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TickTockTech: The Evolving Retail Tech Landscape

February 27, 2024
By April Osburn

Every January the largest retailers and most innovative retail tech providers descend on the Javits Center in New York for NRF: Retail’s Big Show. This year was no exception, with hundreds making their stand on the expo floor to share what’s next for retail in 2024 and beyond.

About a month post-event, here are my thoughts on what will show up for retailers throughout the year and what is likely to stay on the show floor for future implementation.

AI is the big guy at the Big Show

Like almost all recent events across the Tech sector, AI stole the show at NRF this year. In fact, according to Salesforce data, only 3% of commerce organizations currently have no AI plans. And consumers are open to the implementation of AI to improve their buying journey.

Apart from the AI use cases that have been commonplace amongst large brands, like personalized customer service and product recommendations, generative AI has widened the horizons for what the technology can do for retailers.

It can enable retail marketing teams to build and manage attention grabbing campaigns, draft effective product descriptions for an ecommerce site, manage loss prevention and even optimize physical store layouts based on traffic. And as brands realize the cost and time savings AI implementation brings to their business, innovation in the space will only continue to grow.

Customer experience and employee experience are top of mind

Another key theme at NRF, and in the retail industry for years, is how businesses can improve the customer experience. In what seems like a lightbulb moment, retailers are now starting to realize that improving customer experience and improving employee experience go hand in hand.

Accelerated by the pandemic, the role of the store associate has changed drastically. Positions that previously only involved working the register have transformed to fulfillment experts for buy-online-pickup-in-store offerings, content creators and live streamers for social media engagement and more. Removing friction and providing employees with the tools they need to succeed is a necessity.

Retail decision makers know that reliable technology has the power to enable employees to excel at their jobs. From training to product search to transaction history and, of course, completing transactions, giving store associates access to easy-to-use technology in the workplace will not only improve their experience, but that of the customer as well.

Supply chain

Supply chain management has been the white whale for retailers for years and optimizing the journey from beginning to end was a headline theme at NRF this year, including a special one-day Supply Chain 360 Summit.

Automation and robotics technologies were prevalent among brands that help to connect end-to-end supply chain operations, enhancing efficiency and meeting customer expectations with transparency into the entire journey. The eruption of retail returns has also pushed brands to streamline the returns segment of the supply chain, to improve customer experience of course, but also to ensure inventory is back on the shelf quickly and efficiently.

The retail tech landscape will only continue to innovate across AI, employee and customer experience, supply chain and more. And no one business is going to take the cake across every area of advancement. While more emerging technologies like augmented reality “fitting rooms” keep retail tech momentum going, decision makers will continue to focus on what will make the biggest impact on their businesses now — and ultimately whatever will serve their bottom line.

As retailers look to the future and prioritize operational efficiency without compromising consumer satisfaction, our ears will continue to be on the ground looking for the next big thing in commerce.

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TickTockTech: AI has reached escape velocity — and there’s no going back.

February 21, 2024
By Seth Bloom

As communications professionals, we are universally obsessed with global news consumption and the big trends driving it. Sure, we often follow them at the behest of our clients — to identify opportunities to react intelligently to breaking stories or white space where they can enter a new or different conversation and even pinpoint reporters and outlets with the most influence on a topic that matters to them.

But we are also inherently curious. We want to know what reporters are covering and why because we want to know how we can be a part of the most important conversations of the day. And to that, it seems that every day there is a new topic driving the agenda — and captivating audiences around the world across myriad platforms and outlets. This is abundantly true when it comes to the dynamic world of technology.

But what of these trends and topics actually has staying power? In partnership with TRUE Global Intelligence (FleishmanHillard’s global research, analytics and measurement practice), our tech team decided to take a quick historic look at big trends in tech innovation and the new consumption around them. 

This stunning image shows search traffic around the term “AI,” which continues to go up, up, up 14 months after the launch of ChatGPT (which gave consumers their first taste of the power of artificial intelligence they could harness directly). 

We see the stratospheric rise of AI best when it is compared to two other terms that felt like they were on everyone’s tongue in the tech world for a hot minute: NFTs and the Metaverse. But looking at the numbers, those trends had a brief burst of attention before being quickly pulled down by gravity.

