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Article

TickTockTech: Mobile World Congress 2024 — What’s the Verdict?

March 1, 2024
By Claire Jones

Last week I posted in prelude to attending one of the world’s biggest mobile conferences, Mobile World Congress 2024 (MWC24), anticipating how the event will have changed since I last attended in the noughties.

It turns out the communications landscape may have shifted significantly, but many things have reassuringly stayed the same. Ironically, the Wi-Fi is still shocking, you can’t find a charging point for love nor money, the food remains just below average, transport is chaos and your daily steps will always exceed 20,000.

But that didn’t deter attendance. The show was quite literally heaving, with nearly 100,000 attendees jostling through the halls. And although the media list still looked a little thin last week, there was a host of late additions, spanning UK national and business media.

One analyst, who has attended most years over the last two decades, reliably informed me that this year’s Congress was the best yet — back to pre-Covid popularity, with the most interesting tech she’s ever seen on display.

I can’t disagree. From flying taxis, robot dogs and cats, to 3D advertising walls, the visual display of futuristic tech was incredibly impressive. I had chills when I saw the most realistic female android conversing effortlessly with the crowds. Imagine how gutted you’d feel if that was on the stand next to yours?

What did the media think?

As a comms professional, I felt this Congress had enough meat on the bones for media to feel it was worth attending to get a pipeline of stories and inspiration for what is coming down the line. But I wanted to test my views with a selection of seasoned journalists who were on the ground, whose experiences range from the novice attendee to returners like me.

Jess Jones, TMT reporter at City A.M., a MWC24 first-timer, attended primarily to moderate a GSMA Foundry Innovation panel, but was not disappointed and felt the show more than met up to expectations. In her words:

My first time at MWC definitely lived up to the madness I was pre-warned about. From a media perspective, it was useful to see first-hand what telcos are up to beyond the day-to-day business activities; for example, SK Telecoms’ AI aircraft simulator and Vodafone’s XR glasses. It was also a good opportunity to catch up with old and new contacts.”

Mike Moore, Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro, was also impressed with what this year had to offer and the key themes consistent across many of the exhibiting companies. He explained:

“MWC 2024 was my first for five years, and while a lot of the big exhibitors and big themes have stayed the same, it was no surprise to see that AI dominated pretty much every conversation. It was really interesting to hear just how companies from all different sectors and all different sizes want to use AI, and how it can affect not just businesses, but consumers as well. It was also quite telling to see how many large companies were calling for greater co-operation and collaboration with their peers — hopefully this is a sign of things to come.”

Ryan Browne, Tech Correspondent at CNBC echoes Mike’s views on how AI was clearly the dominant theme of the show, explaining:

“The most attention-grabbing products from the show were, unsurprisingly, focused on the realm of AI. And you saw major smartphone makers and device manufacturers talking up the inclusion of artificial intelligence in their gadgets this year. Separately from this, there was a plethora of smaller tech companies, including Chinese smartphone maker Honor, U.S. startup Humane, and even German mobile network operator Deutsche Telekom, which showed off ways the future “phone” experience might look a lot different with the integration of AI as more of an everyday personal assistant.”

Ryan also explained the role of MWC24 in the wider ecosystem of global shows and its role in setting the scene for the key topics across the tech sector:

“This Mobile World Congress was one of the biggest and boldest shows I’ve been to in years. The show, which has the knack for focusing on some of the most critical stories and trends in the technology, media, and telecom space, had a packed event programme filled with interesting insights into the way that artificial intelligence is impacting and disrupting telecoms companies. And the opportunities that the technology can bring with networks making major investments into proprietary AI, as well as partnering with hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure for a helping hand with the cloud and software expertise they don’t have as much access to.”

My take: Did it live up to the hype?

In one word, yes. Absolutely. It’s clear that MWC is back with gusto, and the GSMA should be thrilled at this year’s success. From a comms perspective, visually standing out is always going to be a challenge when we have hit the Star Trek android era and Back to the Future flying taxis.

However, many of the coverage winners were companies whose CEOs and senior execs took time to meet with media and understand they need a relevant and interesting point of view. With such a strong and engaged media turnout, it’s crucial that brands start considering their comms strategy for next year sooner rather than later. And while not all exhibitors can drive footfall to their stand with robot animals, perhaps all they need is a charging booth and free water to draw the crowds!

Article

The Confidence to Take the Right Risk

February 28, 2024
By Lauren Winter

The power of the collective.

