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Transparency, credibility and trust: The CIPR National Conference 2017

Transparency, credibility and trust: The CIPR National Conference 2017

This week, several of us from the SE10 London office attended the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ 2017 national conference. CIPR is the professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK, which aims to increase skills and professionalism across the industry. The 2017 conference brought together highly accomplished speakers from both agency and client-side to discuss current best practice and the future of the industry under the theme ‘2020 Vision – The Evolution of PR’. Here are some of our key takeaways from the event.

Truth is the new spin

Transparency was a word that came up time and time again throughout the conference. In today’s connected world, accusations of wrongdoing can topple an organisation almost overnight. When mistakes have been made, companies need to own up, apologise and correct them as soon as possible. If not, they need to come out fighting and present the truth about their operating-level reality. Hard audited facts, explained in layman’s terms, have the power to persuade everybody.

CSR is dead

Organisations can no longer just be seen to be doing the right thing; they have to actually do it – and not just as a side activity. The public today expects companies to have a social purpose and this must be integral to their business in order to create credibility and trust. At the conference, we heard how 62% of respondents in the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Study said that they would not buy a brand because it stayed silent on an issue and 43% are buying or boycotting brands based on a brand’s social or political stance.

If you see something, say something

And it’s not just clients who have a moral obligation to do the right thing. PR agencies too have to practice what we preach. In the wake of the Bell Pottinger scandal, speakers underlined that even with due diligence procedures and codes of ethics, the moral compass of the industry is the sum of its individuals. As professionals, we have a collective responsibility to uphold standards and if we see something that doesn’t seem right, to speak up and show leadership in ethics.

Advertising holds the key to combatting fake news

One area where clients and agencies can work together to do the right thing is in fighting fake news. A decade of algorithmic development in online advertising has allowed harmful sites to prosper, but by adopting a whitelist rather than a blacklist approach to placement, companies can ensure advertising revenue supports professional journalism only. And it’s in all our interests to do so. Studies have shown strong correlations between media freedom and a stable climate for investment.

Content is king but…

Finally, sharing content on social media is now standard but how much do we actually tailor it to the channel? The rise of social publishers, such as Buzzfeed, has shown that adapting content specifically to social media and distributing it at the right time is immensely powerful in reaching audiences. We have now reached a point where breaking news is published on social media first and then reported on traditional media so this must be factored in when planning.

Overall, it was clear from the conference that PR is more important than ever before. In a time of political and economic uncertainty, rapid technological advancement and widespread social anxiety, establishing transparency, credibility and trust with the public are essential not only to a business’s success, but key to its very survival. 

Image: Peter Heneghan, head of communications at LADBible Group

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