And while it’s tempting to throw shade at the uncomfortable oddness of NFTs or the lofty promises of anything called a “metaverse”, we think the actual story is simply the fact that as soon as people could start ordering around AI chatbots, they saw the future unfold one answer at a time. AI felt real immediately….and consumers and businesses alike were instantly smitten by the promise of what’s on the horizon. Their interest, as evidenced by this image, rocketed upwards quickly and consistently. And the interest continues to grow.

Beyond the lessons this graphic holds around the rise of AI, it serves as a reminder to us that a sure-fire way to get people talking about a new product or service is to get it in the hands of actual people and let them do things with it that are actually cool.

We are living in a period of unprecedented and incredibly fast change. The adoption of new technologies has never been more dramatic. Of course, the global pandemic did its part to speed digital transformation across geographic, political, economic and social divides. It altered industries from retail to logistics to manufacturing and even entertainment. As a result, technology innovation had an amazing moment that led to this incredible AI story arc.

We can only wonder what will come next…

(Rita Herbstman of our TRUE Global Intelligence practice contributed to this article, as well as designers Sara Cooper and Josh Kirk.)

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Changing Communications Tack at Mobile World Congress  

February 20, 2024
By Claire Jones

The last time I attended Mobile World Congress, it was before the iPhone had been launched in Europe. The world of telecoms – and PR – was very different. Pretty much every publication in the region sent a host of tech reporters, and the job of the PR was hosting 30+ briefings on stands where booth babes were still a standard accessory. 

Fast forward to 2024, and comms at MWC is a very different story. Analysts’ attendance looks set to outweigh journalists by a ratio of 2:1; many national journalists who attended last year aren’t planning to return this year, and one of the world’s largest news agencies doesn’t intend to send any reporters for the first time, as editorially they cannot justify the cost.  

For the tech trade journalists who are on the ground, many of them have been sponsored to attend by one vendor, which pretty much monopolises their whole diary. With this limited pool of journalists, alongside an increasing list of exhibitors all vying for attention, it puts comms professionals in somewhat of a quandary.  

How communicators can make the most out of MWC 

  1. Consider timings on news: There are two schools of thought on issuing news at mega conferences like MWC – the pro argument dictates that having a strong product/personnel/business announcement is key to demonstrating relevancy among industry peers and to driving inclusion in coverage from on-site journalists. The flip argument, which I increasingly support, is that unless you have something at the level of a revolutionary new handset, the news gets lost. You’ll get a much bigger ROI going out before or after the event.  
     
  2. Briefing objectives: With a limited number of journalists on site, the key is to be very strategic about which ones to approach and what you offer. With horrifically packed schedules, the offer needs to be solid. A spokesperson needs to give them something that makes the time investment worthwhile – in almost every scenario, a punchy viewpoint is much more interesting than a monologue on a company widget getting its umpteenth upgrade… 
     
  3. Beyond earned: Virtual networking is just as important; so much of what happens at MWC will be seen through a digital lens of LinkedIn updates and connecting via the MWC app. It is imperative that senior stakeholders are supported with guidance on content that is maximised for industry engagement and shareability. 
     
  4. Be in the know: There’s a host of wider MWC comms opportunities if you take the time to get in the know, before the show. Opportunities range from annual traditions like Swedish Beers, to executive dinners being run in conjunction with top tier publications (no PRs allowed!), vendor press networking events and drinks receptions with the likes of the Department for Business and Trade. Spending time to understand and prioritise activities can open a range of future opportunities.  

In this new era of comms, I am excited to get back to Barcelona to see first-hand just how much MWC has changed in 15 years. Crucially, as we all embrace the shift to working with colleagues and clients ‘IRL’ I am looking forward to having some facetime and networking with some old (and new) faces – if you are also making the trip it would be great to hear from you so we can swap stories on MWC past and present, and the impact of comms technologies and strategies changing tack! 

Article

What we learned from our panel discussion on sustainability regulation and communications in 2024

January 30, 2024
By Rima Sacre

It’s difficult to do justice in just one blog, to a one-hour conversation with four experts that covered the highs and lows of sustainability communications, but in the following words we certainly try!

