Oct 23, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Nellie Lopez

Last Thursday, PRWeek hosted its PR Decoded event in Chicago’s iconic 1871 with the purpose of providing communications professionals with the best industry strategies and practices to thrive in today’s ever-evolving digital and data-driven world. With Cision headquartered in Chicago, we were excited for this event to take place in a city that has quickly risen through the ranks of being recognized as a tech epicenter. As the city’s tech incubator, 1871 has been home to countless successful startups and has fostered an innovative and collaborative community. Therefore, the venue could not be more fitting for a thought-provoking event bringing together some of the industry’s brightest minds in one room.

The event was filled with inspiring discussions, endless networking and idea sharing from top-level executives and industry practitioners across world-wide renowned brands such as United, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Sprint and many more. The topics covered provided in-depth information and valuable insights for communicators to keep top of mind when it comes to reaching professional successes and delivering client results.

Identifying Transferrable Industry Skills

The day kicked off with a breakfast panel titled, “From the White House to the Boardroom,” with former White House press secretaries Robert Gibbs, McDonald’s COO and EVP of corporate relations for McDonald's and Josh Earnest, United’s SVP and CCO who both shared their professional experiences from time spent in the White House to then moving to the corporate world.

They each shared the unique challenges and opportunities in driving communications across both worlds. Gibbs emphasized the importance of absorbing the world around you through data because the way we consume information is constantly changing. As a comms professional, this keeps you abreast of the latest trends in how you share client information, so it’s consumed across the most appropriate and relevant channels.

Both Gibbs and Earnest noted the value, appreciation and understanding behind strategic planning in the corporate world. This greatly differs from their time spent in the White House as it was described as a reactive environment where a profound sense of urgency seemed to exist behind every action. Each industry expert shared their deep knowledge and highlighted that although work environments may differ, it’s all about applying transferable skills to a new position.

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Brands Taking a Stand: PR Blunders or Successful Risks?

A very relevant and timely panel discussion focused on the topic of brands taking a stand against complex social and political issues. In referencing Nike’s recent ad campaign, Richard Edelman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Edelman noted how the brand took a great calculated risk that led to astonishing success.

According to Edelman, Nike’s ad campaign was clearly ahead of its time as nearly two in every three consumers identify themselves as belief-driven buyers. Consumers are expecting brands to fill a gap for missing substance from today’s politicians. This situation is a direct result of the deep frustration that lies behind today’s binary political climate. Such change in consumer behavior has led many brands to attempt to take a stand against sociopolitical issues that have resulted in complete PR blunders as Gideon Fidelzeid, PRWeek managing editor noted in referencing Pepsi’s ad campaign with celebrity Kendall Jenner. How then, do brands guarantee success when taking a stand?

According to the panel, brands should ask themselves the following questions to ensure authenticity. Does the cause message tie with your brand and is it relevant? Does it make strategic business sense? And lastly, will your brand take a cause-related stand or engage in full activism? Asking these three questions when approaching an ad campaign with the intent to take a stand on a particular issue will ensure it does not result in a major PR blunder that tarnishes a brand’s reputation as disingenuous.

Earned Media Management Brings Transformation and Modernization

Cision’s own Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Lynch spoke on the topic of earned media management in the discussion titled, “The New Imperative: Transforming Comms from an Expense Line to a Boardroom Business Driver.” The discussion focused on how modern communicators need to embrace technology to enhance the power and effectiveness of their story-telling abilities.

Earned Media Management provides a strategic framework designed to modernize comms to effectively measure the true value of campaigns. Lynch emphasized how we should take the science of data and apply it to the art of communications.

To achieve this goal, there needs to be a change in the industry’s overall approach to metrics. Lynch spoke alongside Dave Tovar, Sprint’s SVP of corporate communications who shared his journey at Sprint trying to apply a more broad-based measurement across the communications function at the organization. Tovar stressed the importance for comms teams to figure out what matters to CEOs, how comms fits into that equation and then prove PR’s impact and value through tangible metrics.

The conversation between Lynch and Tovar highlighted how this industry transformation will change communications and public relations to no longer be seen as an expense line, but instead as an imperative business driver.

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Our presence at PR Decoded also included a photo booth activation where you could see yourself on the cover of PRWeek as a modern-day communicator. Countless attendees stopped by for their claim to fame by snapping a photo and sharing it on social media for the chance to win an exciting prize. Many attendees got creative with superhero accessories such as Wonder Woman garb and many other fun photo props.

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PR Decoded was an amazing event with countless topics covered throughout the entire day. The impressive range of topics and the caliber of speakers provided vital insights to industry professionals. The day was a reminder of what makes the profession such an exciting one driven by creativity and constant change. The event served as a time to reflect on how far the industry has come and provided a sneak peek to what lies ahead for its future. The industry has always been agile and nimble, constantly evolving to become the best at combing strategy and creativity.

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About Nellie Lopez

Nellie Lopez is Cision’s Communications Specialist. She is responsible for assisting in the management of internal and external communications efforts.