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And the innovators are…

Boston Consulting Group recently released its report “The Most Innovative Companies 2019: The Rise of AI, Platforms, and Ecosystems”. The companies at the top shifted slightly, and, ironically, are also those sometimes known for losing their knack for creative intentions.

 

Innovation means IT

 

The #1 position has been taken by Google, having replaced Apple at the top. The former #1 and new #3 has been in the news lately not so much for innovation and carrying on in the outside-the-box spirit of its late founder, Steve Jobs, but for a future focusing on streaming original series for fans of the brand. Apple has also been on the defensive in terms of sales of smartphones and other gadgets, with competition stiffening with the up-and-coming Huawei. The top 10 positions on the list of innovative companies were dominated by tech firms, which gives a good indication of how IT provides need to be on the ball and changing all the time, lest market shares and the advantages of leadership slip away. Just ask Nokia.

 

A Google will rise

 

Even the new #1, the world’s most famous search engine, will not impress everyone with taking over the top slot, as this can be seen as the inevitable position of a behemoth controller and provider of information that insists on getting its way. The king of SEO will be seen as innovative by size and influence alone, no matter what effects this may have on daily life, for good or otherwise. Amazon, an online good provider making bold plans for a whole new bricks-and-mortar shopping experience, placed second. Notable at #4 is bundling giant Microsoft, also no stranger of bullying competitors and customers with offers they can’t refuse.

 

Another fly higher

 

Meanwhile in other barometers of success, another firm worth mentioning is Singapore Airlines, which has long been the world’s most awarded airline. The carrier credits its successful campaigns and popularity with travelers by taking the approach that localization is hardly synonymous with translation, and that nuanced, contextual understanding of and respect for local audiences is essential in forging the right connections. The company’s latest tagline, ‘Making Every Journey Personal’ says it all about what happens when you live up to your own PR.

 

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Australia cracks down on violence in social media

Social media executives are now liable for punishment for scenes depicting “abhorrent” violence that are not “expeditiously” removed, according to a new law in Australia. The significant shift can more easily turn erstwhile nearly untouchable online publishers into criminals for their being deemed as overly lax on oversight of material on their sites. While traditional media has long played by such rules, social media has been held less accountable due to the nature of running a sharing community in which everyone is a potential content provider, with allegedly fewer opportunities for effective checkpoints.

 

Large platforms need to more responsible, not less

 

The clear message the new legislation sends is that larger sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, with their many millions of members, need to see themselves as complicit with the shockingly easy available videos and rants of an extremely offensive nature. A platform’s large size, rather than being used as an excuse for the difficulty of effective monitoring, should be all the more reason for more effective checking for the appropriateness of information being transmitted on such a scale.

 

Higher technology, lower morality

 

While representatives from many in technology and social media companies have raised concerns about the legislation, Australian Attorney Genera Christian Porter said that just as TV stations wouldn’t be able to get away with showing footage of a murder, neither should social media. Punishment for people hosting a service and neglecting to take appropriate action to remove material can now face up to three years in prison, a fine of 2.1 Australian dollars.

 

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Gen Z streaming and spending up a storm

Next-gen digital natives dubbed “Generation Z” are getting more out of the online experience than anyone ever has, finding movies and series to stream, a growing array of products and services to buy on cashback-friendly sites, and wanting orders delivered ASAP. Beyond the communications revolution triggered by email and then chat-friendly social media, today’s online landscape is more like the conveniences-loaded world of tomorrow that’s been talked of for so long.

 

Focused and female

 

A few new major international studies out this year show how Generation Z is coming of age, even savvier in navigating the online world than Millennials, and driven by females. Nearly two out of three female Gen Z members in the US bought clothes from Amazon in recent months, and rank speed and convenience higher than brand and even price. Digital marketers out to cultivate relationships with them will have to showcase their best incentives to cultivate lasting relationships with these young women online, who are also more willing to experiment with less-known brands, and have less association with brand loyalty.

 

Getting informed by social media

 

Current events are learned of on social media by at least a quarter of the online population, studies show. Beyond the friendship groups that online communities bring together, the news aspect of social media is growing and becoming more standard, for learning of what’s on, performing the role of listings magazines with greater frequency and efficiency.

 

It’s “Generation Z”

 

Google Trends stats show that “Generation Z” is the name most associated for now with anyone born during the last 20 years or so. Marketers, take note.

 

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Planet-friendly public relations

In a world awash in reports on plastic garbage patches, chemical-laced rivers and scary climate changes generated by human activity, consumers are becoming more willing to spend on products and services from firms that minimize their carbon footprints. Brands are scrambling to adjust course and show the leanness of their impact on Earth, some even pledging to become carbon-neutral in time. The race is on to boost corporate reputations and the worth of their social currency along with the health of the world.

