“What I Learned at Davos”

Barri Rafferty with CCNY students

Barri Rafferty with CCNY students

PR Superstar Barri Rafferty points to eight global trends students should know about. by Jalesa Tucker

Ketchum CEO Barri Rafferty, one of the country’s most prominent women in public relations, visited CCNY to discuss Lessons from Davos and pointed to eight global trends impacting the communication industry. She spoke last Thursday in Shepherd Hall as part of this semester’s Lunch with Leaders series sponsored by MCA’s AD/PR program.

Rafferty, the head of one of the world’s foremost PR agencies, recently returned from Davos, the annual summit in Switzerland of powerful and influential leaders including Bill Gates and Bono. “That’s the interesting thing about the World Economic Forum in Davos,” said Rafferty, “you never know who you’re going to come in contact with.”

At City College, with about 70 students present, Rafferty pointed to these important trends affecting the communications and business industries:

1. The economic crisis has sparked change. In the wake of a fiscal meltdown, today more than most people live with a sense of economic uncertainty. They are trying to get their footing through business ownership. “A lot of people are trying to emulate the entrepreneurial ship and innovation of the United States,” said Rafferty. South Korea launched the first online platform for entrepreneurs to share ideas and receive feedback from community members in order to make ideas more marketable and possibly receive funding.

2. Youth unemployment has worsened. One in 4 youth face unemployment. “If you don’t start your careers early,” said Rafferty “you’re not building a career over time. You’re not building up the ability to make enough income to save.”

3. The gender gap continues. Disparities between men and women are still a huge issue today. “Women need to receive higher education, capital for their business,” said Rafferty “and to move from the middle to senior ranks”. Some companies are helping. Tupperware has played a key role in helping women uplift their communities by starting their own businesses, Rafferty noted.

4. Climate change is real. Companies shouldn’t ignore it and can influence the public by using simple language to create messages that encourage people to take small but effective steps toward a sustainable lifestyle that will ultimately safeguard future generations.

5. Sustainability is good business. Companies can and should create simple and sustainable products that use less packaging and reduce energy use.

6. We must safeguard global security. As we rely more on the web for our access to goods and services, global security will depend on the security of the internet. Businesses must be ready to respond to online threats and people should have the ability to own or sell their personal data.

7. Businesses must keep an eye on health. Preventive care and healthier lifestyle empower people to take charge of their health. It’s smart for companies to encourage programs that help reduce stress among employees.

8. Mindfulness makes sense. Many companies encourage associates to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their daily lives, which is a good idea. Less stressed employees result in a better work environment that’s good for people and business.

Rafferty  that Davos taught her how small changes can have a big effect on businesses.  “How do these topics fit into the bigger picture?” asked Rafferty. “When you’re working for companies or nonprofits, the things you do can truly make a difference.”