What We’re Watching In Digital Communications

With the rise of AI,  new social media channels, talk of gen alpha, and the changing use of X, we’re seeing constant evolution in the digital landscape. With such rapid change, it can be hard for marketers to distill what’s coming up next and how to adapt brand plans. 

Global communications agency Citizen Relations’ dComm3 team is ever immersed in the world of digital transformation and they’re sharing what they’re currently watching to help – they include: 

1) A Rediscovery Of The Middle

After decades of investing in big, top of funnel brand acts, brand equity campaigns and splashy product launches–the last five years of marketing has focused on laser-targeted, bottom-funnel marketing and personalization. But brands have forgotten about the middle. That part of the funnel where customers are nurtured, valued, where we put effort into building consideration through search, content and new audience building. Where we make sure our dollars spent on brand acts aren’t wasted, because we have an amazing brand intimacy journey that greets humans and keeps them in our brand envelope.

2) The Spotlight Shift From Authenticity To Utility

Early days of social media turned advertising from brands talking at their customers to brands talking with their customers. Now, with advancing digital technologies and ease of content and digital experience creations, there is a growing expectation from customers that brands do even more to gain their preference. In 2024, brands will need to deliver real utility to consumers, in relevant ways that aid the lifestyle of the individual. This added value will work to differentiate brands from the onslaught of content available every time an app  or browser is opened.

3) The Next Phase Of Social Search

TikTok is setting the standard for social search at the moment, with keywords in both captions and comments being searchable. Gone are the days where the only way to discover content was via a hashtag. With platforms like Google already delivering snippets of YouTube video content as search results, we could see formalized partnerships between social channels and search engines in 2024.

4) The Human Layer Of AI

Platforms and applications leveraging AI are proliferating, revolutionizing how digital content is produced. However, this technological advancement is not a standalone solution but part of a broader “solution stack.” A lot of people think AI is just a commodity where you integrate and automate some models and you’re good to go. But no—there needs to be a full alignment of people, processes and technology for the operationalization of content to be successful.

5) The Rise Of Niche Community Creators

Brands are recognizing the pivotal role of niche creators, and AI-generated content is no longer just a futuristic concept—it’s happening now. In 2024, one thing becomes crystal clear: brands will increasingly need niche creators and a fresh sense of originality to stand out. The days of obsessing over follower counts are on the decline. Instead, credibility and relatability within niche communities will be a must for brands.

For more information on Citizen’s digital services and dComm3 read here.

Modern Dating Is More Than Grand Gestures

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the landscape of modern dating takes on a nuanced hue. Traditionally a day filled with romantic surprises and declarations of love, this year’s Valentine’s Day seems to be viewed through a different lens. 

Unlike previous years where Valentine’s Day may have been marked by grand gestures and elaborate plans, many individuals are approaching it with a newfound sense of simplicity in 2024. The emphasis seems to be less on extravagant displays of affection and more on real interactions, whether romantic or platonic. In a world where meaningful interactions are increasingly valued and the crisis of connection holds firm, undivided attention and thoughtfulness are prized above all else.

As for Generation Z, the cohort renowned for its digital savvy and penchant for keeping it real, their approach to Valentine’s Day reflects their broader attitude towards relationships. While some may embrace the traditional aspects of the holiday, others may eschew it in favor of more unconventional expressions of love and appreciation. For Gen Z, authenticity reigns supreme, and Valentine’s Day is no exception.

Against this backdrop, Tinder’s latest campaign, ‘It Starts With A Swipe,’ takes on added significance. In their campaign, Tinder is challenging the assumption that they only facilitate surface-level connections by showcasing a broader approach to modern dating. Launched on Dating Sunday, the busiest time of the year in online dating, the campaign focuses on the different ways Gen-Z builds connections through small but formative moments. 

The creative messaging and visuals employed by Tinder in this campaign underscore the idea that each swipe has the potential to initiate a meaningful match. By shifting the focus from mere visual assessments to a more comprehensive understanding of individuals, Tinder seeks to break down barriers and cultivate deeper connections among users.

Tinder isn’t the only dating app that’s tackling the crisis of connection we’re facing globally, one that’s perhaps felt the most in modern dating. Last year, Hinge partnered with the Foundation for Social Connection, an organization that works on fostering social connection in society, to release a Distraction-Free Dating Guide aimed at promoting dating with intentionality.

Encouraging users to engage in genuine conversations, the guide steers them away from superficial interactions, creating an environment conducive to creating deeper ties. By prioritizing thoughtful communication, Hinge aims to make the dating experience more meaningful and fulfilling for its users.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day in this evolving landscape of modern romance, it’s clear that the quest for meaningful relationships remains paramount. Whether swiping on Tinder or engaging in distraction-free conversations on Hinge, today’s daters are navigating the complexities of love and connection with a renewed sense of purpose.

