Last month, I sat on a panel with several other practitioners to discuss how the role of PR has evolved in recent years. The moderator's final question invited us to forecast the next big trend that will impact our industry.
My answer, “a return to humanity,” had barely left my lips when the room exploded with excitement. The idea so resonated with the audience that everyone began imagining out loud what it might be like “to unplug.”
After all, it's human nature to crave real connections and, in our technology-driven world, human touchpoints are sometimes lost. In the article “The Facebook Resisters,” Jenna Wortham of The New York Times noted that some of us have fled social media because, instead of strengthening ties with family and friends, the remote nature of the interactions can leave us feeling ever more isolated.
Even clients understand the dilemma. During a recent client meeting, as we reviewed new trends that might impact their business like social curation and augmented reality, the client asked the insightful question: “Can all of this just be too much sometimes?” She was focused on what's right for her consumers, real people today.
As PR practitioners, it's our role - our responsibility - to help bring humanity into the relationship between the brands we represent and the consumers they want to reach. That's why, across our agency, our account teams are focusing on ways to build human touchpoints into all of our campaigns. We understand that sometimes, we may need live, face-to-face interactions to change conversations – to meet influencers in person in order to establish an emotional connection.
Of course, we should be exploring all the new tools and channels available, mixing them with real-world connections to support our clients' business objectives. But when we employ technology, we should use it not for its own sake, but to help foster relationships. Consider how Skype enables face-to-face connections in real time, creating and enhancing that emotional connection.
Doug Levy and Bob Garfield, in their article “The Relationship Era in Marketing,” argued that to be successful in this new consumer world, all brand and companies must be “tapping into the ‘Human Element.'”
I agree. There must be humanity in everything we do. Because, regardless of the tools we use, what changes conversations – and minds – are the relationships we foster.
Liz Kaplow is president and CEO of Kaplow.