The Future of Public Relations

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This post was written by CPRS Toronto’s Director of Education, Heath Applebaum, ABC. Heath is the President of Echo Communications and a professor at University of Guelph-Humber, teaching strategic communications. 

On August 15, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating the inaugural Future of PR event, where an all-star panel of corporate, agency and academic thought leaders gazed into a crystal ball to scrutinize where the profession is headed.

Panelists included Dave Haggith, Senior Director of Communications at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Daniel Tisch, President, Argyle Public Relationships, Barry Waite, Academic Chair of Communications at Centennial College, and Anne Marie Males, PR Professor and Coordinator for the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College.

Together we examined a broad range of important themes impacting professionals, educators and students across Canada, including the seven megatrends impacting our industry that were identified in the recent CPRS white paper, The Elevation of Public Relations. These trends include the rising business value of reputation, the empowered audience, content shock, many speak, few listen, fake news and the decline of journalism, a gap in wealth and trust, and artificial intelligence.

The panel engaged in a captivating dialogue with a packed crowd at the Pilot Tavern in downtown Toronto with conversations flowing for hours after the formal event had concluded.

 

Several key ideas emerged from discussions flowing from the changing media and business landscape in Canada. Living in an era of digital transparency, relationships have become more essential than ever for building, protecting and managing organizational reputation.

In a world where information and misinformation spreads globally with the click of a mouse, public relations professionals have an unprecedented opportunity to earn leadership roles that transcend communication, truly inform and influence business strategy and outcomes.

With the emergence of fake news and unfortunate decline of journalism, panelists emphasized the need for our profession to play an even greater role in safeguarding accurate and ethical communications.

A growing concern is that the reputations of people, companies and brands have never been more vulnerable to attack. Communicators must invest more resources towards listening, engaging stakeholders and anticipating issues, and establish rapid-response capabilities.  The former 24-hour news cycle we once knew, has accelerated into more of a 24-second Twitter news cycle that is requiring our industry to consider new strategies and for organizations to become nimbler than ever.

Ultimately, with new technologies constantly emerging and predictive analytics bound to take on a greater role in our world, to stay ahead of the curve, practitioners will have to embrace lifelong learning.  Only then can we truly learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

 

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