FRIDAY 10 APR 2015 1:20 PM

DIGITAL, PR AND LIFE TRENDS

Digital is seen by some as an obsolete sub-category of communications. What does modern, integrated PR look like? Emily Andrews asks Alex MacLaverty, Hotwire’s UK group managing director.

What are this year’s most exciting digital trends?

A couple of this year’s trends are absolutely fascinating. One is around digital health: wearables, remote monitoring for conditions and revelations around things like mobile doctoring and services. The other one is about people turning their backs on technology. It’s a fascinating one; looking at how people love technology, love using technology and appreciate all the benefits that it brings in their life, but who need a break occasionally and perhaps want to return to the simpler things in life. I think that’s an important trend for a lot of our clients moving forward in the tech space.

Why the proposed switch from digital?

I think digital feels a bit out-of-date now. Even as we were putting together this year’s report we thought; they’re not really digital trends, they’re life trends. One of the interesting things about the space we work in is that almost everything is technology now, so thinking of it as something separate is not really the most appropriate way to go about it these days. It’s the same with digital.

How can digital impact on politics?

There’s two different elements, one is, for all of us, how publically on show we are. We keep seeing these gaffs from politicians where they don’t realise the impact of what they’re saying over social media. Also, it’s how we can engage greater volumes of people into the fiscal process by opening it up through channels such as social media, but also through technologies such as online voting. It seems quite strange that all the parties have a duty to put their materials online, but yet you still have to turn up in person or send-off a bit of paper to be able to vote. How much more engaged would people be if they just had to sign in online?

What are the reservations?

I think, generally speaking, people are very used to dealing in a digital world, but still, while there is amazing security out there, things will happen that alarm people. You can’t blame people for being nervous about that. One of the things that we picked up on in the Trends report was concerns around privacy. There’s this idea of premium models - you give away a lot of data about yourself in order to access free services, but then the unspoken agreement is that people can then use your data for business purposes. I think if we are going to continue in that model there are implications and areas where you need to take it really seriously. There need to be guarantees in place that this information is going to be kept securely and that there are robust frameworks to make sure that it doesn’t get used by the wrong people or fall into the wrong hands. It’s better to be cautious and adopt it a little bit later on than to adopt it too quickly and get it wrong.

How do you deliver integrated communications?

Everyone’s talking about integrated communications. We’re trying to really take a hard look at what our clients are doing and make sure we can support them across their different business aims. That’s a big focus for us; almost taking an agnostic approach to the way that we create campaigns for our clients. Rather than starting with the assumption that PR is going to be at the heart of it, we’re really getting deep insight into their business, into the challenges they face and the things that they’re trying to achieve, using that as a starting point and seeing what comes from that. It might be that PR isn’t even on the list as one of the things that the business needs to do.

How is PR changing?

We’re finding that a lot of our campaigns now are focused around things that, previously, we’d never have dreamed of advocating to our clients. Paid-for media is a big one: above the line, PPC, SEO and things like LinkedIn sponsorships. It used to be that a PR person would never dream of saying you should pay for anything, but actually some of those campaigns can be really effective.

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