For too long, agencies have been pitted against each other and tension in communications to capture attention has been taught, but as I listened to people from all walks of life at the recent Unstereotype Alliance Global Member Summit, the message was clear: let’s do this together.

I was honoured to be provided with the opportunity to talk amongst such esteemed company at the annual event. The Unstereotype Alliance is an initiative convened by the UN to unite advertising industry leaders, decision makers and creatives to end harmful stereotypes in advertising. My panel discussed the perils of saying and doing nothing for the communities who brands wish to speak to and how brands can be brave and shift out of arrested development. The following is a summary of my key points.

Examine and act on your core values. Often, brands look to avoid reputational loss —  but they miss the reputational gain also. A lot of the time we need to look at our core values; for most humans that’s a challenge, let alone brands with multiple layers of approvals.  Reflective change can feel nearly impossible, but for people to buy into you, they need to know where you’re coming from, which might mean you need to stop thinking about being right for the moment and evolve for the longer term.

Bring everyone to the table. Creating that internal culture of change will allow you to start to feel brave when talking to the outside world and when you’re being brave, you’re taking an element of risk, and that’s OK — you just want to have confidence to take the right risk and that’s where you need to add the EQ to the IQ. Adding that emotionally intelligent person to the table, the person who is culturally connected and who’s a part of the communities you wish to speak to, or curious about them, will give you the confidence to be bold.

That emotional intelligence has layers and is intuitive, and unlike AI, is better at predicting the unpredictability of humans. These people can assess campaigns through what we coin here at FleishmanHillard as our cultural mapping approach — the three E’s: Empathy, Earnestness and Empowerment. It’s a powerful lens for your brand and bottom line. 

Think about the long game. Marketing professions are familiar with the concept of pace. When piggy-backing, news-hijacking and jumping on trend bandwagons, the need to have sincerity when dealing with communities is often unconsidered. Culture has roots and longevity. A brand’s integrity when mapping to culture is more important than the speed. As June Ambrose, renowned creative director, said at the summit — impact takes intention.

Be brave. There’s a rising amongst the youth that feel there’s a lack of originality out there — as famed record producer Mark Ronson suggested, part of originality is just evolving the story for the next generation. Does the current state of affairs and the frozen position many brands find themselves in attribute to the bland over the bold? By brands shifting their mindsets from talking about their own benefits to being an activist for others, they can have the full force of youth on their side.

In closing, keep in mind that to have a platform is a privilege. Sima Bahous, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN Women, made the following suggestions:

  1. Invest in gender equality and you accelerate progress
  2. Highlight the youthful voices
  3. Commit to accountability

It sounds simple but too often forgotten and with the power of our communications, we can be bold and push the agenda for others and our clients – a win-win!

Article

Bringing Joy and Nutritious Food to Families in San Francisco

February 22, 2024
By Mandy McAnally

Food insecurity is a critical issue in San Francisco and Marin County today. Before the pandemic, one in five people was at risk of hunger in the area and the need has only increased. So, for the San Francisco team’s FH4Inclusion initiative we chose to partner with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank  — a long-standing nonprofit with one mission: to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. The food bank has been tackling food insecurity in the Bay Area since 1987 through its food pantry network and home-delivered groceries food assistance enrollment. Every week, more than 55,000 households count on the organization for food assistance.

The organization operates 27 Pop-Up Pantries throughout the city, and our volunteers participated in one of the final pantry events of the year. These events were first organized in response to the pandemic as traditional food banks had to close due to health risks. They continue to be critical connection points for communities to receive needed groceries. 

With these events, staff and volunteers take over an outdoor space, setting up and taking down a fully operational food distribution center within a matter of hours. Food recipients sign up ahead of the event and receive an allotment of fresh vegetables and fruits depending on their household size. On a windy day in December, our colleagues spent the morning distributing that food to local residents, working with other volunteers and getting to know each other in the process.

“It was a great opportunity to get out of the office and directly impact our community. In our one session, we served more than 150 community members in need of food assistance. I’m grateful for the support of our leadership to organize these activities, and I’m looking forward to more events that allow us to give back while strengthening our FH team” said Chelsie Lui, TRUE Global Intelligence research analysist, who helped coordinate the volunteering activities.