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Four Key Trends Shaping Sustainable and Responsible Business in 2024

By Mandy McAnally

The world is bracing for a 2024 that brings the unpredictability of unprecedented global elections, disruptive AI technology and an onslaught of environmental, social and governance disclosure rules. All of this will shape how companies operate sustainably and responsibly now and in the years to come. Below are some of the top trends that communicators will need to navigate in 2024. 

Climate disclosure requirements will become a reality, and companies must be prepared. 

New disclosure rules have serious implications for corporate reputation, company culture and operations, and legal and financial matters. The throng of disclosure requirements hitting thousands of companies will significantly change the approach to communications for many of the world’s largest brands. Companies operating in California, whether headquartered there or not, will be impacted by three climate reporting bills, requiring certain organizations to back up their public sustainability claims with third-party verified data. For many companies subject to the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), FY24 starts the clock ticking as the basis for comprehensive disclosures that go well beyond climate and will need to be included in their 2025 reporting.  

Compliance is a massive undertaking and will demand new models of internal communications, culture change and collaboration just to navigate the process, along with skilled communication professionals who must plan now for the impending era of unparalleled transparency. Learn more in FleishmanHillard’s brief on EU and U.S. Sustainability Disclosure Requirements

Climate action commitments and challenges loom large as countries look to COP29. 

COP28 marked progress in addressing the climate crisis, including creation of a loss and damage fund and first-ever reference to transitioning away from fossil fuel, but reinforced the formidable challenges to reaching a lower and then zero-carbon future. We also saw an elevated focus on biodiversity and health equity as climate change increasingly impacts public health. The implications of COP28 will be significant for companies addressing disparate legal and regulatory frameworks, managing political expectations and communicating with stakeholders and the public about climate action.  

Expectations for COP29 in Azerbaijan will be equally high, and eyes will be on the need to increase public and private sector financial commitments. Companies should prepare to communicate tangible and forward-looking climate action and manage questions or challenges related to the direction and pace of change.  

2024 elections will profoundly influence future action on sustainability and social responsibility. 

Elections are scheduled in 70 countries in 2024, which means voters will make their voice heard on major issues like climate, human rights, societal inclusion and more. Companies operating in the U.S. will need to navigate the politicization of ESG, as a term and construct, even as other countries push ahead, and public interest remains strong. National climate agendas and efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion have already undergone significant changes in the past year, but the elections could profoundly influence future action on these issues. Communications teams need to work cross-functionally to provide expert counsel to companies navigating political headwinds, decide when and how to engage with the media and stakeholders, and to maintain a clear and authentic message as the landscape shifts. 

Companies will increasingly leverage AI as a core solution to advance their ESG objectives. Regulators will try to keep up. 

More companies will make AI a core solution to accelerate and track their progress toward their decarbonization objectives. Bringing the worlds of technology and climate change together is not a new phenomenon. Yet the speed at which AI is catalyzing technological innovation and driving change is focusing minds on how to effectively leverage AI in an accountable and transparent way. While some of the largest cloud providers claim carbon-neutral operations, there are scores of data centers and providers that can’t. Looking ahead, we’re sure to see more headlines decrying the environmental impacts of resource-intensive AI. FleishmanHillard’s global advisory approach can help companies navigate emerging policy discussions and different stakeholder expectations as the business, regulatory and international environments explore and implement AI solutions. 

This year, businesses, governments and consumers are entering uncharted territory. What companies need now, more than ever, is a business strategy that unifies all corporate functions globally to not only successfully adhere to new ESG regulations but also communicate authentically and transparently. An approach that is siloed at the country, function and even agency level must evolve to a connected outlook. FleishmanHillard’s unique global advisory approach helps companies anticipate the shifting sands in a coherent and connected way across policy, legal, brand, communications and reputation. Connect with us at [email protected] to learn more. 

Bob Axelrod, Michael Hartt and Jane Gimber contributed to this article. 

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TickTockTech: CES 2024 – How Tech Jumpstarts the Year

January 22, 2024
By Alison McNally

For more than 50 years, tech enthusiasts, gadget lovers, influencers and deal makers have descended on Las Vegas to see the latest and greatest in innovation at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Sure, brands have used it historically as the place to launch everything from TVs to smart phones and driverless cars, but it was the celebrity stunts (and mishaps), epic late-night parties and awe-inspiring booths that have allowed media, analysts, executives, opinion leaders and consumers to mix and mingle – coalescing around the next great technology developments.