Citizen Insider: Crowning Glory

I quickly became my dad’s favorite person to brag about because of who I worked with in the NFL. Whether it was top players from the LA Rams, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers or Dallas Cowboys, and so many more. My love for sports PR began early in my career. It was unexpected, exciting and something completely out of my comfort zone. Fresh out of college, I began working with household name brands that partnered with NFL athletes year-round and I immediately fell in love with the gig.

Over the past six-plus years, I have enjoyed working in sports. But, honestly, I find myself one of the few women in the industry—let alone brown skinned. We don’t hear or even see enough stories about BIPOC women working in sports PR, which is known to be overwhelmingly male and white. Earlier in my career, I felt discouraged and didn’t quite understand how the majority of the players in the league are Black/African-Americans (57%) yet there were so few of us representing them.  

Today, I see it as an opportunity.

I first realized the power and indispensable perspective I bring to this space when I worked on a campaign for a multicultural hair care brand at another PR agency. We were considering a Black/African-American athlete as our spokesperson for the campaign and my white colleague listed his “good hair” as one of the reasons why we should work with him. 

While these two words — “good hair” — may seem innocent to some, the connotation of “good hair” goes far back in the Black/African-American community. “Good hair” stems from Eurocentric beauty standards, dictating coily, coarse hair as unattractive and inferior to “good hair” which is more similar to European features characterized by straighter hair, implying beauty and acceptance. This damaging mentality of “good hair” has been passed down for generations and it still influences many people’s perceptions of natural Black/African-American hair today. 

I didn’t expect my white colleague to know the sensitivity around “good hair” and knew she was genuinely complimenting the athlete. She didn’t know because she didn’t have to know, it wasn’t part of her world. But it was deeply rooted in mine. It was then, I saw the power and necessity of having diverse voices in the room. 

Thanks to the CROWN act we can now proudly and unapologetically wear our natural coils and curls in the workplace without the fear of discrimination. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair,” is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots. This law has been passed in 24 states with only 26 more states to go! 

While hair may not seem like a big deal on why representation matters in the sports and entertainment industry, it is. In the Black/African-American community, we refer to our hair as our crown — an extension of identity and expression of who we are. Solange said it best in her song Don’t Touch My Hair with the phrase, “It’s the feelings I wear.” Our hair is our glory. So, when working with Black/African-American talent, it can also be a sensitive discussion on how their hair should be for media interviews, production shoots, etc. 

Hair is deeply rooted in our culture and it makes it seamless when I’m chatting with Black/African-American talent about theirs. I am able to not only relate but create a safe space for them to feel comfortable to share their hair concerns with me. Together, we’re able to find a solution that allows them to show up as they are while remaining true to their authentic selves.

Look, as a Black/African-American woman in corporate America, I get it. I find myself being off camera during virtual meetings most days, simply because I didn’t deep condition my hair the night before or have time to lay down my baby hairs (if you know, you know!) before I hopped on an early morning call. 

Whether my hair is straightened or in its natural curly state. I belong. 

In the words of India Arie, “I [we] are not our hair!’ Join the movement and sign the CROWN petition today!

Cowling’s Corner: Navigating the AI Revolution in PR – The Surge of Deepfakes

AI is revolutionizing how we create and digest content, but as the saying goes, with great power comes even greater responsibility. I know I’m echoing the sentiments of many in the public relations sector as we enter an era where the boundary between artificial and authentic content is rapidly blurring.

At the heart of the PR discipline lies trust—a relationship between a “public” and those wishing to convey a message. Yet, with the rapid growth of deepfakes and a new breed of AI-generated content, there’s an impending threat to the truth and trust that public relations values above all. The implications for communicators are profound: how does one maintain the sanctity of truth when technology can convincingly distort reality?

The Rise of AI in Public Relations

The integration of AI in PR is accelerating, transforming various activities ranging from data analysis to content creation. However, this rapid adoption comes loaded with ethical and legal considerations, especially regarding AI-generated content, which can mislead audiences with fabricated imagery and messaging.

Deepfakes are not only a litmus test for technological advancement but also for our societal values, and they pose a real and present threat. Legal frameworks and political policy struggle to keep pace with the rapid evolution of AI, leaving gray areas that malicious actors exploit, thus undermining public trust.

As a response, PR professionals must become adept in technologies that both create and detect deepfake content.

  • Understanding AI capabilities and limitations is key in discerning real from fake.
  • Implementing robust verification processes ensures content truth.
  • Investing in AI literacy will empower PR professionals to advocate for ethical AI use.

