2021 Nat’l PR Congress to focus on online empowerment

Even prior to the advent of the destructive coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was filled with buzzwords about technology such as IoT, Digital Transformation, 5G, IR4, Cloud, and AI to name a few. But all of these words are harbingers of the digital age, and it is here to stay.

Needless to say, it is not only the pandemic that is disruptive but also the digital world brought by technological innovation.

From the traditional physical office to shared or co-working spaces and now working from home. All of these are brought by technological advancement and would certainly change our daily lifestyle and work habits.

Interestingly, the steady influx of new innovations disrupting all facets of life from work to home to how people communicate, interact and relate to others. With the internet and the myriad of online platforms making access to people and information instant and in most cases real-time, almost everyone conducts most of their activities online, making digital, mobile and social media indispensable in daily life.

Almost 60 percent of the global population uses the internet, according to the Digital 2020 October Global Statshot Report produced by We are Social and Hootsuite. The number of people connecting to the web through their mobile phones is even higher, reflecting the growing need or proclivity to seek connectivity online anywhere, anytime for whatever needs there may be. Pandemic-induced lockdowns further increased people’s screen time, pushing it by a quarter of an hour a day to 7 hours daily on average. Online content activities have diversified and now include videos, which take up more of people’s time, vlogs, music streaming, online radio listening and podcasts. But social media remains king, and adoption continues to accelerate. October 2020 data show there are now 4.14 billion social media users around the world, an annual growth exceeding 12 percent and translating to more than 450 million people getting on social media in just the past year.[1]

As reliance on online channels, social media included, continues to rise, their impact on Filipinos’ lives deepens as well. The communication praxis of the present is increasingly rooted online, with netizens accessing news, entertainment, business, weather and other information, sharing content and articulating sentiments or opinions on most anything online from anywhere and anytime, yes even 24/7. With the pandemic keeping people indoors, even work meetings, seminars, interviews and other engagements traditionally done face to face have migrated to the cyberspace.

Communication has become less tactile and connections less personal with online, but being able to learn of important happenings in and out of the country as they unfold and voice out one’s opinion on almost anything almost instantaneously is a new kind of power netizens enjoy.

It is this empowering attribute of online communication that makes it both so exhilarating and addictive, which in turn drives more people to it. But more than a privilege, communication, especially online communication with its wider and immediate reach and impact, is a responsibility.

Societal consciousness is now intrinsically linked to online presence and engagements. As more Filipinos spend more time online, their main means of getting information and learning about social concerns is online. In these times of fake news and curated identities, how can online be used as a platform for intelligent discussions about relevant issues, a tool for responsible communication, and an avenue for relevant and true lasting change?

Communication – online or otherwise and irrespective of medium – must be truthful yet respectful, accountable yet empathetic, fair and unprejudiced. With almost anyone now able to share content online to have their voice heard, oftentimes without prior due diligence and consideration of the implications, the need for discerning and responsible communication becomes even greater.

How can the power of the online voice, and digital technology for that matter, be harnessed for better social impact? How should communication professionals use online, with cyberspace imbued with disinformation, misinformation and mal-information, to contribute to generating positive change? How can PR and communication professionals utilize technology to fulfill their role in society?

These and related pressing issues will steer the conversations at the upcoming  27th National PR Congress. The virtual conference, the first for the annual PR Congress, will run for three days beginning February 17, 2021. Discussions on the second day will underscore the role of new technologies and online tools in enabling the country’s PR industry to adapt to the new normal, taking off from Day 1 discussions on the impact of the pandemic on the industry.

The Congress, spearheaded and organized by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), the nation’s premier organization for public relations professionals, will look into the use of big data, AI and analytics, how brands can optimize technology and innovations to continue evolving without departing from their vision, and how messaging is changing in a post-digital era. 

“New technologies continue to emerge and PR professionals must learn how to adapt and use these tools to develop better communication strategies that serve brands while contributing to the society,” said PRSP President Norman Agatep, APR.

Ana Pista, Congress chair, shared: “Technology makes up much of our daily living, and the PR industry must ride the tide. Communication professionals should see technology as a tool that increases the effectiveness of our relationship-building efforts with our audiences.”

The 27th National Public Relations Congress accepts registration now. Interested parties may check out the event websiteFacebook, Twitter for more information or contact Lessa Azcarraga at [email protected]

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