Future Comms 15 conference: we need to talk about the future
The first few sessions revisited the insecurity and crisis in confidence in public relations before moving on to more progressive discussions about search and crisis.
We should learn from the past but we also need to talk about the future.
Here’s a summary of the morning sessions.
#1 The Internet doesn’t need more shit content
We’re 20 years into the changes in media brought about the Internet. Brands are publishers of content.
This was about the only point that I found to agree with from keynote speaker Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer from the Content Marketing Institute.
He suggested that public relations was in the business of what should be the truth rather the truth. It’s an old school publicity view and it’s wrong.
Content is not a strategy. It’s a medium and a means of storytelling for an organisation.
Public relations is not about filling the Internet with content. It’s about creating mutual understanding through relationships.
Used well content is a means for an organisation to tell its story and engage with stakeholders in dialogue. The outcome is reputation and trust.
#2 Public relations is alive and well, trust me
Robert Phillips, co-founder of Jericho Chambers, is the author of the polemic PR is Dead, Trust Me. He cited five structural issues that are facing the industry: data, talent, skills, scales and geography, and networks.
Phillips has been criticised by people including myself for calling the death of an industry.
“People have focussed on the death thing, rather the trust issue. Public relations isn’t dying but it isn’t changing fast enough,” said Phillips.
Publicity is dying but public relations, as a means of engagement between an organisation and its publics, is thriving.
Organisations have to listen to dissenting voices. Phillips cited the example of Responsible Tax curated by think tank CoVi and sponsored by KPMG.
#3 Take the fences down between marketing and public relations
A panel discussion led by editor and writer Jon Bernstein explored the relationship between public relations and content.
The circular argument returned to the role of public relations within an organisation.
Public relations is not content marketing but good content marketing can be public relations.
Content is words and pictures. It’s a means of storytelling by an organisation. It’s not a strategy.
#4 Public relations not backlinks
Neville Hobson, an independent communication consultant, led a panel discussion on the death of SEO and the rise of the brand story.
Changes to Google’s search engine algorithms mean that it is no longer possible to game search rankings.
Content used to be used as the medium to create backlinks from third-party websites.
The market has been demystified and is no longer driven by technology. There is still a role for technical skills in the construction of a web site but the practice of search optimisation has been democratised by content marketing systems and tools.
We need to move content for the sake of it and create content that is meaningful to human beings.
#5 Social media and crisis
Chris Webb was the first person to bring the voice of the client into the session.
Webb is the former Head of News and Deputy Director of Media and Communication for the Metropolitan Police Service and shared the story and lessons from the London bombings on 7 July 2005.
He said that be believed that the UK was not in a good place to cope with a major national crisis incident because of the development in social media.
Webb said that crises are reported first hand using apps such as Periscope and networks such as Twitter. He foretold a situation where terrorists would use new forms of media as part of a campaign.