[Editor’s Note: It’s a PRNEWS tradition to offer a PR-focused preview of the CES Show in our January edition. As such, we interviewed communicators in late December 2021 who were scheduled to attend the Jan. 5-8 Las Vegas confab in person, as opposed to accessing the world’s largest tech show virtually. As the Omicron variant gathered momentum in the US prior to Christmas, a host of large players, including Amazon, AT&T, BMW, Google, Meta, Microsoft, P&G, Peloton and TikTok, T-Mobile, among others, announced suspension of in-person activities at CES. Later, on Dec. 31, CES owner the Consumer Technology Association cut one day off the show. In the end, in-person attendance was 40,000, less than 25 percent of the usual crowd (see chart below).
Nonetheless, we present our CES preview, offering insight into technology that will find its way into the PR pro’s orbit in various ways. In addition, we add a short section about presenting at CES and other events.]
As we’ve done for years, we asked PR pros headed to CES about technologies they expect to see that one day will be found in communicators’ offices. In addition, we inquired about CES technologies they believe communicators will be called on to explain to the public at some time.
Responding to the question about technologies that will find their way into PR offices, both Chip Scarinzi, SVP, deputy technology lead at Hill+Knowlton Strategies US, and Brett Larson, SVP, red & blue media strategies at Bospar, zero in on technologies for the home and the Internet of Things (IoT). That makes sense. The pandemic has kept much of the public in or around the home for nearly two years.
More than that, for many PR pros the home now is the office. “It’s also the gym, it’s the school, it’s daycare etc…it’s more than it’s ever been,” Scarinzi says. So, Scarinzi plans to be on the lookout at CES for Smart Home technologies.
Ditto Larson, who anticipates this year’s CES promises a victory lap for communication technology and digital tech companies. “They’ll talk about how COVID was proof positive” for communication and home technologies, says Larson.
Not Just a Connected Home, a Smart Home
Scarinzi also has a particular sub-area he’s interested in seeing at CES. “What are technology brands doing to adapt to the new behaviors of the global workforce?”
For example, he was keen on seeing how companies are providing technologies that help users separate home-based work from other activities, such as relaxation. “I want to see technology that promotes [the home worker’s] wellbeing,” he says.
Scarinzi admits, though, “I’m not sure what that looks like exactly.”
Moreover, he wants to see tech companies “being smart” about the future office, reimagining its role. So, will the future office “be a gathering place” exclusively that’s used a few days each week to work with colleagues? “Behaviors have changed. What we want to get out of an office experience are changing as well. So, are there tech brands thinking in a smart way about that?”
A Seamless Experience
In addition, he’s seeking technologies that help make toggling between the home office and the company office seamless. “I don’t want it to feel like two separate experiences.”
Moreover, “If people choose to go into the office, and others don’t, how are you making sure that everyone has the right career experience?”
The other technology area Larson believes will increase its presence in PR pro’s offices is AI-powered capabilities. For example, he can’t wait to see what direction the merged Salesforce and Slack takes, especially since “Salesforce has so much data about us.” AI-assisted pattern recognition has great potential for PR, he says.
In addition, he’s excited about AI’s ability to target segments of the public. “In the old days, you had a few TV networks dividing up the public,” he says. Now, “we have so many media outlets dividing up the audience granularly.”
So, if a high-tech golf equipment maker wants to find “a young, tech-savvy audience that plays golf you have a better chance to do that” using AI-powered tools.
Crafting Safety Narratives
The proliferation of home devices will bring a lot of work for communicators, Larson and Scarinzi say. “When you have a digital thermostat that requires a password, it becomes a place where a hacker” can enter, Larson says.
Adds Scarinzi, “With all the connected products going into our home,” the regularity of data breaches will give consumers pause. Communicators will be asked to create safety narratives for such devices, the two tech PR pros agree.
An important component of connected device safety, Scarinzi notes, falls on brands that make them. Scarinzi believes the majority of data issues companies make are “inadvertent.” As such, he says, communicators should prompt companies to ask questions, such as: ‘What data are we capturing with our connected devices? Who are we giving it to? Is it secure and safe?’
Another area requiring PR messaging is autonomous technology, which enables delivery drones, driverless trucks and autonomous vehicles. “PR will need to tell stories about why it‘s beneficial to have driverless cars,” Larson says. The argument, he says, is that it’s safer when you remove a person from the chain of command. “Machines can make decisions faster than we can,” he says. However, Larson admits this isn’t an easy lift. “People, understandably, will be nervous when you remove the driver from a delivery truck,” he says.
NFTs and Experiences
Another CES focus for Scarinzi, and one that will result in communicators explaining tech issues, is the proliferation of NFTs, or non-fungib
le tokens. CES 2022 will be the first time the Ethereum blockchain tokens will have a significant presence at CES, he says.
First used for selling digital art, NFTs now help peddle a variety of goods, including videos, rare celebrity interviews and, famously, White House memorabilia. “We’ll be talking so much about NFTs in the next three years,” he says. Both the public “and some companies” will need communicators’ explanation about NFTs, he says.
Scarinzi sees “so much potential” in utilizing NFT ownership as a consumer-engagement tool. “We’ve just scratched the surface,” he says.
A diehard baseball fan and author of two sports books, Scarinzi points to Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot product, a series of video highlights of pro basketball players minted as NFTs.
For example, a consumer who owns a digital highlight featuring a Phoenix Suns player could receive offers for various experience-centric opportunities, he says. These could include an invitation to a special meet-and-greet with the Suns or a trip to a playoff game. “It’s another way to boost engagement with the brand...to draw them in closer to the brand and create a stronger relationship.”