As we know, AI has been all the buzz and communicators have been scrambling to figure out which tools are best to use to integrate into their workflows as well as the rules of engagement. There is a flood of information on the various tools at our disposal and rapid advancements have placed governments in a race to regulate AI.
The debate also rages on about whether AI will indeed contribute towards productivity, replace jobs and so forth. But have we stopped to think about the impact AI could have on our curiosity – a key characteristic of any communicator worth their salt.
A few months back, I attended a PRCA conference and one keynote address by Paul Spiers, Founder of The New P&L – Principles & Leadership in Business®’ Podcast Series & The New P&L® Institute, really put this into perspective for me. In his talk, titled ‘Are we outsourcing our curiosity to an algorithm’, Paul outlined a powerful paradox – we have access to more information than ever before, but because of our search history, the algorithms feed us a narrow view of the world, compromising our curiosity. The concern? Entertainment over inspiration, information over knowledge.
As communicators, we have to dig deeper into a story to unpack the key essence of our client’s brand or offering in order to capture imaginations, make it relevant for our client’s audiences and in the process shape our client’s reputation. By relying on an algorithm to deliver our inspiration we run the risk of narrowing our scope of inspiration, turning us inwards and not outwards. We need to ensure that we use AI and any other technology to drive our natural sense of curiosity instead of diminishing it.
Did you know that three of the top five skills needed in business are based on curiosity? Analytical thinking, creative thinking, curiosity and lifelong learning.
Curiosity is ultimately the basis of our expansion of knowledge and empathy of others; it drives creativity which in turn drives innovation. As Paul notes, seismic challenges in society offer tremendous opportunities to rethink the way we live and do business and all of this relies on curiosity. “The ability to determine the future of business relies on the levels of curiosity needed to imagine it,” says Paul Spiers.
An interesting insight from research by The P&L Institute is that many people in the creative and comms industries feel that they’re losing their creative courage. Clearly, we need more diversity to open it up, to grow and to do this we need to become more intentional about our curiosity.
These are just some of the ways businesses can commit to more conscious curiosity:
Some may argue that ‘Curiosity killed the cat” but as bold communicators and reputation shapers we’re tossing that old proverb out the window. We need to continue to think more consciously about how and why we engage with technology and pick out the best bits to support our skills and imagination.
So, let’s draw a line in the sand today and commit to our curiosity first!
This summer has been plastic fantastic as Barbie-mania swept the world. The self-titled film has grossed over $1bn, cementing director Greta Gerwig as the only woman in history to have directed a billion-dollar film and inspiring the portmanteau ‘Barbillion’. Of course, this iconic doll has never needed an introduction – her reputation has always preceded her.
Barbie is a cultural phenomenon, but her public image hasn’t always been favourable – historically, she has been criticised for promoting unrealistic beauty standards. With her legacy spanning over sixty years, reshaping Barbie’s reputation was no easy or small feat. Yet, the film didn’t just manage to achieve this; it completely upended the public’s perception of what she represents. By boldly acknowledging the past, and renewing her powerhouse brand with new messaging, Barbie’s reputation as we knew it was transformed.
Strong brand imagery speaks for itself, and as the film’s promotion began, Barbie’s image seemed to be as bubblegum pink as ever. Plastering her brand everywhere – and generating those associated feelings of childhood nostalgia – was the hook to begin reshaping her reputation; nothing was pink without purpose. A real-life Malibu Dreamhouse and a Pink Burger were two of the endless collaborations that sparked Barbie fever. It was even reported that the amount of pink paint used in the film’s set designs caused a worldwide shortage.
With the public’s attention captured, trailers and clips were phased in teasing surprisingly feminist messaging as Barbie journeyed from the matriarchal Barbieland to the patriarchal “real world”. In interviews, cast members highlighted how Barbie was originally made to inspire girls into pursuing careers and financial independence, making her a feminist role model.
