Back to basics: navigating the future of PR – by Instinctif’s Amel Osman

By Amel Osman, head of corporate communications and public policy, Instinctif Partners MENA

Hand’s up if you have recently regurgitated stagnant advisory without a second thought or delivered media training, realising ten minutes in that you were sick of the sound of your own voice. When was the last time you surprised yourself, or your clients?

As an industry, public relations is slow to ride the coattails of innovation. Certainly, on occasion, we are rattled by modern technology. Chat GPT is the latest harbinger of doom, signalling the end of the PR industry as we know it. A couple of months since its launch, we have decided the technology is not all it is cracked up to be, and we breathe a sigh of relief, sinking back into traditional ways of working. Why not? They have served us well to date.

The responsibility lies with every PR professional to make the communications journey as exciting as it is rewarding, for our peers, our clients, and most importantly, ourselves. We are doing good, but we could be doing better.

Challenging advisory

As PR professionals, we must commit to continued evolution. Thinking holistically about the capabilities of our function and how they align with business priorities in an evolving media landscape is not going to cut it anymore.

Confirmation bias continues to monopolise the decision-making process. Yes, we know a lot, but the real question is, do we know enough? We are not decision-makers for our clients, we are advisors. In times of uncertainty, we instinctively conduct diligent research, map every scenario, and reach out to our wider network of experts for answers.

An irrevocable descent begins when we, beyond any doubt, know the answer. Cue expertise fuelled ego rendering us reluctant to execute the necessary deep dives required to paint a full picture. It is not when we do not know the answers that we must search for them. Indeed, it is when we do know the answers, that we must challenge these very answers of which we are certain. Only then are we positioned to present the most comprehensive advisory and solutions to our clients.

Evolving methodologies

While the fundamentals of PR remain steadfast, the mediums utilised are fast evolving. Carving out time to evolve tried and tested methodologies that have been working ‘just fine’ must be brought to the top of the agenda. We should be steering the development of technology supporting our work, not limiting ourselves to what it offers us by way of services.

Learning fuels change and reassessment offers an opportunity for growth. Embracing feedback is not enough. We should relentlessly seek it out, with a determination to extract it as thoroughly and as frequently as possible.

As we navigate potholes and action change in pursuit of excellence, we should leave no stakeholder unheard. It is this very conscious commitment to ensuring standards, quality, and experience reign supreme for your clients that will contribute to successful campaign implementation and ROI.

Re-defining success

It is time to revisit traditional KPIs. Is there a clear distinction between reach and resonance? An often-overlooked metric is message pull-through. Was the intended message evident, was the right tone audible, and did the sentiment echo?

I was recently informed by one of our clients, that he secured three exceptional hires, in a shallow talent pool of a niche industry thanks to a leadership positioning campaign. Traditionally, a KPI that might have been set, is one tracking applications through the hiring portal. It is critical to look deeper into what can be achieved for our clients, beyond the numbers.

The approach is two-pronged, taking into consideration what reporting can highlight, and what clients expect beyond the metrics. Once we understand success in all facets, we are better positioned to drive conversations around achieving, measuring, and replicating it.