Ah­mad In­tani.

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

Much has been said about new-age PR and its novel ap­proach to com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple in the mod­ern age. Guide­lines have changed, vi­sions have al­tered and pro­cesses have been up­dated, yet here I am, watch­ing an in­dus­try evolve to sat­isfy a rest­less pop­u­la­tion on the look­out for the next best thing. Is it the in­dus­try that changed? Are peo­ple be­com­ing more re­sis­tant to ad­ver­tise­ments, promotions, and PR speak? If so, why are we still do­ing what we do? What are we at­tempt­ing to achieve?

Ed­ward Ber­nays, the pub­lic re­la­tions pi­o­neer, and whose name is adorned on my agency’s brand, had a sim­ple mis­sion: weave a story to re­de­fine a brand. The suc­cess of his ideas and philoso­phies, though, can­not be fully cred­ited to him. True, he had an im­pec­ca­ble un­der­stand­ing of hu­man psy­chol­ogy, bol­stered by the fact that he was Sig­mund Freud’s nephew, but au­di­ences back then were ac­cept­ing and gave com­pa­nies the ben­e­fit of the doubt. Ber­nays un­der­stood that and com­mu­ni­cated with them at a level they were willing to re­ceive.

That was the golden age of the ‘it’s not how you say it, but what you say’. Con­sumers were starved for in­for­ma­tion and were sus­cep­ti­ble to cam­paigns be­cause they had no bench­mark and had no rea­son to doubt the in­tegrity of what is be­ing pro­moted to them. Af­ter all, they once be­lieved the world was be­ing in­vaded by aliens just be­cause a voice on the ra­dio said so; broad­cast me­dia de­fined what was, and peo­ple had lit­tle to no rea­son to deny it.

As the years pro­gressed, and as the mes­sage al­tered to ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it’, con­sumers were no longer in­trigued with a prod­uct or a mes­sage; they were look­ing for an ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not a burger you are get­ting; it’s the flavour and the com­pan­ion­ship. It’s not a car with good mileage; it’s a road trip and the prom­ise of the open hori­zon. Those were days when peo­ple dreamed of ideal fu­tures and en­vi­sioned bright days ahead, full of po­ten­tial.

How­ever, things change. Just as we were get­ting ac­cus­tomed to as­so­ci­at­ing brands with the magic and mys­tery of life, the world, and the uni­verse, we found our­selves as in­dus­try lu­mi­nar­ies at the cusp of yet an­other era: ‘It’s not what you say, or how you say it; it’s who’s say­ing it.’

The new move­ment in PR is in the in­flu­encer move­ment, and for the most part, peo­ple seem to sub­scribe to that no­tion. I wrote re­cently about vir­tual in­flu­encers and the new step in in­flu­encer innovation. I her­alded it and wel­comed it as the new evo­lu­tion in the ever-chang­ing realm of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but they are far from be­ing the next phase in pub­lic re­la­tions. I am con­sis­tently high­light­ing our need as com­mu­ni­ca­tors to work with the trends to best reach an au­di­ence whose ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion now far sur­passes ours in re­gards to speed and va­lid­ity. Where once we were the har­bin­gers of what is, our job now is to be the sages who an­tic­i­pate a change based on col­lated in­for­ma­tion. It is no longer on us to in­form an au­di­ence, but to in­spire and ed­u­cate. This, I be­lieve, is the real next step in pub­lic re­la­tions.

With a sim­ple tap of a but­ton on vir­tu­ally any con­nected de­vice, peo­ple are re­ceiv­ing their de­sired in­for­ma­tion from their per­son­alised and cu­rated lists of sources. They are not in­ter­ested in what we have to say be­cause, chances are, they have al­ready built an opin­ion well be­fore our cam­paigns and words reach them. In 2007, Time mag­a­zine pre­sented its cov­eted per­son of the year to the pop­u­la­tion who were granted a voice louder than any me­dia mogul, news an­chor, or pub­li­cist. It was the be­gin­ning of a new era that only now is com­ing into full fruition. We are the ones who de­fine nar­ra­tives, not brands. We cre­ate our re­al­ity, not ad­ver­tise­ments. We want agency over our de­sires and thoughts, and the more con­trol we are granted, the more we are willing to trust a ser­vice or a brand.

You may be de­terred from ac­cept­ing ran­dom talk­ing heads on your mo­bile de­vice with a fol­low­ing that puts some celebri­ties to shame, but it is th­ese same peo­ple who are driv­ing the in­dus­try for­ward. It’s hu­man to re­sist change, but it’s this re­sis­tance that pro­duces the innovation that will carry us to the fu­ture.

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