PR Roundup: KC Parade Tragedy, Gen Z Voting Data, How Comms Leaders Use AI

A Record Number of Fans Show their Support for The Kansas City Chiefs 2024 Superbowl Win at the Parade, near Grand Blvd and 8th Street.

This week's PR Roundup acknowledges the heartfelt response by the Kansas City Chiefs organization and players after a Super Bowl parade shooting, the results of a new study on how PR leaders are using AI, and why it's important to learn more about Gen Z's election 2024 expectations.

Using a Platform for Good in Kansas City

What happened: Unfortunately, this week, gun violence once again interrupted a celebratory affair. Thousands of Kansas City Chiefs fans gathered for a championship parade to celebrate their home team’s Super Bowl win yesterday, which ended in a frenzied escape from gunshots. One woman died and 22 people were hurt, with half the victims under the age of 16. 

In the aftermath of the event, the team issued a statement, and many players took to social media to express their condolences for the city, gratitude for first responders and disbelief over what occurred. 

The team confirmed all players, coaches, staff and family as safe, while thanking local law enforcement and expressing sympathy in its statement. 

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes shared his prayers for Kansas City on X (formerly known as Twitter), while receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling looked to connect with and help out children and families at the local hospital. Defenseman Charles Omenihu went so far as to ask when gun laws would be fixed. 

Meanwhile, many users responded to players’ statements by asking them to use their platform to illuminate the need for gun control, gun safety measures, etc. Others used the replies to vehemently defend their rights. 

Communication lessons: Commenting on delicate subjects may be tough during times of emotional stress, but it is pertinent for public figures and leaders. 

PR professionals need to ask themselves how they can guide clients or leadership who many people may look to in a tragedy for response—particularly on social media. 

Anne Marie Mitchell, Senior Vice President at Reputation Partners, says that while there’s a “playbook of sorts” on the right things to say during these too common tragedies such as “truly saddened”, “heartbroken” and asking, “how could this happen again?”, that sometimes a more emotive route is appropriate.  

“There is nothing wrong with those phrases,” Mitchell says, “but we want our clients to choose the words that align with their authentic self and not sound false or insincere. The good thing about social media is you can use it to connect and engage with actual people who are grieving to let them know you see them and are holding them close. That small action can make a big difference in uplifting spirits and building community.”

Mitchell also notes the importance of following up with the public in the days after a horrific event, especially since it takes time to process. For example, the team can strengthen and elongate their official response in the coming days or weeks if they chose to engage with victims or speak about gun violence. 

And while words matter, action remains important for public figures and leadership. 

“[Public figures] can urge people to make a difference with action and demonstrate how they are doing that themselves through their platform,” Mitchell says. 

New IPR Research Shows How Leaders are Using Generative AI as a Tool

What happened: The Institute for PR recently released a report showcasing new research on communications leaders and their AI use. 

Key findings include: 

  • Comfort with GenAI: Most communication leaders embrace GenAI, but emphasize continuous learning and proper implementation with safeguards.
  • Concerns and Risks: Despite the enthusiasm for GenAI, there are significant concerns about security, content validation, misinformation, data security and copyright issues. A strong emphasis is placed on ethical AI usage, particularly in maintaining transparency and compliance with industry regulations, especially in sensitive sectors.
  • Ownership and Governance: The study highlights a lack of consensus on GenAI ownership within organizations, with varied approaches from centralized to department-specific responsibilities.
  • GenAI Guidelines and Ethical Frameworks: Organizations are actively developing or have implemented internal policies and guidelines for using AI. Some are delaying full AI implementation until further experimentation and testing are completed.
  • GenAI's Role in Communication: The report underscores the positive impact of GenAI in enhancing creativity, content creation, and workflow efficiency within communication functions. Leaders view GenAI as a tool rather than a strategy.

Communication takeaways: Dr. Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of IPR and the author of this report, emphasizes the importance of making these findings public for the whole PR community. 

“We wanted to drill down into understanding the perceptions and uses of generative AI in organizations and explore how communicators are navigating the landscape and addressing concerns both externally and internally,” McCorkindale says. 

And instead of just anonymous quantitative data, the IPR research, sponsored by Experian, is one of the first of its kind to investigate the use and impact of AI through interviews and qualitative information. 

The leaders interviewed offer tips, tricks, prompts and go-to sources for learning more about GenAI that others can take back to their own workspaces.

Gen Z 2024 Election Concerns and Opinions

What happened: As we’ve seen in recent decades, brands and public figures have taken on more of a responsibility when it comes to democracy, especially in an election year. Examples such as MTV’s Choose or Lose in the early 1990s through late aughts, NBA star LeBron James’s More Than a Vote in 2020, and even Doritos in 2016 all promoted exercising the right to vote, particularly to a youthful audience. 

So you might say in a new election year that brands and organizations are paying attention to the latest crop of new voters: Gen Z. 

DISQO, a brand experience platform, released “A Marketer’s Guide to the Gen Z Voter,” to provide information on how election advertising and news will impact Gen Z. Findings included:

  • Gen Z is the least likely generation to plan to vote: With only 62% expressing intentions to cast their ballots, in contrast to 74% of the broader population.
  • Gen Z leans liberal: 39% liberal, 34% middle of the road, 27% conservative.
  • A strategic and well-executed social media plan is critical to tap into the power of Gen Z: Social media was the top source of information for the presidential election for Gen Z at 32%.
  • Organic content will be critical for 2024 campaign success: Gen Z’s feelings about owned, earned and paid channels mostly align with the general population. However, Gen Z was more likely to feel positive about social media advertising and online advertising. They were also more likely to feel positive about owned online content and more likely to feel neutral about earned news coverage.

Communication takeaways: Stacy Perrus, Marketing Communications Director, DISQO and study architect and report author says the 2024 election will provide an important case study for brands on what matters to Gen Z and what motivates them. 

“For Gen Z, social media isn't just about keeping in touch with friends; it's also about keeping up with current events from sources they trust,” Perrus says. 

Perrus believes PR practitioners should be paying close attention to how candidates leverage the various channels across earned, owned and paid to drive votes. 

“There's only a 3% gap in Gen Z's positive feelings towards earned news coverage and owned social media,” she says. “This leaves candidates with a greater ability to control the conversation—if they can drive voters to their social media profiles.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal