10 takeaways from PRSA’s 2018 conference

PR industry leaders recently met in Austin to talk about new challenges and where PR is headed in the coming year. Here are some of the biggest lessons from the meeting.

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

Austin, Texas was the backdrop for the Public Relations Society of Americas’ International Conference #PRSAICON2018. The theme “Convergence and Communication” 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 less formal media outlets.

The conversations remain more important than ever. If PR pros think they are in just a technology and social revolution, make no mistake. PR and journalism are in the midst of a similar revolution.

Here are 10 takeaways from this important industry conference:

1. On today’s conversations: “Civility is when the value of your relationship is greater than winning the argument.” – Robert 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, 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.

PRSA deserves kudos for a stellar conference.

Susan Young is president of Get in Front Communications, Inc. A version of this article originally ran on the Get in Front Communications blog.

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