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of ChatGPT is that the data only runs up to 2021, so for many trying to use this tool, the information will be far too out of date to create current and reliable content.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a major point for those working in tech comms, as the speed of innovation is so fast that information quickly becomes outdated.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.
Just why are there so many PR people in London? It’s a question I’ve asked myself since I started in PR and marketing in the late 90s.
Just taking a sample of the PR Week top 150 agencies, 76% are based in London. Traditional media is still important, but it’s not like we’re networking with journalists every day, so proximity to London publishing houses is a lot less important than it used to be.
While London is still the powerhouse of the UK economy, it’s by no means the sole centre. For example, regions like the Thames Valley are extremely popular with big technology firms, Cambridge is known as a tech and science incubator and Bristol is big in financial services. So, being close to clients doesn’t hold as a good enough reason for the industry to be so disproportionately London-based either.
In the last 5-10 years, the advent of faster access and cloud computing mean that it’s technically just as viable to have an agency in, say, Solihull as Soho. So, why is the public relations industry still so London-centric? To me, it’s all about talent.
The first 10 years of my career were in the East Midlands. Being close to friends in my university town and on the doorstep of the Peak District appealed from a work-life balance point of view, and I always disagreed with the notion that London should be the centre of PR universe.
I used to find that I was quite chippy about what I perceived to be London snobbery about the regions (one agency I worked for was in Rutland; “Rutland– where on earth is that?”, I’ve heard more than once.) But there was one issue that I could never get over: it was always hard finding good quality PR people to hire. It was quite common to have to interview 10 or 20 would-be account executives before we found a good one – all the talent migrated to London.
The flipside is that employee retention rates tend to be higher. Fewer jobs and the prospect of having to move towns to get a promotion mean that people are more likely to hang on to a good job when they get one.
So, the question is, will London remain the centre of the public relations industry in the future?
In a word, yes. Well, kind of. For hundreds of years there have been clusters of expertise (think in London of Hatton Garden for jewelry, Savile Row for tailoring or Denmark Street for music), so it’s natural for there to be a PR cluster in a single city.
And frustrating as it is for people who switch jobs every year, a certain amount of movement is important for enhancing skills and knowledge.
However, factors such as improving communications technologies, people having a different focus on work-life balance, the cost of commuting and childcare, and challenging marketing conditions translating to poorer financial visibility, mean that agencies will increasingly be using London as a hub supported by freelancers around the country. Which is great news if you’re based in Rutland.
If you’re looking to work for or with a London PR agency, then why not get in touch.
We had a flurry of activity with the recent Firefly London account coordinator search. Something not quite akin to PR X-Factor, but shows how seriously we take hiring decisions. There’s a long tradition at Firefly of giving candidates professional competency tests in areas like literacy, creativity, critical thinking or problem solving; alongside everybody’s favourite, personality profiling. We all know what it’s like to be on the ‘doing’ end of these tests. But evaluating them can be an interesting and sometimes gob-smacking experience.
Writing tests that feature typos galore and poor attention to detail obviously don’t make the cut. Another test asks the candidate to ‘write down up to 20 uses for a rubber band’ in under two minutes, as a quick measure of lateral thinking. Responses ranged from ‘a top’; ‘a dog lead’; and the inspiring, ‘to choke someone’.
But for those who think tests as a means of talent assessment represent an unnecessary step, think again. Firefly received more than 300 applications for the two account coordinator roles posted. As a means of further qualifying candidates with already strong CVs, (fair) testing is a vital step. In a business where so much rests on one’s ability with the written and spoken word, you’d hope a PR candidate wouldn’t choke at the first sign of a challenge.
How would you fare on the rubber band challenge?
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