Covid-era mandates, global polycrisis and general fatigue (even predating the pandemic) had many wondering whether CES truly had the staying power other industry trade shows and events seem to have lost. This was especially true considering 2023 was a tough year for the technology industry at large, with sweeping layoffs, budget cuts, regulatory pressure and supply chain issues dominating the headlines.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Melissa Harrison, vp of marketing and communications at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) was optimistic, stating that “you’re going to see the greatest minds, the most powerful brands and most impactful technology.” A few days after the closing of the show I must agree — CES 2024 was something to see. Trolling social posts of colleagues and friends onsite, reading news coverage and gossiping about what we were seeing with my teams on the ground had me genuinely excited. I was even a little jealous not to be on the ground amongst the “3,500+ exhibitors, 1,000+ startups and 130,000+ industry professionals,” that CTA said attended.

Why? Because CES 2024 had something we hadn’t seen in a while: a little magic. The show felt fresh, futuristic and energized, with more vision and prototypes than established products. What had started to become an auto and health focused show emerged, in many ways, as an AI show. But it was also a human show, digging into how AI and tech more broadly could improve our lives and collective experience — touching auto, healthcare and, yes, even nail salons.

Throughout the show, robots, futuristic vehicles, transparent TVS and AI-powered consumer gadgets were everywhere. There was a smart pillow, robot shoes and a baby cry translator, all of which featured prominently on product roundup lists. Consumer gadgets such as cocktail-making robots, remote control pet doors and facial recognition smart home locks drove coverage in top tier business and tech media. Samsung, one of our sector clients, showed off even cooler foldable phones, a robot ball and AI-enabled vacuums and refrigerators.

But the real star of the show may have been the show itself. Fast Company’s Harry McCraken wrote a piece on the staying power of CES. Anecdotal feedback from friends and colleagues hammered this point home. This was a truly energizing start to 2024…but what does it mean for the rest of the year?

Wars continue to wage, supply chains are crippled, a U.S. presidential election is looming. Despite this, what CES reminded me is that technology innovation is truly about giving us hope — and maybe a little magic. Hope for a better future where AI and robotics enhance the human experience. Where sustainability and taking care of ourselves and our planet remain a priority.

So as communications professionals, I’d like to take a cue from this year’s CES as we approach our year.

Takeaways from CES 2024

  • Be Bold: Like the startups and dreamers demoing concepts on the show floor. Take a few risks and don’t be afraid of mistakes. The best innovation comes from iteration, and you can’t always get it right the first time. A stake in the ground starts a conversation and gets people excited.
  • Have an eye on tomorrow: The concept of today is tomorrow’s reality. It’s fulfilling to see the future imagined by science fiction writers 80 years ago become reality. This is true across industries and markets — and will continue to be. Focus your energy on developing and communicate the vision that takes you into tomorrow.
  • Focus on the Good: Sustainability, equity and well-being were all topics touched on at CES by many different brands. During Covid, a support system grew for our fellow humans — and these topics were top of mind. As we’ve all returned to office and “normal,” let’s not lose that focus on doing good for each other, the environment and humanity overall. 

I cannot even begin to predict what this year will bring but I know one thing…you’ll see me at CES 2025!

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Views of the WEF from Around Our Global Network  

January 18, 2024

This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos centered on a theme close to every communicator’s heart: “Rebuilding Trust.” A theme that is particularly poignant after a year that saw the promise and perils of Artificial intelligence arise in the public’s consciousness. The start of the new year is underscored by continued geopolitical conflicts and the anticipation of 3 billion people globally preparing to vote for new leaders in 2024, including in the EU, U.S., UK, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan. By next year’s WEF, we can anticipate significant transformations in the geopolitical, business and political landscapes. 

With over 1,600 global leaders attending this year’s conference, including 800 CEOs and 60 heads of state, WEF continues to solidify its role as a key pacesetter for the global news agenda. As the 2024 WEF concludes today, our global communications experts, representing diverse geographies and industries, share their insights from the event and some lessons corporate communicators can take away for the year ahead. 