Breadcrumbing this messaging was a reminder that Barbie was created as a force for good; maybe the public had been too harsh on her. But a reputation cannot be reshaped by simply sweeping criticism under the carpet. For Barbie’s reputational revamp to be a success, the brand needed to acknowledge its less-than-perfect past.
The Barbie trailer featured a surprising message: “If you love Barbie, this film is for you. If you hate Barbie, this film is for you”. When the film finally released, the public flocked to the cinema in their pinkest finery – I, of course, was one of them. The anticipation had reached a fever high, and audiences sat with bated breath.
The trailer’s trace of self-awareness at Barbie’s past reputation unfolded into a full-blown acknowledgement tinged with shock tactics. As she ventures into the “real world”, she believes she has made a positive impact on women’s lives. Instead, she harshly learns of her poor reputation, with teenage character Sasha even calling her a “fascist”.
To spotlight Barbie’s past in such a direct manner was shockingly bold, but like everything else, it wasn’t without purpose. Yes, public perception vilified Barbie – but it wasn’t unjustified. Barbie was created to inspire girls, but she’d missed the mark and her reputation had paid the price. As audiences were wondering how on earth maker Mattel allowed this scene to play out, the film moved into its final phase of her reputational overhaul.
When reshaping a reputation as infamous as Barbie’s, authenticity is non-negotiable. It implies honesty and integrity, and a determination to not have her future impact replicate her past.
Barbie’s emotionally charged pièce de resistance came at the very end: the doll holds creator Ruth Handler’s hands and takes her first breaths, interspersed with a montage of real women and girls. In this moment, Barbie – a plastic and inherently inauthentic doll – is humanised. Suddenly, she is no longer an unreachable idea of perfection; she is just like every other girl and woman. And she is for everyone.
To highlight Barbie’s past reputation without actually doing anything about it would’ve been in poor taste – audiences would’ve been left with the shock factor, but no substance. Instead, the blend of heritage brand imagery and powerful message reverberated through cinemagoers. Barbie had entered a new era.
There’s no doubt that Barbie, and its promotional rollout, were engineered to reshape the doll’s image. The film was somehow everything and nothing like I expected it to be, but it’s no surprise that this gargantuan reputational overhaul was a success. Whilst its long-term impact is yet to be determined, this summer affirmed that, love her or hate her, it really is Barbie’s world – we’re all just living in it.
There were always parallels that could be drawn between Elon Musk and Tony Stark – a controversial and eccentric billionaire living in a remote part of the world conjuring up futuristic technologies to spread to the masses. However, it seems that Elon Musk has decided to go down the path of the X-Men instead.
With very little prior warning, Twitter announced last weekend that it would be rebranding to ‘X’ with immediate effect. The website changed, a huge ‘X’ was projected on to its HQ in San Francisco and Musk himself released the logo on his own, erm…X feed?
Whatever your feelings as to the madhouse that the company has been since Musk took over, no one can say it has been uneventful. This is just the latest in a string of high-profile and somewhat hard-to-follow announcements in the past year, however this feels much bigger than ones that have preceded it such as the hiring of a new CEO, or charging people for a blue tick.
A rebrand of a company is an enormous undertaking and usually reserved for a very specific reason, often in reaction to something negative that has damaged the company’s reputation, something transformative that has happened such as the launching of a new product or service, or post-acquisition to bring people together. So, what is the thinking behind it, and where will the circus roll on to next?
The marketing point of view
I think it’s fair to say, that Musk and Twitter have not been totally aligned, either before or after his acquisition. Therefore, his desire to rebrand and move away from the old Twitter in many ways is understandable. Couple this with legacy reputational issues that Twitter has faced throughout its history, around content moderation and political bias, and changing the brand to distance himself from that makes sense.
However, when the launch was announced much of the response was scathing including calls of it being ‘marketing suicide’. Twitter’s name and associated brand was recently valued at £4.4bn by Brand Finance last year, so many understandably questioned how smart it was to abandon that overnight, particularly for a company struggling with revenue. Furthermore, changing from an instantly recognisable name and logo that has been ever present in society for the past two decades, to a letter of the alphabet, especially the letter X, has also been met with derision.
