Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking about Inbound PR at the IPRA PR Conference for Central and Eastern Europe in Sofia.
I met a number of very successful PR people from all over the world who have built careers in some of the largest companies and PR networks and got to listen to where they thought PR needs to go next.
I'd like to share with you some of my key learnings from the day as well as to agree and disagree with some of the general notion of what PR's biggest challenges are that stood out across all presentations.
Almost every talk during the conference focused on technology.
Technology - PR's Next Frontier
I agree that today's reality not only in the business world but also in our personal lives is underpinned by technology. PR people and other professionals alike have not yet figured out how to handle technology.
Digital still remains a major challenge for communications professionals but the understanding and adoption of tools, software and tech in general is rather low.
Peter Steere, Chairman of MSLGroup for EMEA, rightly explained that the new reality for PR is very difficult, ranging from big data to AI, automation, virtual reality and more.
However, as much as I agree that PR needs to figure out how to deal with technology and get software/tools-savvy, that would be totally worthless until PR understands and is able to confidently position itself as a worthy discipline for executives and companies that knows how to drive bottom line results.
Technology can't be just another shiny thing PR does for the sake of it or because everyone else is doing it. There needs to be a why behind.
In our world of constant communication flows and information overload, brands need PR people to not just be storytellers who will shape reputation through content and engagement, but also relationship builders that any stakeholder group (customers, media, investors etc.) can trust.
Data, insights, AI, virtual reality etc. can inform and enhance all of this - they can allow us to scale communications but they can't replace any of the human strategic thinking and the ability to connect the dots.
Business Acumen - Does PR Have It?
Stakeholder management and influence don't work without trust. To build trust as advisors, PR people need to get very, very business-savvy. Only so will clients be able to trust hiring PR people and that whatever PR pros are advising and doing for them, it's because it'll strategically benefit (or save) the bottom line and the client's reputation because PR pros understand these deeply.
Is this the case today? Do you think PR people can confidently talk about revenue, bottom line, TOFU/MOFU/BOFU, sales etc. and what role technology plays here with clients?
I don't think so.
Technology is about the tools to achieve something, not just to use them because they are there; strategic business thinking is what decides which tools to use to solve a problem/hit a goal intelligently, sustainably and net positive/improving.
In my opinion, technology is the enabler, business acumen is the driver.
That's where PR needs invest and focus on next.
We need to cover our basis before we can scale.
What do you think PR should focus on?