It might be an ambitious vision for the PR industry’s future with AI, but AI for good must be our industry mandate, with a clear nod towards transparency as “non-negotiable” in the age of AI.  With the rapid growth of disinformation out there, we play an essential role in shaping narratives that respect and drive truth, trust and authenticity. By focusing on education, applying rigorous authentication standards, and advocating for transparent and ethical AI use, we can navigate the choppy waters of the digital age. It may not be enough, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. After all, balancing innovation with integrity can maintain the trust we work so hard to build—and protect the cornerstone of all our connections.

In 2024, Mentorship Remains A Critical Form Of Professional Connection

No matter which side of the hybrid and remote work debate you’re on, it’s no secret that how we connect with our colleagues and forge professional relationships has changed. Alongside this shift, how we seek guidance and mentorship is also evolving beyond traditional office and IRL networking settings. These relationships require more proactive effort, and finding and maintaining them can feel more challenging and less natural as a result. But as the way we work becomes less defined, there are tons of opportunities to be found in the increasing flexibility around connecting with people who inspire us, and the decrease in structure around how we gain new perspectives in mapping out what growth and success can look like.

No matter how we forge these relationships, the bottom line remains: establishing mentor-mentee connections is more critical than ever before to supercharge career growth and upskill consistently, both for mentees and mentors: connection is a tool for growth through new perspectives, and any mentoring relationship as a result, is something we can’t rely on AI to manufacture anytime soon.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, whether you’re pursuing mentorship to navigate a career transition or general development, or you’ve been approached by someone you believe in to share your experience and help guide their trajectory. 

TIPS FOR MENTEES

  1. Mentorship isn’t a marriage. Taking a broader approach to the mentorship dynamic creates a ton of space for diverse learning opportunities and to have impactful conversations at any point in your career. Don’t think of a mentorship as one exclusive relationship after whom you can model your career – seek out impactful connections and conversations from folks you admire beyond your speciality, industry, lived experience and location to accelerate your growth mindset and really enhance how you see your own potential. It’s about quality over quantity of the time you spend building these connections, and they don’t have to be permanent – recognizing this takes pressure off both sides without reducing potential impact.
  2. Take a tailored approach. As you broaden your horizons of what your professional connections and network looks like, being strategic in how you approach mentorship conversations will ensure the most value for everyone involved. Think critically about who you are approaching, and come prepared with 1-2 questions that only they can answer, or a particular challenge you’d value their perspective on specifically. 
  3. Get help off the starting block. Whether you’re starting your career, feeling stuck or navigating a career transition, if you’re not sure where to start in finding new mentorship connections look for tools to bridge the gap. LinkedIn of course has endless potential connections, but if you’re looking for a more structured, intentional approach, organizations like Monday Girl were created to bridge the gap.

TIPS FOR MENTORS

  1. Instill confidence in new ways. If you’ve been approached to share a POV or give career advice, look to lend a unique perspective that helps demonstrate this person’s capabilities in a new way. Showing someone how applicable a certain skill could be to a different industry, or how to market their background in a more strategic way will empower a mentee in meaningful ways, and give them the confidence to accelerate their growth or see opportunities to forge a new path.
  2. See the potential for growth and learning on both sides. Mentoring and coaching flexes critical management and leadership muscles, and keeps you tapped into how your industry has changed over time. Learning about the challenges others face as they work to grow in or break into your industry can shed new light on opportunities to improve on a personal or organizational level, giving you an edge to welcome in top talent. Treating each connection as an opportunity to improve how you show up and shape where your work is headed in ways that will ensure lasting impact for everyone.

While the rapid evolution of AI tools to help enhance our industries in many ways is incredible, I admit I relish in the spaces where tech can’t deliver the value we can through our own human experience, and mentorship connections is a clear example. Growth through professional connection and the power of storytelling remains a key driver of some of the most valuable aspects of our careers, especially in creative industries. Magic doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We owe it to ourselves and our futures to extend a hand out – whether that’s physical or virtual doesn’t really matter.

Citizen Welcomes New Leader To Build Integration

Global communications agency Citizen Relations proudly announces the strategic appointment of Kelly Harrington as Senior Vice President of Integrated Solutions.

As SVP of Integrated Solutions, Kelly Harrington leverages her extensive background in creative advertising agencies, having ascended through the ranks at industry heavyweights such as Droga5, BBDO, Endeavor, and McCann. With a proven track record in account management and new business, Harrington has led strategic initiatives for iconic brands like American Express, Subway, Mastercard, Sprint, and HomeGoods. She brings a unique perspective on how best to amplify brand conversations and narrative for Citizen’s clients.

