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Leadership Lesson with David Fraser, Founder and Managing Director at Ready10David F.

What significant trends do you foresee in your industry in 2024?

A significant development in the past few years is the convergence of social and PR. Search and earned have always been important for PR, however, recent years have seen social media become a pivotal player in Search. A recent study I read said that for 18- to 24-year-olds, Google is the third most important search engine, behind Instagram and TikTok. I think this could be the year where TikTok overtakes Instagram as the top search engine for some demographics, and we’ll see a lot more of the convergence of social and search. Which in turn may become an acute problem for the traditional search engines.

Looking into 2024, what significant changes do you anticipate within our industry?

Firstly, the socio-economic and political changes will have a huge impact on our industry. There are elections happening all over the world, and these political changes are going to affect a massive number of industries. And with the economy still struggling, there is naturally going to be a chain reaction where client budgets and attitudes are affected.

The other thing will be integration. I’ve been in PR for 20 years, and people have always discussed how integration is just around the corner – integrated budgets, integrated points of view and integration with marketing. In the early 2000s when people said this, it sometimes felt an empty claim, but now it’s really taking a foothold in our industry. I can only see this increasing.

How has your leadership style evolved and changed to embrace the volatility of the last few years?

Well, the last few years has been very volatile. We started this business in 2016 and in month two, it was Brexit. Month four, Donald Trump became president. Only a few years in, there was this thing called the pandemic. So, it has been massively volatile!

The key element that changed how people manage and want to be managed was the pandemic. Not just people’s working habits, but there was a big gap in peoples’ learning, training and development for managers as well as juniors. Not only do we have those that want to be managed differently, but we also have a whole cohort of managers who haven’t necessarily experienced the same types of learning and training as those that have come before them.

So how has my style evolved? Well firstly, everybody must evolve to listen to those who are coming into the workforce and understand what they expect. But at the same time, more traditional management styles and leaderships principles are becoming ever more useful I think and are more of a precious commodity. The people that have been doing it for a while and know how to do it; what they can do, is needed more than ever. General management principles of showing empathy, a clear rewards structure, empowering a team and having high standards don’t change. I really do believe that.

It is therefore a combination of adapting as well as holding on to leadership and management principles that I think people need now more than ever. The positive attributes of traditional management are ever relevant, but the more toxic traits that people used to think make good managers are thankfully dying off.

How do you think AI will impact the comms industry? What benefits do you see and what concerns do you have?

AI is impacting every industry, often even without us knowing it but for me, people won’t be replaced by AI. They will be replaced by people who know how to use AI. So far, AI is used and useful for the admin/time saver stuff, but not for creativity (apart from visual). If you’re trying to use AI to come up with an idea or even compelling writing, it can’t do that yet. Or at least the tools I use aren’t as good as HI. What AI can do is make things more efficient by cutting down the more laborious tasks.

In terms of concerns, the smarter and more sophisticated AI becomes, the more it needs to be monitored.. As of right now, I think it’s largely positive and frees us up to focus on the really good work.

How do you anticipate AI influencing your hiring practices?

LinkedIn is a key tool in the hiring world who invest loads in AI to help us. It cuts out legwork and wasted time and helps you refine your search. Would AI help me decide between the final five candidates? Probably not. But it could help me refine a massive search and find who those five candidates should be. In terms of influencing hiring practices, is AI helpful? Yes. But I think you still need that personal touch and influence.

What are the top ESG trends for 2024 and what are their implications for PR professionals?

There’s a lot more due diligence in procurement of supply chains. More incisive questioning to suppliers we are working with and making sure there is an understanding of ESG issues and certain requirements are met. People aren’t just asking about your supplier, but now your supplier’s supplier. This feels like a key ESG trend that we have seen a lot more emphasis on and I have noticed the most.

How do you actively promote DEI within your organisation? What lessons have you learned from these initiatives?

We want to be as fair and equitable as possible whilst continually strive to improve.

We try to be very transparent and keep all our figures very visible. We’re proud to say this shows we have no pay gap across gender or ethnicity.

Additionally, we have a staff survey twice a year asking employees about any issues and improvements. We ask the same of any perspective candidates and recruiters that we work with. We have an internal diversity and inclusion group who meet monthly and set objectives for the year. As well as number of other initiatives. The upshot is that our representation is pretty good across gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and hopefully we have a very happy workplace.

There’s always more that can be done. We’re still underrepresented at a senior level, but we’re aware of that and are working hard to address it.

I can’t talk about it too in-depth right now, but we’re launching a very big project very soon that has a lot to do with diversity and inclusion in PR, that I’m very excited about. Watch this space!

Are you optimistic about 2024? If not, what challenges are you watching? If so, what are you looking forward to?

I am cautiously optimistic about 2024. Our first quarter treated us well however it is harder work than ever before, with everything being so volatile.

Having said this, there’s good work and great clients out there wanting to do great work. There is no hiding in PR in 2024 or getting by on the bare minimum. You’ve got to bring your A game every day to keep up with clients and competitors. Everyone is under pressure, and everything is changing on a daily basis. Our approach is, every day, doing the best for our clients. If you have that as a guiding principle, you should generally be okay. And I am looking forward to the rest of the year!

Posted on 16.04.2024

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