Thought Leadership

10 Takeaways From PRSA’s 2018 International Conference

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Austin, Texas, was the backdrop for PRSA’s International Conference this past week.

What’s on the mind of PR professionals these days?

The theme: “Communications Convergence” covered a range of topics including conflicts, creativity and client relationships. Crunching numbers (data and measurement) was a hot topic as well.

The three-day event was packed with dozens of workshops, networking and impressive keynotes. Though I was one of the presenters, my greatest joy was sitting in the audience listening and learning from such knowledgeable and interesting peers.

We’re at a time in history when the media has become the scapegoat for what some claim is “fake news.” Others are attempting to clarify the obscured lines between trained journalists and the media. The conversations remain more important than ever. If we think for a moment that we are in ‘just” a technology and social revolution, make no mistake that public relations and news are in the midst of a similar evolution and revolution.

Here are 10 takeaways from this most important industry conference:

1. On today’s conversations: “Civility is when the value of your relationship is greater than winning the argument.” — Rick Gould, CEO, Gould+Partners

2. On creativity: “Recognize the importance of marketing partnerships. When you don’t have dollars, then you should be setting up brand partnerships. I’m a big naysayer of sponsorships; I think it’s the lazy man’s marketing. When you take one community that loves one brand and another community that loves another brand, and create unique experiences that both communities can celebrate, that’s the holy grail.” — Jonathan Mildenhall, CEO, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand

3. On data and measurement: “It’s not activity-based and about a book of news clips. PR is about outcome-based thinking and what it did for your organization. ” — Dan Beltramo, CEO, AirPR

4. On learning through conflict: “The best way to learn is to talk with somebody who disagrees with you. Don’t avoid conflict. Embrace civil discussion.” — Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor

5. On following journalists on Twitter: “When asked in a survey if journalists like when PR professionals follow you on social media, 86 percent said yes. They like the attention. Make sure you follow the journalists you work with.”— Natan Edelsburg, COO, MuckRack

6. On visuals: “If you’re not using video or visuals for communications then you’re missing out on a huge chunk of audience.” — Stella Low, vice president of communications, Dell

7. On telling the truth: “Lying to the media is not PR. It’s unethical.”— Tony D’Angelo, APR Fellow PRSA, chair, PRSA

8. On client relationships: “Before the need for change sneaks up on you, embrace and encourage change.” — Emily Dunlop, president, AxiCom U.S

9. On storytelling: “Be a storyteller first and a PR person second.” — Ann Handley, partner, MarketingProfs

10. On influencers: “There are three ways to rank influencers: resonance, reach and relevance.” — Mary Elizabeth Germaine, executive vice president of global research, Ketchum Analytics


One more noteworthy nugget: This is the 50th anniversary of PRSSA, the student arm of the association. It was humbling to see so many aspiring PR professionals.

Props to PRSA for a stellar conference.

Susan Young — CEO of Get in Front Communications — is an award-winning news reporter, PR entrepreneur, storyteller and speaker. She facilitates the “Communication Nation” group on Facebook. Join the group here.

PRSA MEMBERS: Learn new hacks and strategies to “Create Remarkable PR Now.” Register here for the video training and save $100!

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Susan Young

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