 

Green planet, good PR

 

One study that was held in nine countries shows that consumers, if given a choice of products with similar quality and price details offered from different companies, would rank environmental policies higher than innovation and design or brand loyalty in deciding which company to buy from. Companies are beginning to think of going green as self-CSR, and realize that not only is more breathable air and less waste ultimately good for themselves and the world around them, but makes economic sense. Cleaner technology and environmantal initiatives attract customers who seek out corporations aligned with their altruistic values. Growing percentages of voters are in synch with these opinions of consumers too: in Thailand’s recent general election, a poll show that nearly nine in 10 voters expressed greater interest in parties with stronger environmental policies.

 

A planet functioning healthily

 

Making informed, planet-friendly decisions is an increasingly recognized part of ethical practices in business, politics and and across the spectrum of human activities. Ecological decisions can led to tax deductions and generate free PR that can help attract new customers, especially among the more environmentally conscious younger generations who are the buyers and businesspeople of tomorrow.

 

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The AI in PR

Public relations professionals are at a loss when it comes to detailing their long-term plans for Artificial Intelligence (AI), which will be a game changer across the industry. Although much of the talk on AI is just that, regarding the impending gutting of people-loaded departments so machines can get down to work, or how AI stands to solve just about every problem and almost automate profits, there are some companies actually diving headfirst into this brave new world.

 

It’s already here

 

AI is happening. It’s not just hype. Several companies are taking advantage of AI’s rich potential for doing, well, exactly what it’s meant for, actually. So far, the fear that it will start getting out of control to the detriment of human employees so far seems largely just hype. One major social media site has been using AI to enhance user experiences for more than 10 years. Its users have grown accustomed to the spot-on suggestions for connections and preferences, and largely without knowing about the AI-aided forces behind their positive experiences. Thanks to AI, the website also boasts enhanced privacy features.

 

AI service to the max

 

Another company successfully making use of AI is ServiceMax, which, appropriately enough, provides software for (human) technicians tasked with maintaining and upgrading computers and coding for a wide variety of clients with vastly differing IT needs. A single website that could be accessed to bring together all these variants, which the company now uses, was created from a model using the same AI methodologies that bested a human in the mind-testing game of Go.

 

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News designed to confuse and mislead

Misinformation has always been with us, but has never before had so many many real chances for liftoff.

 

Skeptical thinking and critical reasoning have taken a hit in an era when trust is just as important as ever, yet taken for granted when so much information is presented authoritatively. We’ve become lazy at fact checking – not that it was ever easy. Truth and lies mingle on digital platforms brimming with immediacy and confidence, working to state with authority that the information they help get across is accurate. Although we know this is not always the case, seeing is often believing. Over 60% of respondents in a recent survey expressed difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction in the news that they are consuming. Another report finds that seven out of 10 times, fake news ends up being retweeted than verifiable stories. Even when we try to distinguish what’s real, fiction ends up being more entertaining and worthy of sharing.

 

Freedom of expression and censoring where needed

 

YouTube is widely appreciated for its usefulness in providing free entertainment, though often raises concerns related to intellectual property and profit. The video-sharing site is also awash in conspiracy theories that can get users thinking at best, and believing in mistruths and engaging in dangerous activities at worst. Misinformation is everywhere, and it takes a lot of effort to get to the truth sometimes. Facebook’s iffy algorithms may end up isolating posts when they are found to be based on inaccuracy, but ignore posts more deserving to be taken down. Then, of course, there are grey areas.

 

Even though censorship was anathema to many of the founders of social media platforms, these modern venues for exchanging ideas need more guidance and regulation if their more dangerous roots are to be weeded out.

 

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Good PR and the art of stress management

PR executives are listed among those who stare down death daily. Topping CareerCast’s annual chart for the most stressful careers are: enlisted military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot and police officer.

 

Licensed to thrill

 

Spots from 6 to 10 were much less marked by opportunities for encounters with bodily, but instead relied more on well-honed communications skills: broadcaster, event coordinator, news reporter, PR executive, senior corporate executive, taxi driver. The survey’s criteria for what makes jobs stressful was broken down into 11 categories, including thrills and spills like Risk of Death or Grievous Injury, Immediate Risk of Another’s Life, Hazards Encountered, and subtler obstacles too, namely Travel, Career Growth Potential, Deadlines, Working in the Public Eye, Meeting the Public, and Competition, plus the it-depends categories of Physical Demands, Environmental Conditions.

