“What Matters in PR” shines the spotlight on PR leaders in the industry. We speak with Alex Malouf, Executive Director, Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Ceer. In our conversation, Alex gives us a fresh perspective on how to become a better storyteller, how he uses AI in PR, and how he leverages corporate reputation to prove PR impact.
What is keeping you busy at Ceer?
There are three big tasks: One, we’re building a brand for the first Saudi electric vehicle company. Two, we are building a new EV industry from the ground up in the region. Three, we’re looking to transform a nation and introduce new mobility concepts in a region that has a love affair with the combustion engine. And as anybody knows, change management is always the hardest, and you’re talking about it on a national level. But that’s also what makes it so exciting.
What channels work best for corporate communications?
As a communicator, I love storytelling and transforming concepts into interesting and engaging stories, whether it’s written, audio, video, or visual formats.
The written format is definitely not dead. Though people keep saying we have less and less of an attention span, the reality is people still do read, they’ve been reading for thousands of years. They’ve been reading since the radio came in TV came in, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Now you have all these new formats, and we’re seeing so much more opportunity. It’s important to choose what works best for the organisation. Our ultimate goal is to move the needle and impact societal behaviour.
How do you use ChatGPT for PR?
One of the things I’ve had to learn really quickly is how to write the most effective briefs for ChatGPT so it gives me exactly what I need.
I’ve discovered my own hacks and drawn inspiration from others, such as: ‘Write me something in this tone’, ‘flesh this out’, ‘make it a bit more colourful’, ‘give me ideas for something’, and ‘how would you write an email for a particular purpose’.
But generative AI can’t tell you what is interesting, or what is the hook. There is formal academic factual knowledge, and then there is everything else that we experience in real life or the internet, that we observe, inherently understand, and make connections. AI obviously misses this informal knowledge.
It’s easier than ever to create content, without necessarily having specialist knowledge but technology is not a panacea for everything. We still need the human element to filter and interpret the data. There are inherent biases and the possibility of manipulation in AI, so we must be aware of these limitations.
As communicators, that’s what we bring to the table, and nobody can take that away from us, at least not a chatbot for now.
“If you’re a good communicator, regardless of whether you are a generalist or a specialist, that means you can spot a good story. They’re able to ask the right questions to pull out all the details, get the right narrative, and pick out the data points.”Alex on what it takes to be good at the craft of storytelling
How do you prove the value of your work?
It’s literally what people read about you, what they see about you, what they hear about you – all of that goes into reputation building.
You could spend all the money in the world on marketing, but communications will always take a leap in terms of reputation building.
You have to know what is being said about a subject, the brand, the organisation, both internally and externally. You have to understand who is saying it and why they’re saying it.
We want lots of data, we want big dashboards to prove our efforts. But often it is in the simple questions: How did you hear about us? What did you hear? Who did you hear it from?
“The world has become more polarised. Views are becoming more extreme on different sides. And where relevant, organisations need to have clear well-understood stances on issues, such as sustainability and climate change.”Alex on what PR will look like over the next ten years
You’ve served on various boards and you have lent your voice to certain organisations. What are some things that you have learned?
I’ve always liked working with charities and organisations that are focused on specific causes. Volunteering gives you the chance to learn from others. And that’s both with people who are older or more experienced, but also people who are younger.
It’s beneficial to be exposed to different experiences and look at different paradigms. This allows you to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. The more insight you have into others, the better you are able to empathise with them. And the more empathy you have, the better a storyteller you become.
What should our industry do to attract the next generation?
As an industry we need to showcase ourselves better to young people why PR is an exciting profession, why it’s so much fun, and why what we do matters as well.
It’s inspiring to see more young people blogging and sharing their stories and experiences about what they’re learning and achieving.
In many ways, they’re our best advocates. They already have strong networks within their peer groups. And we need to have more young champions talking about the PR industry and why they find that fascinating.