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Jos Govaart: "AI will play a major role in PR"

This interview was published in Dutch on on 21 May 2024 

We are very proud of Jos Govaart's nomination for PR Person of the Year. Jos, founder and Managing Director of our Dutch PR agency Coopr, spoke with Marketing Report about his nomination and how the PR industry is evolving.

Can you introduce Coopr?
Coopr was founded nearly 15 years ago as a niche agency focused on what was then online PR. Originally, Coopr stood for Club Offering Online Public Relations. Today, it's a bit odd to talk specifically about online PR, so we quickly evolved into a full-service PR agency. Jody Koehler and I started our agency with a simple new business strategy that consisted of: give-share-receive. This concretely meant that we wrote a blog every day and organised an industry event once a year, where we brought an international specialist to the Netherlands. At the time, these were people like Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis.

By opening our doors to the industry, we also started getting larger clients, to whom we owe a lot. Some of these clients, such as Coolblue and LinkedIn, still work with us. Nowadays, besides these wonderful brands, we also work for clients like Adidas, Coca-Cola, Eurostar, Lenovo, Pathé, and Volvo Cars. We still blog, having written over 2,000 blogs, and we have recorded more than 40 podcasts. I am particularly proud of Coopr Academy. This is a collaboration with Erasmus University and a different Coopr client each time. University students work for several weeks on a case from a real client, supported by lectures from Coopr colleagues. This teaches us a great deal about how upcoming generations view our field, and it is also a great recruitment tool for us.

What are your responsibilities at Coopr?
At Coopr, I am responsible for New Business, strategy for Coopr and our clients, and I contribute weekly to our blogs and newsletter. Additionally, I am a sparring partner for the self-managing client teams we have at Coopr. Within Brand Potential (the brand cluster of Candid), we have recently started facilitating knowledge exchange with our British partner Houston, also part of Candid platform, and we are working on new propositions for the future. Besides Coopr, I am also involved in the field. For over 1.5 years, I have been the chairman of the professional association for communication professionals: Logeion.

How do you see the PR profession developing in the coming years?
When we started our agency in 2009, the rise of social media was a major change for the PR field. A few years ago, more substantive and social issues like sustainability and a much more stakeholder-oriented approach became prominent. Now, we are on the verge of yet another major development: the impact of AI in PR.

How important will AI become in PR?
In 2017, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland with a colleague and followed all the AI sessions I could find. I also started experimenting with IBM's Watson. I understood what AI would do, but at the time, the applications were far from democratized and user-friendly. I could already see that the impact would be significant, but I didn't know how quickly it would happen. Afterwards, I admittedly lost sight of it a bit due to ongoing matters. Then came ChatGPT, which brought the reality back into focus. AI is undeniably going to play a major role in our field, bringing both threats and opportunities. The amount of content was already enormous before the recent AI boom, and it is now growing even more, making it increasingly difficult to recognize what is fake and artificial. The impact on our field is both clear and blurry to me. It is clear that the bottom 20-30 percent of our work can soon be done quite well by an AI bot. This means that it is better to become friends with this technology than to run away from it or look the other way. At the same time, I find the human factor in communication extremely important. Therefore, we need to become even more proficient in the behavioral science aspects of our field and become even better advisors. In short, always think about and improve our added value.

Which Coopr case from 2023 are you proud of?
Personally, I find it great that we got to assist with the introduction of Feyenoord One. Colleagues Judith and Maxine did an amazing job for my favourite club. I am also proud of our consistently relevant work for LinkedIn. It might not fit into a single case, but we have been working constructively with the client for so long, consistently achieving good results with relevant stories in the media, that I am very proud of that as well. A more creative case that warmed my heart is the Volvo EX30, which we also used for this award show. This was largely thanks to the courage of our client Volvo Cars. The automotive industry often has a somewhat conservative and traditional character, with things like test drives, comparative tests, luxury lunches, and mountain trips. I find it very bold that Volvo allowed us to come up with something more creative. Sustainability is very important to Volvo. Using leftover airbag material, we made bags and built an influencer campaign.

What do you see as your most significant PR achievement of 2023?
It might be a bit of a football player's answer. But I don't see any PR achievement I've made as an individual accomplishment because we always work on projects with teams. I might come up with a fun strategy, but if it is not creatively translated or well-positioned with media or influencers, we also don't achieve success. If I have to mention something, it is winning the Lenovo account. Initially, we were not the most obvious choice based on the shortlisted agencies. There were really agencies with a bigger track record in tech PR. We demonstrated that we truly understood and comprehended the client's issue. That thinking, combined with the quality brought by the rest of the team, really made the difference. I do believe that I played a good role in that.

What's the latest news?
We have started a very cool pilot in the field of AI. A pilot where we combine a lot of technologies and can do really cool things. It is still a bit early to show anything from it, but it is coming soon.