 

Deadlines of greater concern than risk of death

 

Although some jobs involve great potential risk to one’s personal safety, the greater danger day by day is that of meeting deadlines, which was the greatest cause of stress for of 38% of respondents. Moreover, almost 80% of those surveyed gave the level of stress on their job 7 out of 10 of more on a scale of 1 to 10. This is a big surge from the nearly 70% mentioned on the 2017 stress survey.

 

Pitfalls of being a digital publicist

 

In a stressful profession rife with the disruptive and potentially lucrative intrusion of digital influencers, PR execs live in uncertain times. The threats posed by fake news and distrust of media can wreak havoc. But the potential for big payoffs is profound for those who find the right balance and use big data to their advantage…

 

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Offline by nature in a world linked up

A significant chunk of big data is going unrecorded and marketing information untapped, while at the same time lifestyle preferences are pushed aside: China is less than a decade away from having a population in which a full quarter of the population will be over 60 years of age, according to demographic trends.

 

Sorry, there’s an app for that too

 

While the country continues its relentless pace of digitalization on all fronts, some seniors are balking at the perceived need to electronically attend to an increasing amount of tasks that just a few years ago were done almost exclusively in traditional ways. While day-to-day shopping and other needs have been simplified by electronic payment schemes in ways that developed countries have not implemented on so wide a scale, the catch-up is greater for elders caught on the old-school side of the digital divide. Banking, hailing taxis, booking tickets and accommodation when travelling, and ordering in restaurants are all examples of transactions now conducted easily and smoothly online for younger Chinese, and making functioning autonomously a significant challenge for seniors.

 

The Uninfluenced

 

Compounding the trend is the population’s skewing towards an ageing society, with many fewer couples opting for the economic investments required to raise a second child, even after the dramatic scaling back of the one-child policy.

 

And while information aplenty on all levels is being amassed on the habits and trends of younger buyers, elder Chinese stand having less known about what they are looking for, and providing information on the adaptations that might make meaningful differences in their lives, if known about.

 

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Once more, with feeling, please

Public relations professionals must cope with a complicated work environment that even more than usual now calls on them to be adaptive to disruption and ready to shift their core skills onto new platforms, even when the ground beneath their feet is giving way. Customers in the Information Age are making a majority of buying decisions that are, ultimately, based on emotional factors, says a partner at a big B2B marketing firm.

 

Buyers want a good story, and to develop a connection with a company before committing to a purchase. Trust and authenticity matters, not slick marketing. Just make sure what you say is interesting: in the B2B world in particular, boredom has become a significant factor to overcome, as prudence too often overrides the need to take bold action when called for.

 

I heard it through the grapevine

 

Beyond the sometimes overhyped influence of influencers on social media and the like lies the commonsense persuasive power that comes from word of mouth. Conversations with friends and colleagues count as much as online influence, according to a study from data and analytics firm Engagement Labs. Face-to-face sharing also tends to allow people to exchange thoughts on a wider range of products and services, and in ways in which we are freed up from online values in terms of showing awareness of what’s trending, getting wrapped up in “social signaling” or being in broadcast mode. Offline, you are more likely to give unfiltered, no-nonsense advice, and on products (like laundry soap) you may not necessarily feel the need to tweet about.

 

If your product is good enough and the story to sell it is touching, the hard work is already done.

 

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Kylie Jenner: Superinfluencer and billionaire

Much has been made of the recent news that Kylie Jenner, 21, has raked in her first billion dollars. She moved up on an elite list in doing so, shaving a couple of years off the previous record held by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who hit the $1,000,000,000 mark in 2008 at 23, and who had bested the record set by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who made his first billion at age 31 in 1987.

 

The milestone was independently confirmed by both the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and Forbes, shortly after an exclusive deal was inked between Kylie Cosmetics, founded and owned by Jenner, and Ulta Beauty Inc. She succeeds in combining winning marketing/PR skills and a compelling personality with a sense of authenticity to her legions of fans, including 128 million Instagram followers. This comes on top of growing up on hit TV reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, and has created an aura of indelible charm. When you’re your own best influencer, it seems nothing can go wrong.

 

She is, of course, still 21. Yet her recent posts about her rap-star partner’s rumored cheating on her seems to keep her in a world of believability and enhances her fandom; her PR awareness has yet to make significant dents in her online persona, as the billion-dollar mark indicates. But even superinfluencers are ultimately beholden to their integrity, so her greatest tests may not have come yet, given the media spotlight always shining on her and her intriguing family, and the many challenges that come your way with fame.

 

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