In the spirit of FH4Inclusion and the holidays, our team also wanted to make sure that we offered our remote employees an opportunity to participate, so we partnered with the SF Firefighters Toy Program. This is the largest and, nationally, the oldest program of its kind — distributing over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 under-resourced children and families. We set up a barrel in the office for donation drop-offs in person and created an Amazon Wishlist for FleishmanHillard employees to donate directly. Very quickly, the barrel filled with books and toys for kids and families to enjoy a happy holiday season. It was a meaningful way to round out the year!

Article

All the things I’ve learned to see: Lessons on growth from an Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellow

January 25, 2024
By Jessica Millett

Welcome to the Fellowship Focus, a new quarterly feature about the Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship program. Here, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives and perspectives of our talented Fellows as they begin their careers and leave their marks on our industry and the world around them.

If you ask Zhiyao (Allen) Yang which first name he uses, he will say “both.” Born in the Guangxi Province of China and raised in Los Angeles, Zhiyao (Allen) learned that it’s best to embrace who you are, where you come from, and the unexpected lessons you learn along the way. We talked to him about his passion for PR, his path to the Fellowship program and what he looks forward to as he begins his career.

Lesson One: See the possibilities

After completing an internship in Austria, Zhiyao (Allen) pursued a master’s degree at the famed Graduate Institute of Geneva. It was while researching the relationship between the European Union and China during this internship that the idea of studying in Switzerland first presented itself. “I always knew I wanted to pursue international relations, but I didn’t care where I went. I applied to The Institute because of the program’s focus on global governance, and I wanted to learn more about how the world works.” It was an unexpected path, but he soon found that his intuition was correct — Switzerland was precisely where he needed to be. “Going to school in Geneva was not my initial plan,” Zhiyao (Allen) said, “but I’ve learned to go with the flow. You can focus on your goal, but your journey there should be flexible.”

Lesson Two: See different points of view

The Graduate Institute housed a diverse class, as students from six continents worked and lived together, many preparing for a future with the United Nations. The work was challenging and rewarding, giving him a glimpse of what it is like to work with international organizations. While studying, he started an internship where his tasks included event planning and social media management. Here, he zeroed in on a new goal— global communications.  “I realized that what I was really doing was helping clients foster their communication skills.” When asked to summarize his time at the Institute, Zhiyao (Allen) said, “The program showed me that there are many perspectives and taught me how different cultures view the world. My classes helped me look at situations, even global conflicts, holistically.” He added, “There is a Chinese saying that when translated states, 5+5 is 10, but 4+6 is also 10. Just because you are right doesn’t mean the other side is wrong.” Wise words, indeed.

Lesson Three: See the opportunities

When asked if he had any advice for college students, Zhiyao (Allen) replied, “Never say no to new opportunities, even if they seem boring.” It’s a perspective he honed during one of his internships. “It was a state agency in California. I wanted to do international work, so it wasn’t something I saw myself doing long term.” Still, it taught him several valuable skills and gave him the experience of working with new people. “In hindsight, I can see how it helped me and why it was a good foundation.” He added, “I learned to look beyond my silos and comfort zones and to be open to trying new things.”

One of the things that Zhiyao is open to is the potential for AI (artificial intelligence). ”AI is here to stay. Our role as people is to learn how to live with it and use it responsibly. However, I think the government should help regulate it because we can’t rely on tech companies to regulate it themselves.” He continued, “When the ATM came out, people wondered if that would take teller’s jobs, but they made teller’s jobs easier. In 5-10 years, I can see myself using AI as the baseline for my work and then editing it to sound like me. I see it as an opportunity that will free me up to do more complicated critical thinking.”

Lesson Four: See your potential

Starting a new career can be scary, but when left unchecked, fear can hold you back. Zhiyao (Allen) shared, “When I first started at FleishmanHillard, I overthought. I was scared to ask questions. I was afraid to ask for help. I soon learned that it was up to me to believe in myself and to communicate my needs. When I did, I saw that everyone here was so nice and that people were more than willing to help. If I had to do it again, I would say to myself, ‘Just ask, don’t think about it.’” It is a lesson he aims to take with him throughout his career. “When I am in a more senior role, I hope I remember not to overthink things and to ‘just do it.’”

Though it can sometimes be easier said than done, we hope he continues to take his advice because he is right – the team at FleishmanHillard wants him to succeed. We look forward to everything that Zhiyao (Allen) will accomplish, and we’re grateful that he saw an opportunity to grow with us.

The Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship Program is a North America-based internship where diverse talent can combine their PR, communications and media talents with their passion for diversity and inclusion. Our teams across the U.S. and Canada hire, mentor and prepare Fellows for entry-level roles at FleishmanHillard. If you want to start your career with us, you can learn more about openings by visiting our Join Us page.  

