Communicators need 'eyes in the back of their heads' for 2020 election

With tech advances since 2016, this year's election news cycle will make your head spin, says PRWeek's executive editor Frank Washkuch.

Buckle up, communicators. If you liked 2016, then 2020 could be the rare sequel that does not disappoint, in no small part due to enhanced technology. Here are three reasons why communicators will need to have eyes in the back of their heads — and keep them open 24 hours a day — amid what’s bound to be next year’s unprecedentedly intense news cycle.

First, to find out why, let’s go to the video. Is it real or not? It may sound like science fiction, but talk to CCOs and more than a few will tell you they’re studying up on deep fakes. While most prognosticators are worried about the effect a deep fake — a convincing video showing a public figure making an inauthentic statement — could have on global or international politics, business leaders are worried, too. The first prominent deepfake could just as well show up in a fraudulent customer service message as it could on the dark web.

Frank Washkuck headshotThat won’t help you sleep any easier, and nor will the thought of what you’ll wake up to in the morning. I highly recommend setting your smartphones to sleep mode before hitting the pillow, because it’s extremely likely you’ll rise to an international incident on the other side of the world that will require your attention before breakfast. Offices or other business interests in China? See example A, the NBA, for a case study that will be looked at years from now about how quickly a situation can spiral out of control.

Back home, there will be no respite from politics all the way from early caucuses and primaries through the presidential election. Plus next year’s special ingredient: impeachment. That means executive communications challenges in determining what issues a CEO or founder will want to address, and internal comms work in how he or she will say that to employees. And no matter how apolitical, your brand could be drawn into a political kerfuffle on social media — just ask comms executives at Keurig, New Balance, Tiki Torches or Nordstrom.

Here’s one guarantee: A brand that hasn’t made a radical move in its history will become a flashpoint during the 2020 campaign through no fault of its own. So what to do? Plan for anything, everything and be ready to respond very quickly.

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