October 26, 2016 / by Camille Sheehan

The PRSA 2016 International Conference in Indianapolis brought together some of today’s top thought leaders in the field of communication– and then some.

An astronaut, former White House chief information officer, philanthropist, professional IndyCar driver and even a Canadian all came to share their stories and experiences that resonated with and enlightened everyone in attendance from the novices to the seasoned career professionals.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say the only downside to attending this conference was having to choose which speakers I wanted to see and not having enough time in the day to see them all! With that being said, while I can’t give a full recap of every presentation and speech given at this year’s PRSA conference, I can share with you some of my favorite highlights.

Building Content that Has Value Beyond Likes, Comments and Clicks
Presenter: Steve Radick, VP, Director of PR, Brunner

Steve Radick’s presentation cut to the chase and addressed the growing prevalence of brands posting “cheap content” and our desire for “likes.”

Radick emphasized that the key to having fruitful content is to focus on telling authentic stories and providing content that actually helps your customer, instead of obsessing over the numbers and keeping up with the latest algorithms on social media channels.


Cyber Security and Messaging During a Crisis
Presenter: Theresa Payton, President and CEO of Fortalice Solutions, LLC, former White House Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Former White House CIO Theresa Payton addressed the Internet of Things and how today’s hyper-connectivity to the internet means that a data breach is inevitable.

Payton recommended PR professionals “practice digital disaster” by meeting with all departments within their company or organization to determine which two assets are the most valuable to the company and then develop a plan on how to “segment and save” them in the instance of a data breach.

The best way to handle a data breach as a PR professional? Work with the CEO to “put a message out before the media addressing the data breach.” Get in front of it, be transparent and get to it before the media does.

Inspiring Action: The Future of Influence Marketing
Presenters: Heidi Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Client Services, Cision; Shonali Burke, ABC, President and CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.

Cision’s SVP of Client Services Heidi Sullivan teamed up with PR star Shonali Burke, ABC to discuss the latest trends in influencer relations and marketing. Sullivan and Burke gave insight into how to determine the right influencer for your target audience and how to nurture those relationships.

In addition to finding and establishing relationships with the right influencers, Sullivan also emphasized the importance of metrics and tying measurable objectives to these relationships in order to ensure you’re getting a clear ROI out of your influencer campaigns. “If you know at the beginning what you’re measuring, then you’re going to have a very measurable objective that you can achieve.”

Fast Forward Five Years: The Need for Change in PR
Presenter: Fred Cook, CEO, Golin

Fred Cook’s talk addressed the results from the recent Global Communications Study conducted by the University of Southern California in conjunction with PRSA and offered his advice on how to meet the anticipated changes and challenges facing PR professionals in the next five years.

Cook’s refreshingly honest statement, “PR needs more balls,” highlighted what he believes needs to change in the PR industry in order for its professionals to keep their seat at the business table.

Sponsored Content 2.0: Integrating Content and Distribution from Day One
Presenter: Al Chen, Co-Founder Cooperatize 

Former Googler and co-founder of Cooperatize Al Chen talked about the latest trends in sponsored content and the key differences between sponsored and branded content.

One of the biggest takeaway from Chen’s presentation was that 50 percent of people today believe the sponsor influenced the story when they see “sponsored” next to content they read.

Chen recommends “embracing the human element” when determining the right influencer and how best they connect with your target audience when planning out a sponsored content campaign. The better the influencer’s voice fits your audience, the more authentic the message will be.

As always, the PRSA International Conference was an inspiring three days, filled with lessons I’m already using in the work I do here at Cision.

I hope you got as much out of it as I did and that you had a chance to stop by Cision’s booth, play a game of cornhole and check out the Communications Cloud™ we launched at the conference. If you didn’t, it’s not too late. Request a demo now and discover how the Cision Communications Cloud will help you connect the dots of the communications best practices you picked up at #PRSAICON!

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About Camille Sheehan

Camille Sheehan is a PR associate for Cision, where she has worked since 2014. While attending the University of Maryland, she worked as a public affairs intern at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington, D.C. With a background in communication and public relations, she loves keeping up to date with the latest trends and breaking global news. In her free time, you can find Camille listening to country music, eating tacos, sampling Irish whiskeys or snapping photos outdoors on her DSLR. Find her on Twitter @CSheehanPR.