Firstly, the letter X could be argued as not having the best connotations. On our phones it signifies deleting things, but also it could remind us of that former girlfriend or boyfriend we would rather forget. On top of this, is the issue of copyright. Many firms have come out saying they already have a claim on the letter, including of all people, Meta, and this could lead to months, or even years, of untold misery for Musk’s lawyers – who, let’s face it, were probably already overworked.
Reason to be Xcited?
But is this missing something? Musk has long spoken of his desire to create an ‘everything app’, and this rebrand opens up the opportunity for the company to go in a totally new direction. These apps bring everything into one place combining communications, banking, retail and more. Much like when Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to Meta, this is the biggest signal yet that he sees this as the future.
The everything app concept is not a new one worldwide. WeChat, China’s version of this, boasts one billion monthly users and is absolutely ubiquitous throughout society – even stalls selling fruit and veg in the streets may not accept any other form of payment. It is therefore surprising that it has not caught on yet in the West. If implemented it would completely revolutionise life and the way we communicate, as we know it. As such, for such a groundbreaking and monumental effort, perhaps a rebrand was the only way to go.
Taking back the initiative
Also curious is the timing of the announcement. The reputational rivalry between both Musk and Zuckerberg personally, but also between Twitter and the newly launched Threads as platforms, has been steadily gaining intensity in recent months. Since Threads was launched, many people have started suggesting that Twitter’s days are numbered, and Threads would get the upper hand. However, Threads’ momentum has seemed to tail off a little as sign-up rates dropped. So, with this announcement, at least for the moment, it seems like Musk has wrestled back control of the narrative and taken the edge in the communications battle.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Many things will play a role in the outcome, perhaps even the litigation mentioned previously. However imperative to this effort will be the ability for X to market itself in a positive way, and how Musk will foster both his personal and the company’s overall reputation.
Either way, it won’t be boring.
During my work experience with Firefly, I discovered that many of the team worked in hospitality jobs before their current role, and it got me thinking about how my own experience working in hospitality might be giving me more skills and experience than I had initially imagined.
Everybody knows that hospitality is not the most glamorous sector to work in, nor is it the most fun, yet today it remains a convenient job for many young people. Whilst the pay isn’t great and your feet are sure to ache after rushing around all day, the convenience of not needing qualifications means that it is great for a first job. I used to go into my weekend café job thinking that the only skill I am learning is how to make a coffee, however on reflection, I can now see how beneficial this job has been in preparing me for the real world.
“How can I help you today?”
Communications is something that is integral in most, if not all jobs. This means that knowing how to interact with complete strangers, and not just your classmates, is a skill that at some point we all must become proficient at. Whether it be taking a person’s food order, or handling a mistake the kitchen made, young people are learning how to use effective communication to tackle scenarios in the real world.
Things often go wrong in whatever job you are doing, and situations such as orders going missing really tested my quick thinking and resolve. Although it is never fun when things go awry, learning how to control the situation and deal with things calmly is something that you get better with over time.
“Can I speak to the manager, please?”
We have all met people who like to make things extra difficult. Being confronted by someone like this when you are 16 can be incredibly intimidating. For many it can be quite upsetting at first, however after a while you adjust and learn how to handle it.
I quickly learnt the harsh truth that not everybody in the world is going to attempt to make your life easier, and instead of letting that upset me, I realised that I could still do my job well despite them. If you can handle being shouted at on a busy and stressful day, then receiving an email from an unhappy person seems easy, right?
“So…what are your plans for the future?”
As well as developing your communication skills, these jobs are an excellent way to network. It might only be making friends at work to see in your free time, but for a student this can make life much more enjoyable. However, beyond this, hospitality can be great for meeting a wide range of people and furthering your network. As you progress more in your career, knowing a variety of interesting people can be helpful in moving through the job market.
