May 09, 2017
MANCHESTER DIGITAL CONFERENCE 2017
Manchester Digital Conference 2017: Promise in Uncertainty
On a day where Manchester was to find out the results of the recent vote for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, new challenges and equally new opportunities for the future of the city were discussed at the Digital Revolution Conference 2017 curated by Manchester Digital. With homelessness at an all-time high, the on-going challenge of Brexit and a national governing system that appears to leave Northern soul in the dark – the new mayor has a big task on his hands. Not least of which is to provide sufficient support and leadership to an industry with tremendous potential – that already is showing itself as a cornerstone to the future prosperity of business in the North West–Manchester’s flowering Digital/Tech industry.
In a wide reaching opening discussion around the role of the new mayor and what is needed for further progression of Manchester’s Tech/Digital industry – some of the major threats to unlocking the true potential of the city were outlined – with Katie Gallagher, Manchester Digital chairing the conversation with charm and interest. It was fascinating to hear the lie of the land for Manchester’s Digital Landscape from a variety of impassioned industry insiders in Alison Ross (Auto Trader), Shaun Fenson (Consultant) and Tony Fogette (Code Computerlove).
After a quick coffee break – we were treated to a sneak peek into the history, values and difficulties of some innovative and inspiring ethical Tech companies (Reason Digital, Common Good, Human) in the ‘Tech for Good’ seminar. The key takeaways from a PR perspective were how there is no true substitute for ethical business practise and one of the best ways to demonstrate this is through developing a client list that says more about your practise than you ever could. In an industry that many consider too often practise the dark arts; it feels good to look at the work markettiers MCR have done with the Co-operative group, Fields In Trust and Quorn to name a few and consider the positive social impact these campaigns could have.
The discussion around ethical practise within digital techs, media and PR continued into the next seminar around the much discussed topic of ‘Fake News’. In its purest form, fake news is completely made up and/or manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue. The cause and purpose of fake news does vary with it rearing its ugly head in many different forms from malicious news to drive traffic for financial gain to lies from politicians i.e. Boris’ NHS bus – fake news is an extremely wide reaching and highly impactful hot topic. And one that is very relevant to those working in the PR industry.
“A lie will travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” Mark Twain,
In an age where one of the most high profile PR roles in the world is occupied by Sean Spicer (US Press Secretary), unethical and poor PR practise is visible and rife in US politics and has had a huge role to play in influencing seismic shifts in political landscapes which have truly rocked the boat and threatens to throw people overboard. With the prevalence of user-generated content through social media, the ever increasing shift to online news consumption/lack of resources for journalism and a culture shift of the news reader (reducing ‘digesting’ time and increasing desires to demonstrate opinions through online platforms) all contributing to a hot bed of fake news production and dissemination.
As platforms like Facebook start to do their bit, collectively the need for greater focus on ethical practise in the media, critical review and choosing the right clients to work with were all discussed as methods to reduce the impact and spread of misinformation. Not only this but an increased consideration for the way PR agencies source data and an improvement in the standards of research methods are needed to reduce ‘fake news’.
On this cautionary note – my time at the conference was bought to an end prematurely due to pending deadlines – gutting-ly with the buffet just kicking off. With thoughts of Manchester’s digital business landscape, fake news, ethical business practise and twisted fantasies of the roasted zucchini, black bean and goat cheese enchiladas I was leaving behind – there was much to consider.
It is clear that the future of the cities digital business could well be an even greater contributor to the cities furthering development, with a growing community of fantastic start-ups and digital veterans; from software to media, telecoms to PR. And as I return to the office, news of Andy Burnham winning by landslide for Mayor of Greater Manchester could bring that aspiration even closer to reality. Time will tell with certainty the true impact he could have on digital business and wider concerns in Manchester– but there is plenty cause for optimism as we work toward making the most of the many budding opportunities that already exist in this promising city in uncertain times.
For more information : https://www.manchesterdigital.com/
Written by Alex van den Broek.