the workplace.  

Empower, Don’t Limit

In this new knowledge-based economy, companies need to empower their employees instead of creating limits for them. The scariest part for them seems to be that they need to give up control of information and instead focus on creating an authentic experience for both employees and external stakeholders.

Having an effective communication program for employees leads to increased productivity and provides an opportunity for employees to become brand ambassadors for the company. These employees will become the company’s most powerful communication assets by broadcasting their message to their networks and acting as trusted information sources to outsiders. From an employee’s perspective, the opportunity to represent the brand and tell about their own work helps them build their personal brands and position themselves as experts in their fields. This is a win-win scenario for companies willing to embrace the expert employee.

Postcard from Cannes sent by PRCA’s Francis Ingham

Blog post by Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA; Chief Executive, ICCO

So. Cannes is over for another year. The planes from Nice are full of elated PR people; disappointed PR people; tired PR people; hungover PR people. And PR people who are sick of the sight of rose wine.

Here are my thoughts on the past week:

This was a good year for PR. We said last year that Cannes’ definition of PR was wrong, and precluded much excellent work. Well, Cannes listened, and we together sorted out a better rubric. As a consequence, our industry returns to their homes with more Lions in their luggage than ever before. That’s good news. And indeed some are seeing 2017 as a breakthrough year (I do hope Ketchum gets that pun).

Our industry is getting used to Cannes. To its mindset. To what is going to win and what isn’t. To how results need to be framed.

For all that some agencies and holding groups have questioned their investment in Cannes over the years, it still matters. For all of its flaws (and yes, there certainly are flaws), it remains the pinnacle of creative acknowledgment in our industry. Winning Lions matters

AVEs are still prevalent. They are used repeatedly by PR agencies to measure success. We need to do more to end this ridiculous use of meaningless metrics. By which I mean help the industry to get to the place it craves to be; not to rage impotently, shouting ever more loudly ‘we are banning AVEs’. And ICCO and the PRCA are working with AMEC to do just that. AMEC was present in the ICCO House of PR for the first time this year. I’m confident they’ll be with us next year too. Creativity without measurement is pointless. We are working together to enshrine that insight.

One final thought.

We believe in the importance of Cannes. We are invested in it, and in helping PR making a success of it. But we all need a sense of perspective.

If you entered Cannes and won, fantastic. If you entered and didn’t win, well there’s always next year. If you didn’t enter, you should think about doing so. But if it isn’t for you, then that’s fine too. There are plenty of proofpoints of PR success, creativity, and professionalism. Cannes is one of them, and a great one. But there are others too. Our industry’s present is bright; its future brighter still. We all roar in our own way, whether or not we’ve won at Cannes

On which note, I hear the rose calling. I’m not *quite* sick of it yet.  Sante!

http://www.prmoment.com/category/blog/postcard-from-cannes-sent-by-prcas-francis-ingham

ICCO President: “Public relations must be in the front row of fight against fake news”

“Modern times require that public relations experts are among the first to fight against fake news, not only because very often they work against out clients, but also they present the completely wrong picture of the freedom of media these days”, said ICCO President Maxim Behar at a conference this week in Zagreb, Croatia.

“Trolls and fake profiles distributing fake news are threatening the ethical and transparent side of our business, and we must be the guarantee that they will never come from the side of our companies”, Behar added.

The conference in Zagreb, attended by leading Croatian PR experts and professionals, was organised by the local Public Relations Association HUOJ, a very active ICCO member. The speakers were practitioners, University professors and executives from the client-side.

Aleksandra Kolaric, President of the Croatian PR Association said: “We are glad that the ICCO President raised this important question in the conference. In the so called emerging markets it is quite important, but also my feeling is that this is quite crucial now for the whole world. One of the reasons for us to join ICCO and to participate in all its events is that ICCO represents ethical, transparent and highly professional business all over the world.”

 
During the visit in Zagreb Maxim Behar chaired a joint meeting of the Managing and Supervisory Board and also the Ethical Commission of the Croatian PR Association, and presented the two main ICCO events scheduled later this year – the Global Summit in Helsinki, early October and the Global PR Awards in December in London.

 

More than a third of UK PR firms use ‘meaningless’ AVEs for measurement

Article by Robert Smith, PRWeek

PRCA director general Francis Ingham has labelled AVEs “an entrenched vanity project” that are “not fit to be called measurement”, although new research suggests more than a third of UK PR agencies currently use them.

Ingham’s sentiment is shared by many of the 132 agency-side and in-house PR professionals who responded to a new survey by PRWeek and the PRCA.

AVEs – or advertising value equivalents – are a metric used by some in the PR industry to measure the benefit of media coverage or a campaign for a client.

One PR pro called for AVEs to be outlawed. Another said: “AVEs are a fake comfort blanket, like the Emperor’s new clothes.”

Despite this, the survey, conducted between 31 January and 10 February, found more than 35 per cent of UK PR agencies and just over 23 per cent of in-house teams still use them.

That is in comparison to almost 45 per cent of agencies that said they do not currently use AVEs, though have in the past, and just over 20 per cent that said they have never used them. In-house, 46 per cent said they do not currently use the metric, while over 30 per cent said they never have.

When asked how often AVEs were used for print media relations work within their agency, 45 per cent said it was for a minority, while almost one third said they never use them. Only two per cent said they always used it.

Like their agency counterparts, 47 per cent of in-house teams said they would never use AVEs for print media relations work.