One of my current hospitality jobs is being a box waiter at Twickenham stadium, and getting this job was like finding a gold mine. Working in situations where you are serving drinks and chatting to the same people for several hours at a time allows you to get to know interesting people from all walks of life. Advice on careers is sometimes given out, and this way of meeting and connecting with people can really make you feel as if you are already making your mark on the world – even if you are still only a teenager.
You never know who you might be making small talk with. One day it might be to an assistant, and the next day you might be talking to the CEO. Opportunities could arise at any moment, and impressing the right people might not only secure you a larger tip but might also give you opportunities to work with them in the future.
The phrase ‘It’s not about what you know but who you know’ is glaringly true in today’s world where the connection between people has never been stronger due to technology. Platforms such as LinkedIn are a great way for people to connect to colleagues and others they have met at work. I have made sure to use this modern technology to allow me to stay connected to many of those I have interacted with.
So, are these jobs really just about convenience or are they more about finally getting to dip a toe into the big world of work? Even if it is not a career for life, turns out working at the local café was not as big of a waste of time as I had originally thought.
Every day, I see headlines filled with stories on AI regulation. This fast-paced conversation has left government bodies unsure about the rules they should implement. The UK has proposed decentralised models, while the US has engaged tech leaders in discussions on AI safety and security. Meanwhile, the EU has introduced the AI Act.
The discussion on AI regulation is far from over—it’s just getting started. If you work in tech comms, it’s crucial that you have a voice in this conversation. If you haven’t been involved yet, now is the time to join in.
Innovation speed like no other
The UK Prime Minister opened London Tech Week stating it’s “time to act – and act fast.” This want for speed is with a view to have the UK lead on growth and investment in technology. But for this to happen in a way that’s good for the world, the discussion around the guardrails for AI must be just as fast and just as continual as the development of the technology itself.
Also, at London Tech Week, Microsoft UK’s CEO, Clare Barclay, touched on speed. She took to the stage and opened with ‘by the time I finish with this keynote, much of what I’ve said will be outdated. That’s how fast innovation is in this space’. She pulled up a slide that really hammered home the impact and speed of generative AI disruption, showing adoption of new technology and its speed. It took Spotify 4.5 years to get to 100 million users, it took Instagram 2.5 years to reach the same milestone, and for TikTok it was nine months. Chat GPT? It took only two months to achieve 100 million users. That level of uptake illustrates how prevalent this technology is, and how no industry is untouched.
Clare also referenced Microsoft’s responsible AI principles – fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability – making the particularly significant point that these are continually reviewed and updated.
There is a huge ecosystem around generative AI – from the firms developing new applications of AI, to companies providing the tools and the means, as well as the range of organisations deploying generative AI technology. With such huge ramifications on jobs as well as the use of people’s data, every application of generative AI spotlights potential ethical issues, so responsible AI must be discussed openly and through a range of viewpoints. Whether you’re from a large organisation at the forefront of the innovation, or a small firm developing a specific use case for generative AI, all voices must be heard.
The rise of ‘AI washing’
You’ve probably heard of ‘green washing’, well, ‘AI washing’ has the same connotations. Essentially, it’s organisations claiming their offering involves AI technology when the use of AI is minimal. There’s been backlash and fatigue around AI product announcements, and the same will happen on this AI regulation conversation if people wade in with something ‘vanilla’.
My advice is to determine a point of view that highlights your (or your company’s) unique perspective. It can also help to point out elements that have yet to be discussed – maybe small in the grand scheme of things, but important for your industry. Of course, communication professionals love for leaders to have controversial opinions, but in the discussions around regulation that may not be appropriate.
So, whilst AI innovation continues at pace, and regulation struggles to keep up, the need to harness the power of AI responsibly and ethically is a priority for us all. Open discussion, where multiple views are taken into consideration, is how we get there faster.
After spending three years studying PR at university, then joining the tech comms world, I thought I knew public relations – parties, events, and meeting journalists every week. The reality, however, was very different.
