From post-truth communications to VR – PR in 2017

Evolution in such a fast-moving industry can take time, but calls for the rapid evolution of communications were loud and clear at the PRCA’s “2017: The Year of…” event last Friday morning. I’m often a little dubious about the value of spending half a day out of the office at a seminar. Yet with a full house of 40 or 50 PR consultants, every session at the event was extremely compelling, accompanied by lively discussion. The timely relevance of most of the issues discussed was clear to see and helped some very good speakers become even more engaging.

Fake news, alternative facts, post-truth (where emotion and personal belief has greater impact than objective facts), emotion vs. logic – all the buzz words from the last seven months were on the agenda, along with the emergence of Virtual Reality (which is now possibly unignorable in technology circles).

Trevor Hardy from The Future Laboratory kicked things off with a rather thought-provoking session around business and consumer trends. With recent months in mind, he suggested that we are now in an emotional economy, where people’s decisions are and will continue to be driven by how things make them feel – an important consideration for brands.

The post-truth panel was particularly animated, with the general consensus that the phenomenon is really nothing new and part of the problem is actually ourselves. Are we listening to a broad enough range of people? Is there too much jargon? These are questions we in the PR industry need to consider strongly! Nick Barron from Edelman had the very interesting opinion that the issue is not necessarily post-truth, but post-authority as the impact of traditional sources is declining. He explains his thoughts further in a blog post around the event.

Like any relatively new technology, VR is something many comms professionals are trying to get their heads around regarding how they might use it in their own roles. Tom Sanville from MSL Group explained how VR can evoke emotions and how the New York Times is using VR to tell stories. Given that by 2025, there will be an estimated 500 million VR headsets being used in some shape or form around the globe, can it be ignored?

This will certainly be an interesting year for the PR industry, and the event wrapped up with a panel discussion on the PRCA’s 17 tips for communications in 2017 (sourced from senior PR professionals). Take a look at the list, some key points to look for are:

  • The political bifurcation of social media – many on political extremes are seeking alternative platforms
  • The premiumisation of journalism – journalists moving into comms will be hired for their storytelling abilities rather than primarily for contacts
  • Overseas budgets will go further – will the weak pound lead to increased international investment?
  • Diversity more relevant than ever – Improving the diversity of talent continues to be extremely important
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