We were thrilled to present last week on how to sharpen insights with data science at the ICCO 2018 Global Summit. It’s worth noting that we were almost equally thrilled that the venue for the event this year was Clontarf castle in Dublin. There was a distinctly ‘Game of Thrones’ aura as PR’s global leaders discussed AI and the recent PR-marketing-straddling Nike ad sitting on throne chairs next to tapestries and suits of armour.

Conversations were buzzing at the summit this year as it’s a pivotal time for our industry. Both at the summit and increasingly across the wider marketing and communications community, there is a growing perception that communicators have a crucial role in the c-suite as businesses strive to make the right choices at a time when they are being forced to take sides on social issues. Barri Rafferty, CEO at Ketchum, delivered the keynote on day 2 and said this will enable us, as PR agencies, to redefine our swim lane. This is good news as extending outside what is normally called ‘PR’ means that new opportunities for growth are opening up and we can increasingly position ourselves as integrated agencies. We will be able to ‘get our swagger back’ according to Alan VanderMolen, president of WE Communications.

To achieve this effectively, we as an industry will need to do three things to better serve our clients:

1. Master Insights and Analytics

At W2O, we have long been advocates of this imperative and have invested heavily in these capabilities. We know that if we truly understand our clients’ audiences we will enable them to make bold moves that may appear to ‘sacrifice all’ but are actually based on a firm foundation of evidence. This investment in our insights capability enables us to be more credible with our recommendations and we are glad to see this view spreading through the industry.

2. Position Ethics at the Heart of Strategy

We need to help our clients present a human face to the world. During the current techlash sparked by privacy issues, looming automation and fears over data proliferation, protection and ownership, we must show our clients how to be their best selves in the eyes of their customers. This point came up time and time again at the summit and it’s a key point for our healthcare clients who aim to transform healthcare for better outcomes for all.

3. Develop Technology-Enabled Experiences

Technologies are changing the way audiences experience brands -from VR to micro-segmenting for virtually 1:1 personalisation and what is happening in China with WeChat and influencer-fueled ecommerce. We need to understand the opportunities that these new technologies bring because they will enable us to take engagement to a new level.

To have any hope of delivering on these ambitions, PR firms will need to think carefully about the skillsets they are hiring. Gone are the days when a PR company was a largely homogenous collection of similarly skilled people. As Elise Mitchell President of ICCO says, “We need to be better innovators, technologists, data scientists, creative strategists, anthropologists and most importantly, better leaders.”

To compete today, diversity of both perspective and skillset is essential. At W2O we are advocates of this approach and have found that it has paid off in terms of sustained growth. We believe that in these times of accelerated change, diversity is the key to gaining advantage as we are able to maximise opportunities as they emerge.


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