Article

Climate Commitments, Action and Challenges to Come: FleishmanHillard Takeaways from COP28

December 20, 2023
By Michael Hartt, Maximo Miccinilli, Kathy Chung and Wang Yang

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), hosted in Dubai from November 30 to December 13, 2023, marked a pivotal gathering of government leaders, multilateral organizations, scientific experts and corporate stakeholders, all driven by the urgency to address climate mitigation and adaptation. After two weeks of intense negotiations characterized at times by debate and division, nearly 200 Parties reached a new climate deal at COP28. The implications of this Global Stocktake – the midway point from the 2015 Paris Agreement to its 2030 targets – will be significant for companies addressing disparate legal and regulatory frameworks, managing political expectations, and communicating with stakeholders and the public about climate action.

Key takeaways from COP28 include:

1. Major Agreements and Commitments

  • Agreeing the UAE Consensus: COP28 participants unanimously adopted the UAE Consensus, the new climate framework that outlines targets and actions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and accelerate emissions reductions.
  • Transitioning Away from Fossil Fuels: A highly debated issue revolved around the inclusion of a fossil fuel phase-out in the agreement. Ultimately, the decision was made to endorse a commitment to “transition away” from fossil fuels. While this marks the first use of the term “fossil fuel” in a COP agreement and is seen as a historic achievement in recognizing the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change, some scientists, climate advocates and government leaders deemed it unacceptable for not going all the way to a complete “phase out” of fossil fuels.

2. Energy Transition Pathways

  • Renewable Energy Transition: COP28 witnessed several countries pledging to transition to renewable energy sources and phase out coal, complete with specific timelines and goals that mean tripling renewable deployment by 2030 under the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency. However, the final agreement recognized the role of “transitional fuels,” typically meaning gas, which burns cleaner than oil or coal. This was a significant win for the gas industry and prompted questions about the speed and scale of a transition away from natural gas and LNG.
  • Tripling Nuclear Energy Capacity: One of the key developments at COP28 was the agreement by 22 countries, including the United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, to triple their nuclear energy capacity from 417 gigawatts in 2022 to over 900 gigawatts by 2050. This move recognizes the role of nuclear energy in achieving the 1.5C target for some countries, though nuclear continues to face resistance in countries like Germany. Under the pledge, countries will adopt several measures, including extending the life of existing nuclear reactors and build both new large-scale reactors and advanced small modular reactors (SMR).

3. Climate Finance Commitments

  • Breakthrough on Loss and Damage Funding: After strong efforts by lower- and middle-income countries and vulnerable countries to build on promises at previous COPs, COP28 saw the major breakthrough: Large donations by the UAE, United States, United Kingdom, Germany and others to a loss and damage fund. This fund will provide support for unavoidable climate impacts, such as extreme weather events and rising seas – though skeptics assert it provides a small fraction of the amounts required to address needs.

4. Food Systems and Food Security Declaration

  • Declaration on Food Systems: For the first time, COP attendees examined the connection between food systems and climate, from the relationship between current food demand and carbon emissions to the ways to improve food security amidst climate-driven extreme weather incidents and long-term weather changes. The Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action emphasizes resilience, food security and resource efficiency, with a special focus on water.

5. Policy and Regulatory Updates

  • Carbon Pricing Initiatives: Several nations discussed plans to implement carbon pricing mechanisms and carbon trading systems, but debates around the creation of a supervisory body was not resolved and the permanence of carbon reductions and removals were not resolved. This leaves implementation of the Paris Agreement’s carbon trading provisions in an uncertain position at the halfway point to 2030.
  • Stringent Emissions Reduction Targets: COP28 introduced new, more stringent emissions reduction targets for various sectors, signifying a need for potential adjustments in companies’ sustainability strategies. The Global Methane Pledge (GMP) is one of the most important examples by aiming to cut anthropogenic methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. Another example is the global commitment, endorsed by the World Cement Association, to set intermediate targets to support a sustainable cement and concrete industry, encouraging technical development and innovation by its members to help achieve full decarbonization by 2050.

The wide range of topics addressed at COP28 will create expectations – and in some cases mandates – for businesses from a range of sectors to take greater and faster action. While media coverage focused on heavy emitting industries like energy, the impact of the renewable transition will be felt across supply chains. Businesses will need to review their targets and plans, particularly with countries required to submit updated climate plans in 2025 and the continued pressure for improvement by 2030.

