News on Sunday

Samantha Seewoosurrun: “Artificial Intelligence will present opportunities and challenges for the PR industry”

The International Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) was recently set up in Mauritius. The CIPR network in Mauritius is being established by Samantha Seewoosurrun MCIPR, who is an elected member of the CIPR International Committee. In this interview, Samantha Seewoosurrun explains the aim of the CIPR and what changes it will bring in the public relations. 

With what objective is the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) being implemented in Mauritius?
Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. It seeks to advance professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).
Further to our launch event at Voilà Bagatelle on 22nd March, I am now setting up a local network in Mauritius, on behalf of the International Committee, to bring some of the tools, webinars and examples of international best practice to help to upskill the PR community on the island, at all levels. Members and Global Affiliates of the CIPR can have access to hundreds of online resources, for example on crisis and reputation management, and tactics for dealing with change, integrating digital with PR strategy and evaluating PR activity, among others. Through enhancing the skills and competence of those working in PR in Mauritius, across the public and private sectors, I believe that the reputation of the island will improve. 

Is there any demand for PR?
There is significant demand for PR in Mauritius and beyond, because it is a critical strategic function in an organisation, whether in the public or private sector. PR can make or break an organisation, no matter how big or small. I strongly believe that PR should be recognised as a profession, as the role of a PR practitioner has no less value than that of its counterparts which carry chartered status such as accountants, surveyors, brokers or those in marketing.

How has the role of public relations changed over the last five years?
I have been working in communications for over two decades, and I would say that the last five years have been characterised by a much greater focus on digital channels and rollout of campaigns. At the same time, the essence of public relations, which means telling a good story in a way which resonates with and engages your audience, will remain paramount no matter what the channel is.

What are the key areas of opportunity you see in the next few years?
I think that Artificial Intelligence will present both opportunities and challenges for the PR industry. A recent CIPR report has estimated that 12% of a PR professional’s skills today could already be replaced by AI, and that this could rise to 38% within 5 years. It is predicted that AI could be used to make phone calls, deal with recruitment, write blogs and press releases, make videos and create, test and optimise Facebook ads, amongst others. PR professionals will need to update their knowledge and skills on a continuous basis, as advocated by the CIPR, and strategic skills in directing PR campaigns will become ever more in demand.

How has the development of social media presented PR with new opportunities?
I think that social media has definitely transformed the PR landscape by providing regular opportunities to engage with younger audiences, and it has also made the PR industry become even more fast-paced with 24-hour news cycles. Social media has become such a vast phenomenon that it is has become crucial to understand how to use it and how to measure it, and the CIPR offers a number of courses in this area.

Overall, who is the CIPR targeting? 
The CIPR is targeting all levels of the industry and has something for everyone. Senior PR professionals can choose to take the pathway to become an Accredited or Chartered PR Practitioner, which shows their worth to the market and helps them update their skills. Mid-level practitioners can take advantage of the wide range of e-learning courses offered to learn new specialist skills in areas of communication which they are not familiar with to build their career path. Junior professionals can learn about the different areas of public relations through webinars and courses offering practical tips and advice in areas such as how to write effective press releases and blogs. 

Is there any opportunity for training for the young people? 
Students are very welcome to join CIPR and are entitled to a special discounted membership rate. There are many students studying communications in Mauritius, and they may find that CIPR courses can complement their knowledge and theoretical understanding from academic courses with practical courses, examples and case studies.

What are the main benefits of CIPR membership?
Joining CIPR allows PR professionals to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and learn about new areas of PR which may be beyond their current job or experience, for example in internal communications, digital or social media. It also provides opportunities to learn about international best practice and offers insights into PR in other jurisdictions which may have links with Mauritius, such as India and UAE.
I believe that this type of continuing professional development and guidance in the public relations industry has been lacking in Mauritius until now and I have been very much encouraged by the positive feedback received from industry professionals so far. Reinforcing the skills of the PR industry will provide concrete benefits for the professionals concerned and for the country as a whole.

What kind of activities will CIPR be undertaking in Mauritius?
In Mauritius, we will be holding regular meetings and events to discuss key issues in PR in Mauritius, which will give PR professionals the opportunity to exchange their ideas and to build their personal networks in the industry. 


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