Of course, in the pre-pandemic world, the communications industry thrived on in-person events – picture a bustling networking event, filled with eager professionals handing out business cards and exchanging their industry knowledge. However, the world has undergone a massive transformation, pushing us into a new era where virtual events have become the norm. Although it could be seen as disappointing, it is a blessing in disguise and us tech PRs should make the most of this shift to virtual events, and NOT just because we can be wearing a pair of pyjama pants where the webcam can’t see.
Adapting to change
The onset of the pandemic forced us to rethink the way we connect and communicate. In-person events and meetings had to take a backseat, making room for virtual alternatives. For comms, these digital formats can be leveraged not only for mere functionality, but also to thrive in the events space. Online events have proven to be a powerful tool for product launches, training sessions, and establishing thought leadership. Online platforms allow companies to reach more people than they ever could have dreamed of, eliminating geographical limitations. This increased accessibility can allow PR professionals to create impactful experiences and engage with a wider demographic – or really, any demographic, as long as they have an online account.
ABBA really weren’t lying when they said, ‘Money must be funny in a rich man’s world’. Ah, yes. Hilarious. For all companies, money really isn’t a joke, and here’s the punchline: events are EXPENSIVE. However, hosting virtual events often requires lower costs, meaning businesses can save on venue prices, travel expenses, and catering, reallocating those resources for better marketing or other PR initiatives.
Furthermore, virtual events have the advantage of incorporating interactive elements like live chats, Q&A sessions, polls, and virtual breakout rooms, which increase participation and ensure attendees get the most out of the experience.
Time saving and accessibility
Have you ever been to an event and thought: ‘Wow, I really could have been doing something better (like watching Below Deck) for the last threehours.’ I certainly have. One of the hidden benefits of virtual events is the time-saving aspect. Unlike traditional events, where attendees have to commit to a fixed schedule or location, virtual events offer flexibility. Participants can engage without travelling anywhere, and have access to recordings of sessions, allowing them to catch up or revisit content at their convenience – reducing FOMO and making everyone happy!
Don’t you forget about in-person events
Whilst it is true that virtual events have become an integral part of the tech communications world, it’s important to note that in-person events will never truly disappear. The energy and personal connections that can be made at physical gatherings remain invaluable, and ultimately the future lies in finding the perfect balance between virtual and in-person experiences.
The expanded reach, as well as the significant savings of both time and money, mean that online events cannot be ignored. By harnessing the power of connections, tech PR professionals can navigate the world of virtual events with confidence, whilst still valuing the importance of in-person interactions. So, let’s embrace the virtual events that are shaping the future of our industry. Oh, and I did mention that you can wear your pyjama bottoms, right? Oh, I did? Perfect.
Well… It’s that time of year again when all of us football fans find ourselves with a lot of spare time as the season comes to an end. Sure, there are the EURO qualifiers, but let’s be honest, they can’t compare to the excitement of watching Manchester City inevitably win the league, even though we kept convincing ourselves that teams like Liverpool and (surprisingly) Arsenal would take the title.
But enough about that, let’s talk about what really matters: The Champions League. Manchester City have finally done it. They have reached the pinnacle of club football and surpassed all expectations along the way, transforming from a club with limited success to a dominant force on the global stage. This extraordinary journey holds valuable lessons about the power of brand building, storytelling, and their impact on achieving unparalleled success.
Every year, City were seen as key contenders to finally achieve their ultimate goal – winning the Champions League. Yet, they repeatedly fumbled at unexpected hurdles. For example, there was the defeat to Lyon in 2020. It was a disappointing outcome, especially considering their triumph over Champions League royalty like Real Madrid in the same year. Additionally, there was the heartbreaking loss to Spurs in a 4-4 away goal battle. We’re not even going to speak about that time in Porto. But what City truly excelled at was creating a compelling story. At the end of every draw, I sat with my friends saying, ‘yeah if Liverpool don’t win it’ (there’s my delusional bias), ‘City are definitely winning it this year’, but they just couldn’t do it. Although it may not have been planned, people became emotionally invested in witnessing this super team finally conquer Europe for the first time. Similarly, in the realm of communications, businesses can captivate their audience by sharing their challenges, successes, and aspirations. This sparks interest and forms an emotional connection, inviting the audience to join the journey, root for the brand’s success, and eagerly await the next chapter of their story.
Manchester City spent most of their club history overshadowed by their neighbours in red, Manchester United. But now they’re the noisy neighbours that hold the title of ‘the best team in the world’. City were never considered underdogs and were always seen as favourites each year to win the Champions League, even after repeatedly getting knocked out in the most unexpected manner. The reason behind this perception was their consistent focus on building and solidifying their identity. City lacked the leader they needed, but when Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad with dreams of conquering the greatest league in the world, he created the confidence and drive in the dressing room. This transformed them into a team perceived as world beaters due to their style of play and how they presented themselves on and off the pitch.
Now, some of the things I am saying might sound familiar, as it is often the case that certain companies enjoy more visibility and popularity than others, but that’s not because they have more history or have been in the game for longer. Instead, it’s normally because the company has effectively built a stronger brand presence. It’s a result of actively engaging with their fans and stakeholders and leveraging media platforms to build on their brand image and create a strong relationship with their audience. In the world of comms, companies can distinguish themselves from their competitors and position themselves as industry leaders. Just as Manchester City’s rise to dominance was driven by their brand identity, companies need to invest in shaping their brand narrative, engaging with their audience, and presenting themselves with confidence and authenticity – ultimately shaping their reputation.
Companies should learn from City’s journey to greatness and leverage storytelling and brand building to help create deeper connections with their audiences and achieve the success they deserve.
We are currently witnessing the dawn of large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT. These are changing the way we work and the way we learn – particularly the way we search for information. There has been a huge reaction from education leaders, worrying about such tools being used to help students cheat their way through their studies, or fearing that they will be fed incorrect information.
On the other hand, in the workplace, GenZ employees have bought into the AI hype. They are using the technology to help them with various work tasks, but have a huge fear of managers finding out. This is due to lack of company regulation around whether they should or shouldn’t be using these tools to support their work.
The real conversation here though is, how useful is ChatGPT and other similar tools when it comes to research? With over 80% of the search market share, Google is the household favourite, but even Google has its limitations. Google is set up to search by keywords, but not to dive into granular and complex questions. For example, if I use Google and search ‘AI’, the results come back with a multitude of news items, various descriptions of AI and a range of company articles using the term ‘AI’.
This is where tools like Chat GPT come in. Using an LLM, I have the ability to ask a question such as ‘Can you describe what AI is’, and it comes back with a detailed description of AI and its use cases. This is information that can be pulled into any written work without having to use a single brain cell. This type of language model has the ability to understand and respond to natural language and provide answers that are both informative and entertaining, generating a variety of responses to each user’s questions.
However, the major limitation of ChatGPT is that the data only runs up to 2021, so for many trying to use this tool, the information will be far too out of date to create current and reliable content. This is a major point for those working in tech comms, as the speed of innovation is so fast that information quickly becomes outdated.
Aside from this limitation, there have also been concerns around the ethical implications, including privacy, bias in training data and lack of human interaction. More commonly used search engines don’t have these same problems, and therefore are more reliable to use for research. Using a manual search engine relies on people to manually gather and organise their own data and information, based on the latest information available. On the other hand, an AI search engine relies on computers and algorithms and their pre-trained and installed data to produce results. This is one of the key differences when using either for searching.
However, a search tool is only as good as the data it provides. Google provides results to our keyword searches based on the algorithm it uses to deem information credible. ChatGPT hasn’t yet been transparent about its sources, which again makes using it for research difficult.
Looking at this from a comms perspective (as we’re comms people after all) these changes will be significant to our output. Firstly, we’re constantly researching to ensure we are knowledgeable for our clients. But secondly, and importantly, a lot of what we do influences Google results. An amazing article about our client in a national newspaper like the Financial Times, will feature at the top of search results and will have an impact on that company’s reputation. In B2B, the sales process often starts with Google! But as LLMs continue to develop, what will it mean for a company’s reputation and how they feature in LLM results?
