“We live in the post-truth era, a time when emotions and personal views, as opposed to objective facts, shape public opinion; a time when citizens (users, consumers, voters) have less trust in the media and more trust in their own versions of the truth, and I believe that is the trend that will mark communication this year and in the coming years,” says Suzana Miličić, Director of public relations agency Kontakta PR & Media Consulting, which has had a team of professionals in the field of public relations and media operating in Serbia for the last five years.
In which way will the post-truth influence, or is already influencing, the communications market; what does it means for professionals in this domain?
The road to the end user, consumer, voter, will be ever more complicated. We will have to contrive, to be less certain and more suspicious; to “chop” and adapt our messages; to determine smaller target groups as precisely as possible in order for us to be able to measure actual results. We will have to be ready for the fact that those who we are addressing will perhaps surprise us with their decision, regardless of what our research shows: just as the whole world was surprised by the Brits (Brexit) and Americans (Trump). We have to have a Plan B, for example.
Consumers are exposed to enormous amounts of information, their attention is dispersed; they have their own versions of the truth and do not forgive mistakes
You do plenty of work on campaigns intended to promote European values, women’s rights, the youth situation etc. How interested are people in these topics and how do they understand those messages?
In recent months I have travelled around Serbia, due to the project we’re implementing with the EU Delegation to Serbia, and I’ve seen how people react to topics concerning the EU, Europe and Euro integration. The strength of myths and misconceptions, and the power of misinformation about this area, are still enormous. However, I have noticed that we are more pragmatic: parents are most interested in how their children can study in the EU, farmers and entrepreneurs want to know which funds they can access.
This is actually a step forward, as it gives us the opportunity to offer them the correct information and deconstruct their misconceptions. When it comes to campaigns for women’s rights, this is a topic that, in principle, everyone will talk about and everyone will condemn violence, but they will not notice that there is misleading reporting about that; they will not perceive misogyny in public performances and they will react aggressively when you find fault with that. There’s a lot of work to be done in this field.
What challenges are being faced by the SMEs with which you also cooperate?
We are a small local enterprise that receives work on the basis of the quality of project proposals or recommendations from satisfied clients. We depend solely on our work and commitment, which is why we are able to fully understand SMEs that are in the same position. Just like them, we need to take care about each move, to carefully tailor our budget, to cautiously introduce new channels of communication while considering cost-effectiveness. And here we will fight with the effects of the post-truth era – when customers are exposed to vast amounts of information, with their attention dispersed, when they have their own versions of the truth and do not forgive mistakes.
They should be intelligently informed, with their loyalty nurtured, protecting the credibility of the brand and being entertaining and useful to them. We will move in the vacuum between consumers with low purchasing power and clients that are compelled by the logic of capital to achieve a real profit and earn actual money. Together with clients, we’ll have to constantly re-learn how to find and retain our customers. And we’ll have to be ready for customers to very quickly change their informing habits and thus escape from our view, so we will have to create a new tactic in search for them.