“I am excited to harness the star power at Citizen and create cohesive, comprehensive solutions that align with our clients’ business objectives. My focus is on ensuring seamless collaboration to deliver the most relevant and effective integrated brand communications for our clients,” expressed Harrington.

Her strategic prowess and wealth of experience aligns seamlessly with Citizen Relations’ agency mission to make every conversation count.  Off the heels of another year of double-digit growth, Citizen is confident that the addition of Kelly will not only bolster the agency’s service offerings but further enable the team to deliver in a seamlessly integrated way for clients across the globe. 

Citizen Wins at Ragan PRDaily Media Relations Awards

Last week, Citizen was named a Winner at the Ragan PRDaily Media Relations Awards. The Ragan and PR Daily Award programs celebrate the most successful campaigns, initiatives, people and teams in the communication, PR, marketing and employee wellbeing industries. 

Citizen is taking home the top prize in the Influencer Relations category for the “I Buy My Own Batteries Now” campaign with Duracell and Ariana Madix. This campaign was created along with VaynerMedia and EssenceComMedia. The win was announced at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. among hundreds of communications professionals. 

Winner: 

I Buy My Own Batteries Now: Influencer Relations

 

Citizen Relations Wins At Global Creative Awards

Last week, Citizen Relations took home four awards at the 2023 EPICA Awards for their Cheetle In Cheadle campaign for PepsiCo Canada and ReclaimYourName.dic campaign with Elimin8Hate. The EPICA Awards are the only creative awards judged by the press, with senior journalists and editors coming from over 60 countries.

The mission of these awards is to recognize those campaigns that create impactful and meaningful work that resonates with audiences around the world and acts as an intersection between creativity and journalism.

Silver Awards:

  • ReclaimYourName.dic – Creative Use of Data

Bronze Awards:

  • ReclaimYourName.dic – Public Interest-Social
  • ReclaimYourName.dic – Branded Content Film & Series
  • Cheetle in Cheadle – Confectionery & Snacks

A big thank you to the jury of the EPICA Awards and congratulations to both the teams!

Citizen Relations Makes Inc.’s Best In Business 2023 List

Inc.’s Best in Business honors all those inspiring companies that make a positive impact in their fields, proving that you can do well and do good, whether it’s by contributing to local communities, transforming the industry or making the world a better place. This year, Citizen Relations has been featured on the list in the General Excellence category for their work and initiatives, both externally and internally.

Citizen’s mission and values are at the forefront of all the company does, be it client work, industry thought leadership or internal initiatives. Their award-winning campaign, ReclaimYourName.dic with Elimin8Hate, is a prime example of purpose-led work and has gone on to win numerous accolades, including a feature on Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas and 24 industry awards. The campaign addressed racism against Asians in Canada by creating a custom dictionary plug-in of over 8,000 Asian names, which would remove the red line under non-Anglicized names and help normalize Asian identity.

Last year, Citizen launched its Inclusive Influencer Index, which surveyed 2,500+ ethnically diverse consumers to help the marketing community craft trust-centered, authentic and inclusive campaigns. Citizen has also launched a vendor tracking program to improve spending with historically marginalized businesses and partnered with Indspire, a non-profit organization, to create an Indigenous Bursary Fund to support Canadian Indigenous students in the Marketing & Communications industry.

Along with initiatives such as a Mental Health First Aid Training for all employees, “Citizen Days” to foster social connection with and a “$50 For 50” initiative to support Black-owned businesses during Black History Month, Citizen has proven its commitment to DEI and making a positive impact in society.

A huge thank you to Inc. for the recognition and congratulations to all teams. To read the full Inc. Best In Business 2023 list, click here.

Citizen Relations US Named PRWeek’s Best Place To Work 2023

For the second year in a row, Citizen Relations US has been selected as one of PRWeek’s Best Places to Work 2023, in the Mid-Sized Agency category. This accolade celebrates those agencies in the PR industry that empower their employees, embed collaboration into their work culture and write the playbook on how to attract and retain top talent.

After making the coveted list last year, Citizen has gone on to have a stellar year, with unprecedented award recognition and a culture that is reflective of their mission and values. Earlier in the year, Citizen was also named the “Best Agency To Work For” in North America by PRovoke Media. Such industry recognition reflects the agency’s commitment to building a positive, inclusive and people-first workplace.

This year, Citizen US put its employees first through such initiatives as their inaugural “Mod Awards” that celebrates those employees that embody the Citizen values, Mental Health First Aid Training for all offices to reflect a focus on employee mental wellness and quarterly townhalls and “Citizen Days” to foster social connection and a #OneCitizen mindset.

A huge thank you to PRWeek for the recognition and congratulations to the Citizen US teams! To learn more about the Best Places To Work list, click here.