The final COP28 agreement represents an unprecedented global consensus to transition away from fossil fuels, which have long been the primary driver of the climate crisis. This historic agreement, reached after 28 years of international climate negotiations, undoubtedly marks a significant step forward. However, it also prompted a sense of bittersweet victory, with some arguing that it falls short of the more decisive phase out of fossil fuels that many had hoped for.

With elections scheduled in over 70 countries in 2024, the political landscape remains dynamic and the fate of climate policies remains uncertain. Green initiatives have faced criticism over their cost and burden upon the public, with risk of being rolled back in several major economies. Simultaneously, the EU will push forward with its aggressive plans for carbon reduction – meaning companies will need to manage diverse political interests simultaneously.

COP28 serves as both a cause for celebration and a call to action. It highlights the progress made in recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, but also the formidable challenges that persist in transitioning to a sustainable future. As organizations move forward, it is imperative that they remain committed to pushing for more ambitious climate goals and holding leaders accountable for their promises. The road ahead is long and challenging, but the stakes have never been higher, and the need for decisive action has never been more apparent.

Article

Seven Things to Know When Creating a Successful Employee Resource Group

November 30, 2023
By Christine Lydon

Being brutally frank, disability inclusion wasn’t necessarily on my horizon up until a few years ago. I’d been in my role at FleishmanHillard for just a year when I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that necessitated four months of chemo, surgery, radiotherapy and physiotherapy. I took a couple of months off after the diagnosis but otherwise continued working, albeit from home and just a couple of days a week. This was a godsend for me personally as it meant when I recovered, I wasn’t having to navigate “the big return.”

But of course, anyone who’s had a serious illness knows recovery doesn’t end once the treatment is over. I had a new perspective on navigating the workplace with physical challenges like post-cancer aches and pains and fatigue. These unexpected difficulties inspired me to get involved with DEI, with a specific focus on disability, firstly leading on Hidden Disabilities here in London, co-chairing Omnicom’s Open Disability ERG and then, in the past 18 months, leading FleishmanHillard’s Global Disability ERG.

FleishmanHillard’s ambition is to be the most inclusive agency, and DEI is very rigorously integrated into the heart of what we do. Within the Hidden Disabilities steering group here in London, we’ve done a range of things in the disability space, including training on neurodiversity and communicating with diverse audiences. Digital accessibility is another focus for us. We’ve refreshed things in 2023 with the establishment of FHAT – FleishmanHillard Accessibility Taskforce – which sees digital accessibility led by our creative studio. It’s very much about embedding accessibility principles into our work and ensuring that clients are aware of it too.

FleishmanHillard’s Global Disability ERG was set up two years ago and is just one of the Global ERGs within the agency. I took on the role of global lead when it was set up – initially just as a caretaker but I knew, and I think all those around me knew, that I’d be in it for the long-haul. It’s a unique space with a casual relaxed remit, no expectation of deliverables and no fixed agenda when we meet once a month. It has been created as a safe space for anyone living with a disability, along with allies, to come together, share experiences, learnings, tips or just take the opportunity to vent, if that’s needed. And, while we don’t have any specific asks of us from senior leadership, we did co-create a neurodiversity guide that was shared with our offices across the globe. The seeds for the guide were sown during one of our meetings when it became apparent that there was limited awareness or understanding of neurodiversity and how conditions in this category can impact the work experience. The guide is used in new joiner inductions and is a part of line manager training.

What does success look like for an ERG? Simply having the group in existence, with people showing up monthly and being there for each other counts as success. Along with the monthly calls, we do check-ins with members to elicit their needs and their feedback to ensure that the group continues to add value and stays relevant. Relevance is vital. It’s about constantly asking the questions: Are we still serving a purpose? Are members still getting what they need from us? And if not, why not? What can we do to refresh our approach?

Lessons from leading an ERG

Recognize that every ERG is different and offers a unique experience.

Some act as informal, safe spaces with a flexible structure and others are firmly focused on encouraging change within an organization. Still more may be a mix of both. And what one ERG looks like in one company may vary drastically to another. The focus should be on what the community needs. Is it to initiate far-reaching change in your workplace led by senior management? Or is what’s actually needed a ‘softer’ group that offers peer support and that sense of togetherness?

Be open to change.

