Davos 2018: 3 Modest Proposals

WE in the News



Davos 2018: 3 Modest Proposals


For helping elites on the mountaintop achieve their goal of ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’

The convening power of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is nothing short of breathtaking – just like the view from the mountains of Davos itself. To assemble 3,000 delegates of such quality – across 300 sessions in five days – to discuss the world’s most pressing problems and opportunities is both just and noble. While non-delegates can easily take shots at the gathering because of the ‘elitist, privileged and entitled’ aura around a Swiss Alps getaway with champagne receptions, it is not a productive endeavour. As one delegate put it to me over the weekend, Davos’ insiders view such commentary as ‘jealousy’.

Our industry’s trade publications have published pieces on Davos 2018 as previews of sorts. The Holmes Report posted a thoughtful primer, while PRWeek published both a packing guide and a rationale for agency leader attendance. What I find particularly interesting is the direction of these publications’ takes this year. They have shifted from general commentary to a focus on what marketing services and PR agencies are actually doing at Davos. They are taking on an almost Cannes-esque tone; which, in my view, does our industry a disservice by reporting on agencies instead of covering the news.

PR and experiential firms (more so than digital and ad agencies) have always looked to Davos as a January revenue boon: Which of our clients should attend? How can we facilitate attendance and profit from it? However, with attendance from agency leaders increasing, Davos has become more than a new business-hunting trip. It is now fuel for PR and communications leaders – both within client organisations and within agencies – to be more effective providers of ‘organisational conscience’ and ‘responsible corporate behavioural guidance’. Through this lens, Davos both informs and educates PR and communications ‘elites’ on the world’s pressing agenda items.

There is, however, a fundamental issue here. Davos itself – and the vast majority of its attendees – focus more on the conversation and much less on the action. How much revenue do agencies derive from clients each year for supporting Davos’ activations? How much budget do brands put into amplifying executive participation? How enduring is both the substance and intent of the ‘unifying agendas of Davos’?  How real is the WEF’s rallying cry of ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’?

If our chosen profession of PR and communications is to fulfill the crucial role of influencing behaviour and providing a lens for corporate and brand responsibility/action, then I suggest we come together to drive change at the source.


To read Alan's proposals, click here to see the full article on Holmes Report.