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On 24 October 2019, over 200 communications specialists gathered at The Printworks at Dublin Castle for the PRII Annual Conference, with columnist and comms consultant Sarah Carey as MC.

Bringing together thought-leaders from communications, business and media, speakers at the conference, which was themed ’20:20 Vision’, looked ahead to trends, challenges and opportunities, both nationally and globally, as we enter the 2020s.

Here are five quick takeaways from the day’s presentations:

Shaking off the shadow of austerity

As Siobhan Masterson, Head of Corporate Affairs at Ibec, pointed out, Ireland has undergone significant economic growth in the last four years. Unemployment figures are shrinking, wages increasing and there is increased capital spend in the private sector. However, Siobhan flagged that the shadow of the recession has become a barrier to communicating that success, both nationally and internationally.

Earlier in the day, Professor Alan Barrett, Chief Executive of the ESRI highlighted that Ireland has become somewhat reliant on FDI and a common theme of the day was the call for increased investment and support for our indigenous SMEs. Increased government investment is also needed in both hard and soft infrastructure as well as national connectivity to ensure we build sustainable economic growth and avoid a return to the boom/bust cycle.

Effective internal comms eases change

Yes, workplaces are changing but, as Dr Tina McCorkindale of the Institute for PR said, it’s often the pace of change that is the issue rather than the changes themselves.

Her research has found that workers are finding they have to keep track of more and more new initiatives, and this can leave them feeling overwhelmed. This is compounded by internal communications resources that are often lagging behind.

She also flagged that strong diversity and inclusion in workplaces increases stability and productivity but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to disabilities, ageism and mental health.

Consider a podcast

Why is everyone thinking about starting a podcast? Because everyone is listening to one.

Ireland’s love affair with radio has translated to a high affinity for podcasts with 40% of Irish people listening to them on a monthly basis (the European average is 27%). Patrick Haughey, Founder of AudioBrand, attributes podcasts’ success to three key factors – easy access though devices, can be accommodated into busy lifestyles and the quality of content has never been higher.

By starting a podcast, brands can become broadcasters, creating and sharing their own valuable and useful content for their audience. They also have the advantage of established channels to use to amplify it.

Changing Media Consumption Patterns

Despite previous hopeful predictions about tablet use, mobile is king when it comes to how we consume news (and any accompanying advertising).

As Dr Jane Suiter, Director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism discussed, their research shows Facebook remains the most popular social news source, with RTÉ the most popular news site – followed by The Journal.

Just 12% of consumers are willing to pay for a news subscription, and news comes fourth in priority behind streaming, sports and music subscriptions. However, as Ian Kehoe, Editor of newly launched subscription-based The Currency pointed out, giving away news content for free is not sustainable.

Tips for PR professionals

During the panel discussion on how PR needs to adapt, Nandi O’Sullivan, Head of Comms at Shannon Group, Jane McDaid of Thinkhouse and Mark O’Toole of 150Bond had the following tips for any PR professionals starting out:

  • Be agile and a problem-solver
  • Develop your digital and content creation skills
  • Data analysis is key
  • Know your audiences – and listen
  • Don’t get bogged down by the process – add value by giving strategic advice
  • Don’t undersell the industry

That’s just a very small snippet of the day’s fascinating discussions. For more insights, you can look at the #PRIIConf19 on Twitter.

BY: CIARA FLAHERTY

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