None of us can stand still. What worked last year may no longer be relevant today. The most significant gap that you’ve identified today may not be an issue in the new year. It’s vital to keep informed and be ready to pivot. 

Listen closely.

You’ll only know if things need to evolve if you listen to your ERG members. Pulse surveys carried out quarterly can shine light on member perspectives and needs.

Realize that your impact within the ERG can be more far-reaching than you think. Applying your learnings from the ERG to client counsel and client work can be powerful and instigate meaningful change. We’ve seen this first-hand within FleishmanHillard where understanding what it takes to make digital content truly accessible to all has filtered through to our client work. It’s been so encouraging seeing our clients embrace what we’re doing in this space and commit to applying these principles.

Secure leadership buy-in.

Without it, an ERG will not flourish. In fact, it’s unlikely to last more than a couple of meetings. I’m grateful to be part of FleishmanHillard where DE&I is embedded in all we do with a tangible commitment from the very top of the business. Keep in mind it works both ways – as an ERG leader, it’s important that you keep senior leaders informed of what’s going on and how the ERG is progressing. This can range from informal check-ins to detailed write-ups, depending on requirements and your own style.

Keep the broader team informed.

Any one of us could face illness or disability at any point. Any of us can be an ally to those who are already living with a disability. Twice-yearly newsletters from our Disability ERG have helped ensure we stay visible, relevant and accountable. It’s an opportunity to capture what we’ve done and report on what we’ve said we’ll do.

Know that DE&I belongs to everyone, and not just a select few.

There can be a temptation to take it all on yourself but each of us has a responsibility to ensure that people from all backgrounds, thinking, abilities and experiences feel included, protected and involved. Meaningful change can only happen when we all play our part.

Article

The Power of Authenticity & Belonging: Insights from ColorComm 2023

October 10, 2023
By Aisha Hudson, Dasia Jones and Faith Golden

ColorComm’s origin story is of a luncheon bringing together Black and brown women in media and communications that became a community, spawning annual conferences, a global network of chapters and a business. It has a way of seeping into your soul – an incredibly energizing experience in the moment, but also something that sticks with you and leaves a lasting impact on how you move through your day. Reflecting back on this year’s conference, here’s a recap of some of those “sticky” moments from the C2 ColorComm Conference in Miami.

“You can fake ‘till you make it – but eventually the ‘fake’ will fade.”

One of the most compelling sessions was that by renowned body language expert Linda Clemons who has dedicated her career to helping people unlock their full potential and reclaim their power through nonverbal communication. Not only did she offer insights into the nuances of posture, facial expression and even eye movement for conveying a message, but also a valuable lesson on authenticity – that even if you stand in a certain way and say all the right things, in the end, your true self will always show through.

To me, this spoke to the power and necessity of authenticity on a personal level – being true to myself, my beliefs and my values and bringing them forward in my own body language, voice and actions. Authenticity can’t be faked when it is rooted in honesty and genuine emotion.

But what, exactly, do you do to show up more authentically? What is it that shows people that you are true to your own personality, spirit or character? Where’s the proof for that?

At FleishmanHillard, these are the same questions we challenge our clients to answer in order to understand how they show up for employees, customers and other stakeholders, and the impact of authenticity on their reputations.

Being authentic is not based on a single action. To be perceived as authentic, we need to be courageous and take consistent action driven from our innermost and most authentic selves. That we are showing our unfiltered behaviors and that we are speaking or writing with honesty.

Faking it is easy but doing the hard work it takes to live authentically is far more rewarding.  

– Aisha L. Hudson, vice president, New York

“The difference between resilience and struggle are perspective.”

ColorComm was an empowering experience especially as a first-time attendee. In corporate rooms often it is common to be one of few Black faces in the room and there I was surrounded by 400 fierce, dynamic and compelling women (in chic, fabulous attire no less)! It was inspirational to heed advice from the likes Kim Goodwin, president of ABC News and Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC (to name a couple) and the various women who have created impactful work in the world we see today.

Through the dozens of panels, each had a takeaway that resonated and has shaped my my career intentions since, but there was a through line in each story that sits with me the most: resilience.

Without resilience and risk, we wouldn’t have beautiful work such as Colors of the World skin tone crayons. I was enlightened by the background story and journey that led to a product that ultimately fosters a greater sense of belonging and acceptance. Because of Mimi Dixon, senior director, Brand Activation and Content at Crayola, the brand was directed to revisit their approach and partner with experts. Now, my children can make art that reflects what they see in the mirror and be recognized – a far cry from the orange color I used during my youth. It took courage for her to speak up and guide them on the right path.

