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Leadership Lesson with Lucy Hart, Executive Director of Strategy, Good Relations, VCCP Group

 

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

2024 is already well underway and delivering exactly as expected in the winter of 2023. Nothing good is happening in the economy and that is maintaining a cautiousness with consumer spending which is inevitably impacting consumer brand spend.  

Tech is a daily obsession for media (AI opportunities & malfunctions), brands (Coke et al. constantly innovating with AI for content, AI being part of consumer journeys in everything from holidays to banking), hardware (Apple Vision Pro) and consumers (AI on smartphones, even my mum using ChatGPT). 

The culture wars are a series of landmines for brands, business, and talent. A sense of community and belonging to something are vital to people, even if that something is a branded world. The obsession with first party data is also changing how brands are bombarding our inboxes. 

Looking ahead to 2024, what significant changes do you anticipate within our industry? Elaborate on the driving forces behind these changes and their potential implications for businesses in our sector.  

For PR, change in the industry is inevitably lead by two factors: the first is “what are consumers up to and into?” The second is “what are the legacy and new media platforms doing and how does our brand fit into both?” 

With consumers, I am especially interested in how people coalesce and gather in real and virtual environments, what drives and motivates people to become part of something, and what community means to people on a fundamental level. It’s an important human need, but can also be coupled with a brand opportunity, when there is value to bring to the community.  

In terms of media, this is one of my favourite things to think about! As a ‘very online’ person I am constantly trying to keep across legacy media and their evolution as well as the platforms and their experimentation with new products and constantly asking myself… but why? 

I’m constantly musing on whether micro trends are blips or behaviours… it’s very busy inside my head as you can tell. 

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

As a Brene Brown disciple I preach the gospel of vulnerability. Life has been very real in the last few years for lots of people and if we don’t learn from that, it’s a waste of hard experiences. I am very much a believer in empathetic leadership, openness, and sharing.  

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

I love AI and have no fear of it. It’s a brilliant enabler of creativity and efficiency, and first mover advantage will favour agencies who embrace the opportunity it provides. I am very excited by an AI tool we have been developing inhouse at VCCP which is levelling up how we approach measurement and evaluation.  

How do you anticipate AI influencing your hiring practices and the specific skills or qualities you seek in potential hires? 

As always, curiosity is one of my top hiring qualities, and that applies to exploring AI too. We aren’t necessarily looking for developers in our comms teams, but we do want tech literate people who embrace innovation. I’m especially interested in account handlers who grasp AI for more commercial reasons. 

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

I think we are going to see some big discussions regarding brand responsibility in issues like phone addiction, especially with Gen Alpha and younger Gen Z. It might feel esoteric right now, but I expect this to be a debate topic in the next five to ten years. Content consumption will be the vaping of tomorrow. 

There is a lot of regulation coming into force in FMCG with the HFSS legislation, which will impact a lot of marketing we are used to seeing from some of the biggest names on store shelves. That’s my one to watch. 

How do you actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organisation? What lessons and measurable impacts have resulted from these initiatives? 

This has long been a big focus of mine, so I have quite a bit to say! Policies are important, but action is everything. Good Relations & VCCP have a thorough and award-winning DEI team run by brilliant people. 

My view is that brands can change the world, give voice to the less heard, and increase tolerance through their marketing behaviour and what they help normalise. 

As a strategist, I think it is impossible to create great work if you do not find ways to absorb and be informed by the insight of a wide range of people with different lives, perspectives, and backgrounds. For the next stage in my career, I really want to focus on bringing new talent from outside the blueprint of strategists I tend to see around me. 

I have been championing a few initiatives to create genuine change. These include better casting of talent in creator-lead campaigns (both in front and behind the camera) which I have a protocol for, unpicking bias in big data on audience insight analysis (which is something of a pet cause), and placing stories in the appropriate media and outlets to tell them to a wider range of people. I’ve also designed a tool to help people discuss boundaries at work which I am happy to share with anyone that may find that useful!  

Are you optimistic about 2024? If not, what challenges are you monitoring, and what measures are in place to address them? Conversely, if optimistic, what factors contribute to this outlook? 

I’m perennially optimistic by nature - you make your own weather. There’s a lot of change in the world and someone somewhere is winning.  

Posted on 02.04.2024

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