Horizon Scanning: Pioneering the Art of Future Anticipation in PR

Farzana Baduel, CEO of Curzon PR, delivered an enlightening keynote address on “Horizon Scanning: How PR Can Help Anticipate Future Trends”. The talk delved deep into the captivating realm of strategic foresight, and its role in the ever-evolving field of Public Relations.

It commenced by exploring the significance of PR professionals embracing the art of strategic foresight. She emphasised that as humans, we’ve inherently evolved to scan our environment for potential threats and opportunities. This fundamental skill has been critical for our survival and evolution throughout history, as a “failure in this domain could have had dire consequences for our ancestors”.

The question that underlined the entire discussion was, “Why do we need to horizon scan?” Answering this, Farzana Baduel turned to the wisdom of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who famously asserted that “change is the only constant in life.” While the concept of change is far from novel, “the pace of change in our contemporary world, driven by global interconnectedness, is unprecedented”.

In today’s globally interconnected landscape, the velocity of change is accelerated by factors such as supply chain dynamics, the rapid dissemination of information, and the need for organisations to pivot swiftly amidst economic and political turbulence in this multipolar era.

Drawing inspiration from the innovative mindset of industry luminaries, she quoted Steve Jobs, who had once declared, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This principle has been at the heart of groundbreaking developments in technology and consumer preferences. It underscores the importance of looking beyond basic market research to anticipate the desires of the future.

She then explored the science of predicting the future, using Martin Raymond, a renowned futurist, as an example. Raymond’s work with organisations like Google, Spotify and Selfridges has earned him a reputation as one of the world’s foremost trend forecasters. She highlighted Raymond’s “The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook,” which encompasses seven pivotal concepts for effective trend prediction.

These seven concepts provided a roadmap for understanding – the anatomy of a trend, utilising a trend forecaster’s toolkit, integrating intuition and strategic foresight, deploying network forecasting, employing cultural triangulation, engaging in scenario planning, and integrating foresight, strategy, and sprint innovation.

Practical applications of horizon scanning were also discussed, emphasising some critical steps such as – embedding horizon scanning into organisational processes, closely monitoring the competition, collaborating with internal communications, forming dedicated horizon scanning taskforces, and embracing a mindset of change and adaptation.

Farzana Baduel’s keynote enhanced the pivotal role of horizon scanning and strategic foresight in the PR industry, thus offering PR professionals an innovative edge in anticipating and navigating the dynamic landscape of future trends.

In a Fireside Chat with Arun Sudhaman, Provoke Media who enquired – what about behavioural change as far as clients go? Farzana pointed out it starts with “active listening and empathy – you give them a snack to start with and to peak curiosity”. About involvement she said – “Move into this journey together (both internal and external) and it becomes more engaging”.

What skills were they looking at ushering in? “We are looking for people who are culturally curious,” was her clear message.

And while considering from the corporate perspective, what are any characteristics that organisations have incorporated, her quick answer was – “Humility. Success today, yesterday and tomorrow is rooted in humility”.  About Gen Z (to which she belonged) her uptake was – “They are the ones driving change. They are great change-makers. Earlier the gatekeepers were journalists, and now it is us! We are the journalists  making sure that the information is true!”

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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