Finding clarity in uncertain times

By Joanna Arnold, CEO, Access Intelligence,

The new reality of today’s media and political landscape is that change is constant and unrelenting.

It almost feels nostalgic to remember the ‘good old days’ of government briefing policy on a Sunday for a Monday launch when policies are announced and abandoned within hours. Since the EU Referendum result in June 2016, election of Donald Trump in November 2016 and the hung parliament result of the General Election in 2017, politics has been increasingly volatile.

For media, politicians, business and the public alike, navigating this uncertainty is challenging and made worse by the overload of information available almost instantaneously. Social media and proliferation of online commentators have taken us into a new age of immediacy. We’ve already seen politicians adapt as evidenced by the leader of the free world using Twitter to announce US policy, our own prime minister hosting the ‘People’s PMQs’ on Facebook or even EU Council President Donald Tusk taking to Twitter to communicate an open message of outrage to Boris Johnson. We live in unprecedented times.

With 90% of UK MPs using Twitter, there is clear shift of politicians to embrace social media and its role in opening access. But, as our research shows, four in five MPs (81%) believe that public attitude towards politicians has been changed for the worse because of social media. Half (53%) of MPs say this is because the public now doesn’t know how to find information from trustworthy sources.

Of course, it isn’t just in political debate that topics trending online and across social media go onto set the news agenda. This week, a falling out between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy over Instagram generated blanket national (and international) coverage in a way that simply would not have happened even a year ago.

For the PR and communications industry, this new world presents significant new challenges: How to define and reach your target audiences in a noisy, overcrowded marketplace where influence shifts in real time across multiple channels. When to engage and how to get your message across, particularly as tribes can form and disappear so quickly on social media. Real time reputation management is only made harder by the fragmentation of media and falling numbers of journalists.

Delivering effective communications against this backdrop relies on being able to understand the interplay of influence between politics, media and social media. This is where technology presents such opportunity for the industry and why we acquired Pulsar last week to strengthen our social listening and insights capability. Tech makes it possible to crunch the huge amounts of data needed to understand influence and determine the right communications response based on reputational impact.

Of course, it doesn’t work in isolation with the insights it generates only meaningful when deciphered and applied by humans. This is where technology opens a new era for PR professionals as means of navigating uncertainty whether in politics, online or in editorial media and, into the future, reinforces the industry’s role in creating a world of open, effective communications.

Photo by Navya Mohan from Pexels

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