Blog 8 minute read
Listen up and talk about purpose
Morning all, I've got lots of great articles and research for you this week. It was mainly a question of what to leave out as I could quite easily have included twice as many interesting articles. There are lots of fascinating things happening with audio at the moment and even I didn't know all the 22 social audio platforms listed in Jeremiah Owyang's article!
As a former of local councillor in one of the UK's largest cities and chair of committees I'm steeped in the minutiae of standing orders. In contrast, a parish council is the bottom rung of democracy but thanks to a viral video has suddenly made standing orders sexy. What I like most about this isn't just the viral video (which is brilliant), but how the committee clerk Jackie Weaver is so adept at using her numerous broadcast media interviews to deflect questions and always make her point about the importance of local democracy to encourage more people to get involved and improve diversity. As a professional committee clerk Jackie Weaver isn't even a local politician, but she certainly has the authority.
Corporate purpose is a top topic of conversation for many in business, but it's not often we hear senior politicians talking about it intelligently. Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary of the UK Labour Party has been doing just that in speeches and in this Financial Times article. One of the key points he makes is the need for government to modernise company law to ensure directors have a legal responsibility to look after the interests of all stakeholders and not just shareholders.
In December Business Wire ran a global webinar and invited a panel of media and PR experts (including little old me) to share their perspectives on important emerging and accelerating trends and what they mean for the PR industry. It has now turned our discussion in to a great white paper. One of the key points I made was about our role as strategic advisers: "We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be pigeonholed into talking only about how the business communicates those decisions. We need to be advising on what those decisions should be.”
The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) ran a great webinar with American crisis communications expert Mike Paul, president of The Reputation Doctor. He made lots of great points, but one that particularly chimed with me was when he explained why his boutique virtual firm is able to win complex and challenging briefs while pitching against global consultancies. He does it by creating a bespoke virtual team of the best people for each client, whereas big consultancies use their existing teams because they've got to pay for that overhead. It struck a chord because that's exactly why I set up Stuart Bruce Associates. Last week I put together a global team of great people to work on a crisis communications brief for a new client which includes associates in the UK, Africa and India.
Research and reports
If you work in corporate affairs then another great source is the annual risk predictions report from the Institute of Risk Management. It looks at risk predictions in specific sectors including charities and third sector, energy and renewables, financial services and nuclear as well as specific geographies including APAC, India and the Gulf. Thanks to Victoria Robinson for alerting me about its publication.
The European Communication Monitor is the world's largest study of public relations and strategic communications and is run by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD). The research team is led by senior academics from across Europe including Professor Ralph Tench of Leeds Beckett University in the UK (disclaimer - I am a visiting lecturer to teach post-graduate students). Please help improve global knowledge and best practice by completing it as it only takes a few minutes of your time.
If you listen to one work related podcast this week then make it this one with PRmoments' Ben Smith and the co-authors of Public Relations Ethics - Trevor Morris and Simon Goldsworthy. It's a realistic discussion about what ethics should really mean rather than the 'woke' platitudes spouted by some in PR who talk about ethics without a deep understanding of what it really means. It tackles thorny issues such as are there acceptable lies and unacceptable lies (spoiler - yes of course) and why ethics in PR are subjective. It also talks about the common confusion between ethical behaviour and working for controversial clients (which can be entirely ethical). It's Global Alliance's ethics month, so I'll hopefully be including more on ethics during February.
Will 2021 be the year of social audio? Arguably we've already had the year of audio as podcasts and voice devices like Alexa gain increasing importance. This is an excellent analysis by Jeremiah Owyang who lists 22 different audio platforms that PR and communications professionals should be aware of. He then looks at potential future features, business models and related business opportunities.
AI is both an opportunity and a threat for PR and corporate affairs professionals. It's an opportunity because used properly it can help us to do our jobs far better. It's a threat because AI is far from perfect and if it isn't used properly creates huge organisational and reputational risk. This shocking example in MIT Technology Review shows how AI can get it terribly wrong as it learns from existing biases. In this case when shown a photo of a man cropped below his neck then 43% of the time it autocompleted him wearing a suit. When shown a similar photo of a woman then 53% of the time it autocompleted her wearing a low cut top or bikini - even when it's a famous woman such as US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC).
PR and communications professionals need to balance the tension between writing content that is brilliant for people to read and optimising it for search. Part of that challenge is where is the best place to publish content as what's best for people is to publish it in multiple places where they already are and it is easy for them to read. However, the traditional advice from SEO experts is that Google penalises duplicate content which means it doesn't like you to publish content in multiple places to make it easier for people. According to Google's John Mueller this isn't true which means we can safely publish brilliant content where it's best for people and not to be forced to compromise in order to protect SEO. Personally, I've always advised clients to put people first and ignore the SEO penalty. Now there is no need to worry about a potential penalty.
I'm currently reading Screen Time which is a fantastic book about balancing screen time. What's refreshing about Screen Time is it doesn't pander to nonsense like digital detox, screen free days and in-box zero, but instead looks at how you can create your own rules so technology works for you. This MIT Technology Review article summarise some of the key elements but I'd urge you to buy and read the whole book. I'll be publishing a review on my blog soon as I received an advance review copy from the author Becca Caddy. I was lucky enough to be Becca's first employer when she had a brief (and highly successful) foray into public relations before she became a technology journalist.
Your PR Primer is written by PR Futurist Stuart Bruce, founder of Stuart Bruce Associates. If you spot any stories for next week’s PR Primer Round-up then send them to @stuartbruce or email@example.com.