There is no doubt that LLMs will continue to have a huge impact on the way we search, work, and learn. We’re at an important juncture, where not only the likes of Google will look to make significant changes to its platform, but we’ll also see a huge range of new players enter and compete in the ‘AI race’. It’s not too dissimilar to when we witnessed the disappearance of Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry as Apple and Microsoft became the dominant players in the mobile phone evolution. I think we’ll see something very similar happen here!
It has always been essential for businesses to maintain a solid reputation. However, this has taken on another level of importance in the modern context. Social media, 24-hour news cycles and the ubiquity of information have put reputational issues at the forefront of any organisation’s strategy.
Efforts must be made in terms of public relations, brand management and leadership reputation, but it cannot stop there. To build a truly robust reputation, those who represent your company in day-to-day interactions should fully understand the values you wish to project.
Those who are responsible for sales, by definition, have a huge impact on any business’s success. However, this goes beyond revenue generation. They are also a significant driver of your wider reputational efforts due to their countless interactions with the outside world, including current or prospective customers, partners, sponsors and beyond.
If your firm has a poor sales reputation, this will impact the overall image you portray and may even go against other efforts by your leaders or marketing. As a result, it is critical that your sales teams are kept updated on reputational matters—and are well-versed in your firm’s values and are able to communicate them effectively.
A lingering and often unfair perception of sales teams is that their approach can be too “pushy” and not focused on building trust or those long-term relationships that are so important to creating sustainable success. Highlighting the importance of honesty and transparency in negotiations is something that the majority of businesses will already be doing, so what other efforts can be made?
Fundamentally, all your employees must buy into your company’s ethos and what it is trying to achieve. We have all been in an organisation or dealt with a representative of a company who couldn’t care less about how they or the company are perceived. As much as we may try not to let them, these sorts of interactions can have a strong influence on our opinion of the company, and if many others have the same experience, this can cause significant reputational damage.
Therefore, it is important for your company’s leadership to maintain a two-way dialogue with its people. To a large extent, reputation will be top-down—the heritage, culture and personalities of those who founded or run the company will have a significant impact on how it approaches sales and the reputation it wants to build. However, it is important to not be out of touch and to make sure to listen to the wishes and outlook of the people you have throughout your organisation.
There is a wide societal focus on authenticity, and we have seen many examples of companies being called out, even canceled, for not living up to the high moral standards that consumers and workers have these days. For example, many companies have been accused of greenwashing, being misleading in their advertising or having sales practices deemed out of sync with their values. Clearly, this will have a big impact on the reputation of the firm more broadly, but also on sales teams. A team should be comfortable promoting a product or service, not worried about having to make any moral compromises. This can make them more effective in driving revenue and helping build a more positive reputation.
Revenue is a good measurement of many business outcomes, and reputation is no exception. If your revenue figures are strong, it is likely that a strong reputation has helped make that happen. However, it is a mistake to not look beyond revenue and seek different indications as to how your reputation is doing. The use of customer success teams can be a great way to keep in touch with customers throughout the lifecycle, getting constant and useful feedback to measure how your company is doing and the way it is perceived by your customers. Similarly, engagement programmes between stakeholders and your senior team can also fulfill a critical role and ensure that strong bonds are created and trust is shared.
Other established ways of measuring satisfaction beyond simply revenue include the Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a score that organisations are given that measures how likely a customer is to recommend or promote that company to someone else. This can help give a good indication as to how your brand is viewed—for example, if you have strong revenue figures but a poor NPS, trouble may be down the road.
However, due to NPS’ simplicity, it has its limitations regarding the insight it can give you into customer sentiment and behavior. This is why it is important to review all of the different metrics out there and use the one you think would be most relevant to your business. It may even mean combining a few different ones to try to fully understand your reputation and the lasting impressions that your sales team leaves on customers. As a result, a concerted focus on not only revenue and outcomes but on the process to get there should be factored into all strategic decisions and subsequent training of your workforce.
