By Senior Marketing Executive, Cat Alfille

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recently held its annual CIPR National Conference 2019 at London’s iconic British Library with the focus of ‘Preparing for the Digital Future.’ I was thrilled to attend this event which highlighted the exciting range of topics within our industry.

The day underlined that the pace of at which technology is developing is accelerating, fundamentally disrupting how we live and work. For public relations professionals, predicting the impacts of these changes and communicating effectively is part of the day job. This year’s national conference explored the different elements of transformation, from the future work place, digital detox, to the relationship between content and power, as well as much more.

With an impressive line-up of expert speakers from an array of different backgrounds, viewpoints and professions, the conference proved an enthralling day of education, informative discussions and interactive breakout sessions. The sessions had great diversity from more politically directed presentations such as ‘Democracy and the place for digital’ from Polly Mackenzie CEO, Demos and ‘Rebuilding trust from the inside out’ by Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD to breakout session ‘Your public is lying to you’ taken by Sophie Coley, Strategy Director and Co-Founder, Search Listening, which highlighted that 75% of Brits admitted to lying about themselves on social media, emphasising we can’t trust everything we see on these platforms.

The day started with Joanna Blackburn, Deputy Director, Communications & Engagement, Government Digital Service on ‘Helping government meet the accelerated pace of users’ digital expectations.’ Joanna highlighted that the digital pace change is so tremendous making it impossible for traditional leadership to be applied in the workforce. It’s now not sufficient enough for people to be head of the team to be listened to. Joanna gave some important takeaways for leadership in a digital age:

  • Set direction and a clear purpose for your team and ensure you have a seat at the table to influence decisions
  • Find solutions that will benefit all – don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
  • Nothing is ever done. Be agile and work in an agile way
  • Don’t be vanilla. Encourage innovation, experimentation and risk taking

(Image – Joanna Blackburn / Credit – CIPR)

Tony Langham, CEO, Lansons later talked reputation with the digital world exposing bad behaviour faster than ever before, making it harder to know who to trust and what to believe in. In his session ‘Reputation on the line’ Tony stated a company must not be lazy and shouldn’t brand itself as running on qualities such as integrity, because what makes them stand out from all the other companies claiming to have integrity at their heart? Be unique! Tony’s tips for what makes a great reputation are as follows:

  • Be great
  • A clear purpose
  • Great communication
  • A fantastic culture (doing the right thing)

“Reputation management is the conscious, holistic, integrated, planned, thought through, dynamic, agile and continuous process of managing reputation. It relies on commitment from the top of an organisation and must involve: measurement and analysis; a plan – and coordinated actions to deliver the plan. It involved what organisations do, how they behave (culture) and how they communicate.”– Tony Langham

(Image credit Lansons)

Stephanie Hare captivated the audience in her afternoon session ‘Ethics of Our New Technologies’. “The way we are treating data is not working” she began, “our privacy is getting violated constantly” with a heavy reliance from the public on whistle-blowers to find out the truth. Technology ethics is a term often recognised due to Cambridge Analytica but was actually discovered way before this time. Stephanie highlighted how technology ethics engages with a problem that no one has solved to anyone’s satisfaction. “Why are you still using Facebook when you know what they do with all of your data?” she asked, leading on to say that the way we are dealing with technology right now is reactive not proactive. Stephanie concluded that it suits people to say that technology is neutral, so they don’t have to take responsibility for what they build, there is no such thing as being ‘neutral’ on technology ethics. Stephanie quoted:

When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution…Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.” – Paul Virilio, Politics of the Very Worst: An Interview with Philippe Petit, edited by Sylvère Lotringer, translated by Michael Cavaliere (New York: Semiotext(e), 1999, p.89)

Thank you CIPR and all of the fantastic speakers for an educational and inspiring day!