Geopolitical Concerns Dampen Economic Optimism at Davos

Michael Hartt, senior partner, head of International Affairs in London 

Given the focus on “economic” in its name, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting should have been a moment of quiet confidence for business leaders. Growth metrics are moving in the right direction in many leading economies. There is tangible progress in the fight against high inflation. We are seeing resilience and recovery. But that optimism is colliding with anxiety and uncertainty on geopolitics for many multinational companies.   

2024 will see eight of the 10 most populous countries going to the polls, with a year of contentious debates, polarised views and pressure on business to take a stance on difficult issues. At Davos, business leaders have recognised how the political landscape will pull them in conflicting directions simultaneously.   

Simultaneously, they must navigate immediate geopolitical conflicts and tensions on multiple fronts. The continued strain from the Russia-Ukraine war, growing impact of the Israel-Hamas war, latent U.S.-China tensions and emerging conflict between international allies and Houthi rebels are affecting strategic business decisions about growth and investment and day-to-day management of supply chains and trade routes.   

These pressures go beyond just adding complexity and confusion. As the atmosphere in Davos showed, they have the potential to disrupt economic progress achieved over the past year.  

Trump’s Possible Return to White House a Hot Topic

Michael Schmidt, partner, Public Affairs lead in Washington, D.C.

As leaders gathered in Davos this week, there was extensive chatter about someone who was not there and holds very different views than most of the leading voices at the World Economic Forum: former U.S. President Donald Trump. The gathering kicked off just as Trump won the first presidential primary. He is expected to have a relatively easy time winning the Republican nomination, which would set up a rematch of the 2020 race against President Joe Biden.    

The outcome of the November election holds enormous consequences for the U.S. and the global economy, American democracy, relations between world powers, taxes and regulation, progress on critical issues such as climate change and much more.    

U.S. executives in Davos are telling reporters they are not concerned about Trump returning to the White House. European policymakers do not share the same view given disagreements with Trump during his presidency.  

Whether or not Trump wins the election in November, business leaders would do well to consider that we are likely to see a period of heightened uncertainty in the U.S. that has already begun and will continue for the foreseeable future. The deepening political divide illustrated by the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has not ebbed and the presidential race is likely to rekindle the tensions seen domestically after the 2020 election.   

GCC’s Golden Age of Influence and Economic Growth

Ronak Thakkar, associate director, Middle East, UAE

Amidst the global discourse of Davos, the Middle East takes center stage, once again. Navigating a storm of challenges from a geopolitical point of view — war in Gaza, Red Sea tensions and GCC’s immense potential for progress dominated the newsrooms.  

Attendees from the UAE, KSA and Iraq had a strong showing at Davos this year. But one country getting much of the mileage from the region was the UAE, continuing to portray its strong foothold in influencing the conversations and even setting itself as the perfect example of growth. Thanks to its strong leadership, policies, approach to globalization and its efforts to be a hub for business, a hub for entrepreneurs, and new economies in the future.  

As the world’s first AI Minister, H.E. Omar Al Olama spearheaded UAE’s global tech collaboration efforts, highlighting investments in emerging sectors and new tools like generative AI for a future-proof economy. Across continents, a vision sparked. At Davos, Satya Nadella lauded the UAE’s pioneering AI tutor plan, while tech experts in Dubai at Intersec 2024 (running in parallel with WEF) dissected its potential for wider human impact.  

Davos Highlights Global Risks to Corporate Communications

Jane Gimber, director, Brussels  

As companies come together at Davos to discuss the multiple inflection points facing businesses, a key question being asked is how companies can communicate meaningfully on purpose and values amidst ongoing risks to global stability and political fragmentation.  

The threats associated with AI (see latest IMF report here), economic uncertainty, political instability caused by the numerous elections in 2024 and finally the green transformation to net zero emissions, all cause great societal uncertainty.  

In a world of confrontation and fragmentation, navigating these risks through authentic communication has never been more important to gain trust. This is especially relevant in this time where we see an increasing polarization of values, and accountability is high on the agenda in the EU, for example through stricter obligations for companies to report on their progress on sustainability standards.  