As client counselors, we are not the final decision makers and sometimes it can feel like a struggle especially when impassioned about a topic that resonates with our life experiences. Ultimately, it falls on each person to make sure we persevere as the work we do is equitable and necessary. We must all lead with courage.

Faith Golden, account supervisor, Chicago  

“To tell courageous stories, you must be courageous yourself.”

It takes bold communicators to tell bold stories. During a session about authentic storytelling, one panelist shared this statistic about the influence of a company’s values and brand identity on Gen Z’s purchasing behavior:

Another panelist shared an insight on how to respond to this stat – “To tell courageous stories, you must be courageous yourself. Speak up in the room and challenge things. Encourage disagreement with your teams.”

While this advice can seem tough, it’s key to position us as strategic voices on our teams and uplift diverse and equitable perspectives. It’s equally important for our teams to foster environments where disagreements are welcomed and bold ideas are encouraged to develop authentic communications.

Embracing courageous storytelling and personal courage is not just about keeping up with Gen Z – it’s about shaping our direction to where they’re evolving and ensuring we’re developing our teams with a value for breaking the norm.

– Dasia Jones, senior account executive, Atlanta

“Pressure produces two things; you want more diamonds than farts.”

While the quote I chose is comical, the pressure business leaders are facing is real and increasing. And as counselors who pride ourselves on being able and willing to get into the trenches with our clients and leaders, we’re facing the same challenges, translated for the realities of our industry.

Among the nearly 400 other leaders in attendance at ColorComm, I was reminded that the collective wisdom we have is meant to be shared. Throughout the conference, you could see the bent heads of women coming together, collaborating and commiserating, one-on-one and in small groups. And during sessions, these same faces were openly expressing agreement as panelists and keynote speakers spoke about resilience, ingenuity and steadfastness in the face of difficulty. We needed this event to create a release for that pressure and to strategize on how to make diamonds.

After the conference, I sat in the hotel lobby, decompressing and reading my notes before heading to the airport. The same women who dazzled on stage were accessible in that lobby, taking pictures and exchanging contact information with attendees. The intimacy of ColorComm and the reminder that we create diamonds made the experience all the more powerful for me. I’m grateful.

– Veleisa Patton Burrell, senior vice president, Dallas

Article

DE&I Communications and the Anti-Woke Wave

October 5, 2023

The US regional banking crisis unearthed deep-rooted sentiment about DE&I practices in the financial services industry. However, the industry has consistently said that DE&I is important to business, clients/customers, partners, and society in general. FleishmanHillard leaders discuss this trend from their financial services, DE&I and employee communications perspectives – and what communications opportunities and challenges exist for firms as they engage their external and internal audiences.

In this discussion:

  • Kirsten Plonner, global managing director, Financial and Professional Services
  • Thomas Bennett, senior vice president, True MOSAIC
  • Elizabeth Bushelow, senior vice president, Employee Communications
  • Chelsie Kumar, vice president, Corporate Communications
Article

The European Union and the era of hard choices

September 27, 2023
By Maximo Miccinilli

The European Union, born out of a vision for peace, unity, and prosperity, is now at a pivotal juncture. This transformative phase, marked by environmental, political, and geopolitical challenges, calls for decisive action.

The post The European Union and the era of hard choices appeared first on European Union.

Article

Unveiling the Future: Key Takeaways from GAI World – A Dive into the Rise of Generative AI

September 26, 2023

By Michael Steavenson

The lowest point on the Dunning-Kruger scale is where a person has acquired only a small amount of knowledge on a subject and consequently feels the least confident in their understanding of it. It was at precisely this point that I stepped into Generative AI World last week, the inaugural conference from analyst firm GAI Insights. I was there to represent FleishmanHillard as a principal sponsor [disclaimer], but also to learn about how this fast developing technology is affecting virtually every client we have, as well as the effect GenAI is going to potentially have on the entire communications industry. And I was in rich company, as the conference brought together a unique collection of the most senior leaders from world-class institutions such as Harvard University, Mayo Clinic, PwC, Ensemble Health Partners, Microsoft, Coffee Labs, Tomorrow.io, Jerry, Mass General and more, to share real-life lessons on project and technology selection, ROI calculation, team organization structure, data and IP approach and lessons learned.

Here’s what I took away from two days immersed in all things GenAI.

