In2Summit: Are Asia's Communicators Ready For Tech
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

In2Summit: Are Asia's Communicators Ready For Tech

Holmes Report

BEIJING—From wearables to artificial intelligence, from rapid advancements in speech recognition and visual recognition, to the development of “smart” products from phones and TVs to chopsticks (which will tell users how safe and nutritious their food is), new technologies are changing the world—and the world of communications. Kaiser Kuo, director of international communications, for Chinese internet giant Baidu and Dan Wong, vice president of Samsung’s media solutions center, discussed some of the new technologies in development by their companies and others at an In2 Summit session on Tomorrow’s Tech moderated by Zaheer Nooruddin, vice president of Waggener Edstrom’s Studio D digital and social media unit in Asia, who suggested that “technology is empowering interactions with our key audiences.” Kuo suggested that many of the most interesting developments of the next decade will not be new gadgets for tech-savvy consumers in the west, but products “for the next billion. Things like speech and visual recognition don’t require high levels of tech literacy but they will have a huge impact on how we communicate.” Nooruddin, however, suggested that PR people may not be ready for the changes that are about to occur. “As an industry we are way behind. We are not ready for this. We don’t have industry standards; we don’t have a strategy.” In those comments, he was answering, indirectly, some provocative questions posed by Sophia Zhao, managing director of the technology practice at Burson-Marsteller Beijing, who had earlier discussed some of the major technology-driven trends impacting the PR business. First, she suggested, there is not “zero distance between consumers and our clients’ businesses…. Lots of businesses now are looking at specific needs of each segment of their customers, really produced tailor made products.” Second, there is a clear trend toward decentralization, “for our business and our clients’ business, there’s no center, which means that every single employee and every single consumer can create an explosive story for us.” And finally, the network effect “no single business will have all the answers. The smartest people are always outside the organization. We need to work with them in a networked way: crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, working with everyone in the business to create stories and business opportunities.” She concluded by questioning whether the industry had truly gone far enough to embrace this change and incorporate new ways of thinking at the operational, organizational level. Yet, not everyone appeared to agree with the idea that technology is reshaping the communications world. Speaking from the floor, Weber Shandwick Asia-Pacific chairman Tim Sutton questioned the WagEd panel, stating that public relations remains focused on reputation management, and that all of today's technological progress does not change that. [caption id="attachment_2958" align="alignnone" width="600"]Tomorrow's Tech lightning talk Tomorrow's Tech lightning talk[/caption]
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