Davos provided an important platform to discuss these global risks in 2024 (see full risk assessment by the WEF here) but it also demonstrated the increased geopolitical tensions. For companies, it is therefore more important than ever to align their public affairs and corporate communications strategies and to communicate meaningfully on purpose and values, in order to navigate the new realities.  

Stephan Ester, associate director, Frankfurt  

The motto of this year’s WEF is “Rebuilding Trust”, and hardly anything could describe the current mood more aptly, as the ongoing erosion of trust in traditional institutions, whether public or private, is one of the greatest challenges to our society. When it comes to the reasons for this crisis of trust, a lack of or inadequate communication on the part of those in charge is often cited as a significant cause. If trust is to be regained, it can only happen through transparent and trustworthy communication. This task is made even more complex by the rapid spread of AI — another dominant theme at WEF this year. While AI certainly opens up a wide range of new possibilities, it also threatens to undermine trust as it has become more difficult than ever to verify the authenticity of news and messages.  

My top takeaway from Davos is therefore twofold: As communicators, we must enable our clients to engage in a trusting dialog with their stakeholders — to this end, we must keep our ears very close to discussions such as those held in Davos, where the central issues of our time are debated. At the same time, our task will increasingly be to show them ways in which they can (re)establish trust in a world in which it is more and more difficult to distinguish the authentic from the ‘fake news’.  

Healthcare was the Red Thread Through the Biggest Topics at Davos 

Christine Lydon, director, Healthcare, London  

Climate change, conflict in the Middle East and beyond, the global economy and the opportunities  (and risks) posed by AI have all taken centre stage at this year’s World Economic Forum. Healthcare hasn’t been forgotten though. Indeed, it’s arguably a red thread throughout most of the discussions. Case in point: Bill Gates’ observation that improving access to health care in developing countries will play a vital role in tackling climate change. There’s also been much talk about leveraging the potential of AI to revolutionise healthcare, particularly through multi-sectoral partnerships. 

Women’s health stood as a hot topic. In fact, one of the most notable reports launched at the meeting focused exclusively on the transformative impact of closing the women’s health gap. And with good reason: despite living longer, women spend 25% more of their lives in poor health than men. Eliminating the gap could cut this by almost two-thirds, while adding $1 trillion to the annual global economy by 2040, along with a 1.5% increase in per capita GDP. In response to the findings, the World Economic Forum has launched the Global Alliance for Women’s Health, an initiative that’s already been embraced by a host of key players from across the healthcare and pharmaceutical landscape, pledging $55 million so far. With the payoff from meaningful change so high, this is one to watch closely. 

Shifting Political Landscape Demands Proactive Measures from Business Leaders 

Yvonne Park, senior partner, APAC Public Affairs lead, and president, FleishmanHillard in Korea 

While the main agenda of this year’s Davos Forum focused on AI’s impact on the global economy and regulatory discussions, attention quickly shifted to the November U.S. presidential election and the unfolding power dynamics between the United States and China. This shift in emphasis can be attributed to the fact that this year coincided with global elections and anticipated geopolitical conflicts, as well as other non-economic factors poised to exert substantial influence on the world economy.  

It becomes imperative for global business leaders to adopt proactive measures to mitigate the risks posed by non-economic factors during these uncertain times.  

UK Political Parties Jockey for Position at the Start of an Election Year 

Liam McCloy, head of Public Affairs in London

In the UK, Conservative Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, and his opposite number, Labour’s Rachel Reeves, have both spent this week in Davos busy vying for the support of high-profile science, health and tech companies and investors with those sectors serving as a litmus test for the competitiveness of a country’s economy in a global marketplace. There are different pressures at play however. The Conservatives are currently in charge and need to maintain investor confidence during the tail end of a political cycle but with opinion polls showing a consistent Labour lead, the alpine interest in Reeves and her party Leader, Keir Starmer, has been palpable. In turn, investors are seeking clarity on what a Labour Government might mean for their interests and ensuring that there are no surprises should they secure victory in the UK general election. While those in Davos might not be directly responsible for determining the election outcome, standing tall on the world stage still matters to many people at home — something not lost on our politicians keen to secure a foothold on those slippy slopes in Switzerland this week. 