Common GenAI Terms

There is a lot of new language (mostly acronyms) associated with GenAI. Here are the terms I heard used most often and what they mean:

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): Computers that can think and learn like humans.
  • GenAI (Generative Artificial Intelligence): AI that produces media (e.g., text, video, images, audio)
  • GAN (Generative Adversarial Network): A type of computer program where two parts compete to create realistic-looking things, like images or text.
  • LLM (Large Language Model): A smart computer that understands and writes human-like text.
  • NLP (Natural Language Processing): Teaching computers to understand and talk like people.
  • WGAN (Wasserstein GAN): A special type of program for making realistic images.
  • VAE (Variational Autoencoder): A program that learns how things work and can make new things that look like the ones it learned from.
  • RL (Reinforcement Learning): Teaching computers to make good decisions by trying different things and getting rewards.
  • SD (Synthetic Data): Refers to artificially generated data that mimics real-world data but is created by computer programs or algorithms rather than being collected from actual observations or measurements.
  • MU (Machine Unlearning): Teaching a computer to forget something it learned before, often used to remove biases or outdated information from AI systems.

Predicting the Impact of GenAI

So, what does this mean for the industry and business leaders of today who are approaching GenAI with a mixture of excitement and fear? Here’s what stood out:

  • Cutting Through the Noise: Everyone feels like they now must have an AI story.
  • Hitting the New LLM Gold Rush: There is currently a rush for companies and organizations to build their own LLMs, most with little understanding of the risks associated or their own ability to scale.
  • Democratizing GenAI Integration with Synthetic Data: Synthetic data may help level the playing field for some by providing researchers and developers without access to large data sets with the ability to create diverse and privacy-preserving training datasets in LLMs. It can also improve the model’s performance and mitigate concerns related to privacy and data scarcity, as it avoids using real, potentially sensitive or limited data directly.
  • Selling GenAI into the C-Suite: There is a level of accessibility with GenAI that did not exist with Web 2.0 and the Cloud, so selling it into the C-Suite is already proving easier. “The FOMO is very real with GenAI,” said one Health Data & AI advisor.
  • Predicting Industry Regulation: There is unlikely to be sweeping regulatory legislation in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. The EU is passing laws this year that do not go into effect until at least 2025 and the U.S. is significantly behind in its own prioritization of AI regulation.
  • Recognizing Security and Compliance Risks: What is the potential for generating misleading or harmful information and the risk of infringing on copyright or privacy when generating content based on existing data? Several high-profile companies have seen recent cases of confidential and proprietary information being leaked due to employee GenAI misuse.
  • Impacting Global Labor Markets: GenAI may lead to increased productivity but also job displacement, shifting labor markets towards AI-related roles, potentially exacerbating economic inequality, and impacting global competitiveness.

Overall, one thing came through loud and clear – GenAI should NOT be considered by industry, organization and business leaders as a plug-n-play addition to their tool stack, it must be set at the strategic level. While it offers the promise of automation and efficiency, its strategic integration allows leaders to align it with broader business objectives, such as innovation, stakeholder engagement and long-term growth.

GenAI and the Communications Industry

There is no question that GenAI has the potential to significantly impact the communications industry. It can streamline and automate tasks like media monitoring, data analysis and content creation. This could enhance the efficiency of PR professionals, allowing us to focus on more strategic aspects of our work, like building relationships and crafting compelling narratives. GenAI can also help identify trends and sentiment in real-time, enabling quicker responses to crises and opportunities. However, there are concerns about AI-generated content’s authenticity and ethical implications. It may be challenging to maintain transparency and trust when using AI for PR, and there’s the risk of misinformation or biased messaging. Striking a balance between harnessing AI’s potential and upholding ethical standards will be a key challenge for the industry as it adapts to this evolving technology.

I leave you with perhaps the most compelling quote from the conference. It came from Harvard Business School professor, Shikhar Ghosh, shedding light on “The View from the C-Suite and the Boardroom” regarding AI’s impact on businesses. He said “AI should be likened to termites, not tornadoes. Its influence will not be a sudden disruptive force like a tornado but rather a gradual transformation affecting business models like termites weakening the structure of a house.” While this might sound a bit apocalyptic, it should be noted that termites, like all good technology disruptors, are actually agents of growth and renewal.

This communication is offered as general background and insight as of the date of publication, but is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. Each organization should confer with its own legal counsel and its own business and strategic advisors for guidance that is specific to and considers the organization’s status, structure, needs and strategies.