However, of those agencies that do use AVEs, roughly half said it was because clients expected it. No respondent said it was expected by senior management within their agency and nobody said it was their preferred method of evaluation.

“We all know that we shouldn’t use AVEs but let’s be honest, clients want it – especially the smaller ones that want to know exactly how much value they are getting back in terms of their investment,” said one agency-side PR.

The study reveals that no agency expects to use AVEs more this year than it did it 2016, while almost 60 per cent said AVEs would be used less.

“Thankfully, there is strong progress being made by enlightened teams who realise just how meaningless AVEs are,” Ingham said.

“We need to carry this momentum forward and arm those working in-house and at consultancies with everything possible to fight against a broken system that some still insist upon using,” he added.

According to the study, PRs are far more inclined to use the Barcelona Principles, which now comprise an interactive system based around KPIs and outcomes, rather than just outputs as with AVEs, the PRCA said.

“The AMEC Barcelona Principles 2.0 rightly measure outcomes relating to your KPIs to prove the real value of our work. For this industry to be respected, we have to work on real achievements rather than just outputs forced through some spurious and outdated metric,” Ingham said.

In a similar study conducted in 2014, the PRCA found almost 77 per cent of agencies considered AVEs to be an inappropriate way to evaluate work, while 69 per cent said they did not use the metric at all.

One respondent from this year’s survey said: “AVEs are an outdated concept, they are unregulated and it is only the very old school PRs/clients who actually believe this is a legitimate evaluation method.”

 

http://www.prweek.com/article/1424257/third-uk-pr-firms-use-meaningless-aves-measurement
• Are AVEs an outdated anachronism in 2017 or still a useful tool? Let us know your thoughts, for possible publication, by emailing robert.smith@haymarket.com or tweeting @prweekuknews

Issues & Crisis Communications Capacity Building is not on your To-Do List in 2017? Here is why it should be

Article by Samer Costantini*

 

Very few would argue against the statement that 2016 has been quite an eventful year when it comes to news. Heck, some might even consider “eventful” as a gross understatement. 

Around the first week of January, and in my annual ‘happy new year’ row-call to friends and family, I asked what some of my friends think 2017 is going to be like. Mind you, those “friends” that I approached advise presidents and heads of states for a living; so their words carry some merit.  Every one of them agreed that 2017 would be about one word: Anticipation.

As a communications professional and adviser, anticipation does not fit well in my neighborhood. We, PR practitioners, prefer facts; and we like them hard and rock-solid. It is either a YES or a NO. Anticipation, on the other hands, is like squeezing a ‘maybe’ in between. In the PR world, there are many examples to why answering with a maybe is not one should be provided to media or stakeholders. Maybe means I am not sure. ‘Maybe’ means I do not have the facts. And not having all the facts automatically puts any communications professionals who is worth his money, in auto-crisis mode.

So, why is 2017 all about anticipating answers?

First, global geopolitics. The 2016 US elections is a no-brainer (no pun intended). One of the most colorful elections that affected individuals, communities, business and even countries around the world. The current US president, unlike his predecessors, does not shy away from naming individuals and/or organizations on his twitter. His tweets against a few named carmakers, for example, got stock prices plummeting and CEOs rethinking their go-to-market plans. In 2017, and along with his Twitter account, the world will be in anticipation for the new US president’s 100 day plan.

In 2016, the world also witnessed the first European country voting for a breakup from the EU. Not just any European country, but a nation that is one of the big five, a member of the G 20 and occupies one of the five permanent seats in Security Council.

The immediate effects of Brexit were felt across London, the UK and the the world’s financial markets. Many businesses that operate in London still have to deal with the ripples and the aftershocks to playout 2017 on the GBP and the future plans of London-based multinationals.

Brexit clearly shows that wherever politics goes, economy usually follows. And in the Middle East, our never-ending geopolitically troubled region, economic challenges are amplified even further. For example, one may argue that the region has seen the worst of oil prices shock in 2015. Many advisors believe that 2017 will be the year a number of companies will take solid steps to offset the changes in government spending, consumer spending and new policies set in place in 2016. Already a number of companies came public with restructuring, mergers and acquisition plans.

To answer all the questions of who, where, what and why, communication practitioners need not only have the facts, but the story behind them. This takes us to the third reason why 2017 is about anticipating answers.

Today’s information consumers do not want to read press statements with charts and tables. They want to see people giving them the answers. Whether on their mobile phones or tablets via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, today’s information and news seekers have changed the way the game is played. They want the information, the full and complete picture, they want it in a way they can share with their networks of friends and family to understand, and they want it now.

A few years ago, being ready to receive any question, from anyone, at any point of time, and with the expectation that you will provide an answer that holds facts that is easy to understand, narrate and aggregate – that is what fundamentally is being in crisis communication mode.

So, to all communication practitioners out there, gear up and brush up on your right-off-the-bat messages. Understanding the dynamics of issues and crisis communication is not a once-a-year drill or a two-day training workshop. In today’s ever-changing geopolitical and economic climate, in today’s evolving information consumption habits, in today’s rapidly technology disrupting innovations; PR and communications practitioners must embrace crisis communication skills as a daily way of life and must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and wear the crisis communications hat at any hour on any day.

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*Samer Costantini is a moderator in the “Let’s Talk” Crisis Communications Forum taking place in Dubai this March. He is communication adviser with two decades of experience in corporate communications and public affairs. He served various governmental, international and multinational organizations on global assignments. He can be reached on Twitter at @scdxb