A Difficult but Essential Challenge Lies Ahead in Rebuilding Trust for Future Generations and their Prospects

Elliot Rylance, account director, Youth & Culture, London 

This year’s Davos theme, “Rebuilding Trust”, couldn’t be more relevant to the youth audiences of today. From “rage bait” content to AI filters and deepfakes, youth audiences are almost desensitised to consuming media that is created to provoke emotional responses and spread misinformation.  

 It’s not just trust in media that must be rebuilt for younger generations, it is also their trust in the political powers and governing bodies that have created an uncertain economic present and future for them. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “political instability is adding to economic insecurity,” and today we are seeing young people experience high levels of financial anxiety and low levels of job security.  

Another significant factor is the increasingly influential impact of AI. We have long spoken about youth audiences, particularly Gen Z, as digital natives who are comfortable navigating new, online landscapes to find or create opportunities for themselves. However, for all its exciting potential to unlock opportunities, there are big questions that remain unanswered about how AI will be regulated for future generations. While the EU made a positive step through the AI Act late last year, Emmanuel Macron urged the need for global regulation to ensure growth and, just as importantly, safety — echoed by speakers such as Microsoft President, Brad Smith and Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, who both called for enhanced efforts around AI governance.  

On-the-Ground Recap

Sheila Rose, partner, global Corporate Media Practice co-lead

Hello from Day 4 at Davos where it has warmed up steadily. As I walk along the Promenade, people do not even have hats and gloves on, which is a big change from when I arrived!   It’s been an optimistic Davos and I have heard a couple of CEOs make that same comment.  More optimistic than 12 months ago. There is a feeling that there has been positive momentum over the past year despite the geopolitical unrest.  

It’s been an overwhelmingly AI focused Davos. One speaker aptly said that last year, there were two storefronts with AI on the door along the Promenade. This year, it’s hard to find a company or organization that doesn’t have it in their signage or tagline. 

I’ve heard a lot of positive messaging around how AI is not scary (although it does have that reputation) and you don’t have to be a technologist to use it. Non-tech experts in far-flung places can learn the skills of the future and not be left behind. The sessions have been peppered with interesting AI use cases, ranging from AI in healthcare where people with health conditions can take care of themselves from their device, to young family members who have peace of mind with elderly loved ones in faraway places using a voice-enabled virtual caregiver.   There was a big focus in sessions regarding bias built into data.  Companies need to do a better job of investing in data sets that are testing for ethnicity and gender, and taking into account a much broader global scope of people. And of course, the importance of doing AI responsibly and using a trusted partner to help you implement it. 

  

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World Economic Forum 2024

January 15, 2024
By Sheila Rose

FleishmanHillard Davos Digest

Greetings and welcome to the kickoff of the FleishmanHillard Davos Digest and the World Economic Forum 2024! Today was a day of getting adjusted — to the altitude (drinking lots of water), snowy streets (tricky with ice underneath) and the food (raclette and fondue). It was also a day for exploring the Promenade (Davos’ main drag) to see which corporations, media houses and governments have set up shop this year. And of course, attending the first day of thought-provoking panels and sessions at hotels, media houses and even outdoors at the top of a snowy mountain. The most pervasive thread running through most all of today was AI. Whether it was discussions of AI impacting the workforce, AI and trust (or lack thereof) or the democratization of AI — it was on everyone’s mind.

WEF’s theme this year — Rebuilding Trust — is a relevant one, particularly with threats to trust in areas such as misinformation and disinformation. In fact, AI-derived misinformation and disinformation ranked ahead of climate change, war and economic weakness in the “Global Risk Report 2024” just released by WEF. And with the elections around the corner (not just in the U.S., but about half of the world’s adult population will be casting their vote this year, according to a recent CNBC article), concern about the role of AI in disrupting election outcomes tops the WEF risk report.

Big names in U.S. government in attendance include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (the latter has some intrigue given the news of his leaving his post in the Biden administration to join the President’s re-election campaign). Internationally, Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will give a speech and likely meet with Secretary Blinken. And from other countries, Emmanuel Macron is the only G7 leader to be on the ground this year, and China’s second in command Li Qiang will be speaking. Argentina President Javier Milei will likely garner a lot of interest given he is newly inaugurated and has announced some shocking economic policies such as a sharp currency devaluation.