In business, what you say matters, but what you do is crucial—the reputation you’re building is only legitimate if those in your company back it up with their actions. This is why building a positive reputation and putting wider reputational efforts at the core of your business, prioritising them alongside other key business goals such as revenue or costs, is key to future success.
In the world today, talk travels quickly, and there are countless examples in recent times of business outcomes being inextricably linked to the perception a company has in the public forum. Ensuring that you approach sales with integrity, transparency and honesty is more important today than it ever has been. Creating the right culture within your company can lead to the right reputation being presented outward.
This month, Eurovision exploded back onto our screens in all its campy, zany, extravagant glory. Broadcast from my hometown of Liverpool, millions of people across the globe danced and sang along to some predictably cheesy music – in my eyes, Finland were the clear winners. This celebration of diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and culture was a clear reminder that the human influence is invaluable for businesses – particularly as AI creeps further into our lives.
There’s an overall mix of curiosity around how AI can help companies, fears about it negatively impacting jobs, and pressure to regulate it as it grows more knowledgeable. It can perfectly replicate human voices, churn out content in seconds, and explain advanced astrophysics to a five-year-old. It can’t, however, replicate or replace the human touch, particularly when it comes to reputation shaping.
AI isn’t going anywhere. There are around 5,855 tools that have the potential to be used in PR currently available online, and that number will only continue to rise. But a reputation is curated through the business’ relationship with the public, and relationships are the foundation of the human experience. By working solely off data, AI tools lack the emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and interpersonal skills that are so imperative in PR. If a business experiences a reputational setback, wants to improve media relations, or is looking for a creative new way to boost visibility, there is a need for soft skills that only us humans can bring to the table.
Eurovision is a perfect example of how the human influence shapes reputation. The longest-running annual international televised music competition, its reputation reflects its core value of uniting people and nations by showcasing musical diversity and cultural nuances. It is powered by human creativity and an understanding of culture, attracting audiences of over 180 million people across the world who share a wonderfully wacky and meaningful experience. Love it or loathe it, Eurovision’s reputation has an undeniably and overwhelmingly positive impact on visibility, cultural influence, and tourism.
When considering how AI can discern a brand’s reputation, the tools may be able to use their vast amounts of knowledge to gauge popularity, identify cultural differences, and calculate the positive financial impact Eurovision brings, but this information is gathered and collated through human input. Because AI lacks the aforementioned soft skills, its inability to think critically or creatively generates concerns surrounding ethics.
Firstly, if the human input is not neutral then the AI-based decisions are susceptible to bias or inaccuracies. This is especially concerning if a company is experiencing a reputational crisis, and neutrality and nuance are needed. One well-known example of this is the bubbling undercurrent of political tensions that surround Eurovision each year. Despite these, the event remains fiercely politically neutral, and makes every effort to bar highly politicised performances and promote peaceful relations, in order to avoid reputational damage.
Secondly, AI is inherently inauthentic, meaning that any creative ideas it suggests stem from human creativity. This also means that AI-generated content or ideas are more likely to result in plagiarism accusations, a serious reputational setback.
Thirdly, there are the ever-present fears around increased surveillance. Once an AI tool is fed a piece of information, it can never be retrieved and wiped from the database. If sensitive information is inputted, the tool has no understanding that it should not be outputted – and if that occurs, it makes for navigating some seriously tricky waters.
So, is AI the future of PR? It can certainly augment, but there’s no doubt that the human influence will continue to drive the industry forward. And with the countdown on until the next Eurovision in Sweden, ask yourself – would this be nearly as much fun with a glittery, AI powered, humanoid robot on the stage? Personally, I’d prefer to see another rendition of the classic Ukrainian entry circa 2007, “Dancing Lasha tumbai”. The contestants may be dressed like robots, but they are hilariously and undeniably human.
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