The year ahead for Public Relations, by Cicero & Bernay’s Ahmad Itani

The human element lies at the heart of communications, writes Cicero & Bernay’s Ahmad Itani.

By Ahmad Itani, founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy

With every passing year, I find myself looking back at the changes that the industry has gone through and the predictions that were mentioned and portrayed at the end of each year. Like a KPI that we have set for ourselves and a result that we are certain exists within the data that we generated and collated, we are consistently creating benchmarks to project and learn from at the dawning of every year.

Of course, the past two years cast a shadow over the world that compelled people to introspect on the temperamentality of life as we know it, in its functions, through its processes and in the ephemeral lessons that we seem to always insist will empower the coming year. The one metric that proved to be the driving force towards the future we are heading towards lies beyond science, data and statistics: the human element.

Irrespective of the global pandemic that held us all in its grips, we continued to evolve and adapt, presenting a testament to our collective resilience. After all, at the heart of every change, across generations and through all the transcendent mindsets of those influencing the path of progress we are on, the human element will forever remain at the forefront and heart of everything we do and work towards. From the entrepreneur in their makeshift workspace conceiving the next industry-changing idea to national leadership that attunes to where the world is headed and invests in initiatives and plans to pave the way forward for people and residents, every era of transformation is based on human-centric needs; more so during the coming phase.

The impact of the human element played a fundamental role in our progress and in defining the path forward. Regionally, at the start of 2022, Dubai is hosting Expo 2020, the most magnificent iteration of this global event; the world has found its standing and is slowly making its way back to its state of normalcy; and we just celebrated 50 years of the UAE’s incredible achievements and milestones that would have taken other cities and countries around the world much longer to fulfil, if ever.

On a more global front, artificial intelligence and the expanding influence of voice-activated devices, such as Alexa and Google Home, continued to gain prevalence, and around 80 per cent of consumers see the world as all digital with no divide. The world was also compelled to adopt a digital existence overnight, with those who already had a presence becoming even stronger, positioning online-only businesses as juggernauts even beyond their respective industries and sectors.

Start-ups experienced a noticeable growth vector, and the ingenuity that many entrepreneurs are rising up with is presenting solutions to empower and influence the respective sectors they operate within as well as offering solutions to global challenges. Dubai-based iOL Pay, for example, is single-handedly setting out to lift the hospitality sector with its simplified payment system by transforming the hotel payments experience into an exceptional guest experience.

Prioritising human-centric innovations proved to be the de facto success metric that will define the path forward. From initiatives that will form a tight link between customer and employee experiences to strategic partnerships and innovation practices, businesses will have to advance upon their organisations’ creative and innovative capacity leading into 2022. This is consolidated with the higher digital expectations from customers, which will make it a prerequisite for brands to take bolder steps and be more creative to meet those expectations. Leading firms across all sectors will also have to look inwards and unlock the creativity of their employees and ensure they are equipped with intelligent technologies to empower businesses and their respective clients. The pursuit of financial outcomes may still be an integral factor, but businesses can no longer afford to just prioritise profit and call it a day.

Whether it is towards engaging with customers or empowering teams to surpass their potentials, the upcoming phase will prove to be the most consequential, especially at a time when remote presences are becoming increasingly prevalent. Customers will consistently be seeking businesses that reach out to where they are, and teams will need to experience the same cohesion that they would when sharing physical spaces, and the trust that comes accompanied with it.

The value of human capital will, therefore, continue to define the course of every plan across every sector towards a cyclical outcome that would underpin satisfaction and wellbeing towards a future of fulfilment that understands the need to emphasise the human element above all.