On the business leader front, there is a lot of buzz about Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, making the trip. In addition, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Pfizer’s Albert Bourla and a whole slew of bank CEOs including Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, Citi’s Jane Fraser, Goldman Sach’s David Solomon, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Morgan Stanley’s Ted Pick will be on site. Certain there will be some interesting themes and headlines coming out of this group — stay tuned!

Watch for FleishmanHillard’s top takeaways from the World Economic Forum coming later this week.

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Three Sustainability Trends for Food and Agriculture Leaders to Heed in the Lead up to COP28

November 29, 2023
By Judith Rowland

As we transition into the final months of 2023, ‘tis the season for major ESG-focused moments. NYC Climate Week wrapped in September, bringing together influential global leaders to discuss the hottest – no pun intended – topics on the climate agenda. Up next is COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which kicks off in Dubai this week.

As key stakeholders pack their bags for Dubai, there are three trends sustainability communications leaders working in the food and agriculture sector should keep in mind.

Conversations about carbon markets as a strategy to incentivize farmers to prioritize sustainability are on the rise.

Carbon markets continue to be a trending topic in sustainability-focused media. Though many reporters have shared hopeful stories about the impact carbon markets could have, significant skepticism around carbon markets still exists. One U.K.-based outlet referred to carbon markets in the dairy industry as an “unproven industry-led fix.”

As more companies in the food and agriculture sector begin to explore the feasibility of carbon markets, understanding the successes and challenges of other carbon markets can provide key learnings. BCG and other key stakeholders note that a reputable monitoring, reporting and verification framework is essential for carbon markets to be successful.

Stories of companies, organizations and governments partnering to help improve the carbon marketplace continue to routinely receive positive coverage. As the team at Forest Trends flagged in their Climate Week recap, sharing project success stories and amplifying key impact data can help counter negative press and greenhushing.

Stakeholders aim to go “beyond carbon.”

While decarbonization continues to be a prominent topic, mainstream conversation is beginning to extend beyond just reducing emissions. A key theme throughout Climate Week was the necessity of navigating environmental projects by prioritizing a whole-systems approach. For example, this year’s UN Climate Change High-Level Champions program covered topics like adaptation and resilience. This quarter has seen a rise in the usage of terms like “nature action” and “nature positive” that signal a more inclusive focus on topics important to the food and agriculture industry – including water, erosion and ecosystems – as part of a broader vision for sustainability.

As has been emphasized for several years at COP events, to be truly sustainable, environmental problems must be approached through a social equity lens. Effective, just solutions must include partnerships with impacted communities and consider people who are disproportionately impacted by environmental threats.

Communicators in the food and agriculture sector should consider how their companies’ sustainability commitments might promote nature-positive growth and consider highlighting actions they’re taking beyond carbon.

The food and agriculture sector is redoubling efforts on biodiversity.

At an event held at the New York Stock Exchange, several large global companies collaborated to unveil a new reporting framework to hold the private sector accountable for biodiversity. These recommendations, developed by the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), were released as part of Climate Week. This new voluntary framework intends to fast-track an industry shift to recognizing market interdependency and vulnerability relating to biodiversity loss. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) both quickly announced their support, and top companies have pledged to publish aligned reports.

The announcement of this global reporting framework signals an opportunity for sustainability communicators to lean more heavily into biodiversity stories. Communicators should consider how key commitments related to regenerative agriculture might facilitate an authentic way to enter the biodiversity conversation and demonstrate a brand’s impact.

Though the stakes for sustainability storytelling have never been higher, my colleagues and I remain energized by the innovative, creative and inclusive solutions stakeholders are bringing to the table to make the food and agriculture sector more sustainable. In redoubling our focus on measurement, moving beyond carbon and leaning into themes related to biodiversity we can continue to move the needle on environmental impact.

Maddie Federici contributed to this piece.

Article

Big pharma gets a big brand boost

November 20, 2023
By Leo Cooper

Many pharmaceutical companies are choosing this moment to rebrand, and the results signal a welcome new creative direction for the industry. Until a year ago, pharma was the one of the last bastions of safe, characterless branding.

The post Big pharma gets a big brand boost appeared first on United Kingdom.