The technology industry is increasingly dominating the news. Coverage has moved from the tech section to the business section, and more and more to the front page. Yet it’s not only the media spotlight which is focused on the industry. Right across the political, economic and social worlds, technology is under scrutiny for the positive, and negative, ways our industry impacts lives.
Navigating this environment is challenging but necessary for PR and marketing teams.
Marketing and communications don’t operate in a void, and neither do businesses. Having your eyes and ears to the ground has never been more important and you need to be prepared. The fast-paced media environment, with live streaming, live blogging and social now ingrained into the national news agenda, has amplified the risks for businesses.
Kicking and screaming
Companies who don’t even engage politically still need to be aware of what’s going on in the political world. The choice about whether to engage is increasingly less likely to be in our control. A data breach, customer problem or comms misstep could throw you into the centre of the circus. Regardless of whether you want to be there.
Even when a company tries to be neutral, you can get dragged in kicking and screaming at a moment’s notice.
The changing media landscape has also influenced this. We have a thousand ways to communicate with the outside world, but that means the outside world has a thousand ways to look back in. Communications and marketing teams need to be scanning their outside world and adapting their strategy to match. You also don’t want to get caught off guard mid-interview when asked about an industry-relevant piece of legislation or comment from an MP.
Stepping outside the Silicon bubble is the only way to understand how the industry, and trends, are being perceived by the outside world. The information gathered can be used to arm sales teams and the C-Suite with a fresh perspective on business issues and valuable insight for making decisions, showing that PR and marketing can feedback and prove a valuable return on investment rather than being a megaphone to the outside world.
It is also an important consideration for companies outside of the UK or EMEA who are looking to enter a diverse market. Knowing whether to adapt or standardise your messaging and strategy can be made simpler, whilst also giving a new entrant the required information to be able to hit the ground running and from a position of strength.
Technology in the time of politics?
Public pressure is proving difficult to resist for many businesses. But balancing public outrage and activist investors with the views of other key stakeholders (and share price considerations) means that businesses tend to try and fade into the background rather than expressing either way, aware that even saying “we’re neutral” could be as damaging as picking a side. Of course, the political world is rich pickings for PR programmes. For example, GDPR and NIS have bolstered many PR programmes over the past few years with news hijacks. Striking a balance is an art.
Yet the political eye has turned towards technology, even if most companies are trying to avoid eye contact.
- Uber has been mentioned in the Houses of Commons and the House of Lords almost 200 times since it launched in the UK in 2012.
- Cybersecurity has been talked about as many times by mid-2018 as it had in all of 2017, with hundreds of mentions over the past decade.
- Facebook has almost 1,500 mentions – the first in a discussion about creating ‘Balanced and Sustainable Communities’
If we consider PWC’s technological megatrends, they are all rapidly gaining political momentum.
- Artificial intelligence has over 400 mentions. It was first mentioned in 1979, but its pace of political focus has swept up since 2016. It had almost as many mentions in the first half of 2018 as it had in all 2017, and up from just 42 in 2016
- Drones, given their military significance, have been discussed in parliament for decades as “unmanned aerial vehicles”. But in their more modern context the pace again has picked up in the past few years
- Blockchain had more than doubled its 2017 mentions count in the first half of 2018
Eyes and ears
The marcomms environment is complex. But navigating it can be simpler with a regular programme of marketing monitoring. Combining market and media analysis can be a powerful tool to give internal teams an edge.
Scanning, analysing, interpreting, presenting and actioning all this can be a resource challenge for in-house teams.
An easing of political, economic, social or legal pressures on the technology industry is unlikely in the immediate term. If anything, it may heat up. Marketing and comms teams need eyes and ears on the ground to make smart moves and avoid getting caught in trap.