Genuine PR and Communications Still Have a Future!

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Gosh, how time flies. May 9th, 1983 – the day I joined the ranks of the gainfully employed for the first time and, after a short false start, embarked on my career in PR.

For those of you who follow our NM Songs of the Week on Spotify, this will explain the preponderance of 70s and 80s songs, although I have to say, they are not all my selection. The Nolans I will confess to (Valentine’s Day 1980 brings back happy memories); Brotherhood of Man, however, is not mine, nor any of the Abba songs. Mind you, you should see me strut my stuff to Dancing Queen. Then again, maybe not. #DadDancing.

Anyway, 40 years of work is often a time for reflection, so for me a chance to think about all the things I wish I’d known at the age of six (hey, call me a liar for four years!). But now is not the moment for a nostalgia fest and I don’t think the ability to see into the future would have changed my career decisions. And, frankly, some of my worst PR moments have made the best after dinner stories.


The Way Forward

As a somewhat grizzled PR veteran, I have already written about how the enthusiasm of youth and the experience of age is a great combination in the PR world. The ability to adapt is essential for business success and growth, and I am proud of how Nielsen McAllister has been able to navigate an evolving PR and communications landscape over the past 33 years. And when I look at the skills and capabilities of the NM team, I am confident they will continue to drive the business forward, maximising new opportunities and overcoming the latest challenges.

Among the latter, the growth in the use of Artificial Intelligence is certainly making the headlines at the moment. Never mind the communications industry, a quick search of the internet would suggest that there are few professions that are not at risk of being replaced by AI – everything from accountants to teachers. Pity the poor school leaver or student trying to make a career choice these days.


Artificial is not the Genuine Article!

And yet, when I see the world ‘Artificial’, I can’t help thinking that it often has negative connotations. ‘His smile was very artificial’; ‘Free from artificial ingredients and preservatives’. Compare that to the positive response you get to describing someone or something as ‘genuine’.

AI is brilliant at amassing and correlating huge amounts of information and presenting this coherently; but it is dependent on having all this data available. It cannot (for the moment, at least) think for itself; the copy it creates is derivative; the ideas it presents are not unique.


Reuse and Recycle

Now I am the first to admit that PR and communication professionals are a very environmentally friendly profession. We have been happily recycling and reusing, long before these words became entrenched in our daily lives.

In the early days of my career, I witnessed how The Wine Report morphed into The Bread Report and then into The Sausage Report to spearhead three different campaigns (the first two by the same agency, the third by the agency who lost the Bread account.)

However, while the idea may have been the same, the approach to each report was different; and the reports were only one part of integrated campaigns that all included activities not seen in the others.

The reason for this was the human element – people sitting around a table, taking a basic concept and putting in their ideas, discussing and refining these and coming up with a final strategy. And while this inevitably borrowed from previous campaigns, it was in itself unique and tailored to a specific brief.


People Deal with People

Human interaction has to remain an important part of the communications industry – and of the business world in general. Brainstorming is fine via Teams or Zoom but, for me, it can’t match the creativity and spontaneity generated by everybody in the same room. Working from home clearly has appeal to the younger generation who grew up glued to their computer screens, but I love to hear the buzz of conversation and laughter when our office is fully staffed.

I have recently returned from another trip to the international packaging exhibition Interpack in Düsseldorf. Held for the first time in six years thanks to the pandemic, the joy of people being able to meet face-to-face again was palpable throughout the halls, the return of aching feet after a couple of days notwithstanding.

Of course, we have to embrace change, but we always need to question and challenge to ensure we find the best way forward. It’s a case again of youth and experience coming together to manage change effectively.  AI will undoubtedly become a bigger part of daily life, but it is incumbent on us to shape it to our requirements.

The human touch is essential to deliver the best PR and communications. And another thing about AI – it won’t let you lie about your age!

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