Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PRSA Midwest District defines the expanding role of public relations

Thanks to Sue MacGregor for her contributions to this blog post. -- Brant Skogrand

The scene was set July 25 in Omaha, Neb., where more than 150 public relations professionals and nearly 30 presenters spent two days at the Embassy Suites in the Old Market area for the second annual PRSA Midwest District Conference.

The conference started out with a lively presentation by Mickey Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA and managing partner of Ogilvy Public Relations in Atlanta. Mickey’s focus was “Storytelling, Media Relations and Reputation.” 

Key takeaways included that brands are personal and that storytelling is akin to “truth telling.” Mickey shared the following “four big opportunities”: focus on your reputation; create your own content; become a storyteller; and employees become advocates.

“We are not just tactical people,” said Nall. “PR is constantly building reputation equity.”

Nall said that we need to become our own media companies. He added that brands need to build direct relationships with their customers, and are doing so around their Facebook pages and other social networks. The currency of that relationship is content, according to Nall.

Today’s public demands: transparency, brevity and a voice. #prsamdc

For the rest of the morning attendees got to choose from four different breakout sessions:
  1. Wanted: Public Relations Professors, Panel Discussion
  2. The Essentials of SEO
  3. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming – Creating Media Partnerships to Stretch Marketing Dollars
  4. Creating PR Campaigns in the Mobile Age
At the lunch general session attendees learned about the importance of thought leadership from Katie Sands and Melissa Dohmen with Swanson Russell. This “Thought Leadership Case Study” positioned the president of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) as a thought leader on energy issues. Key to their success was using multi-channels to create an expert worthy digital footprint (social media, blog, speaking engagements, op-eds, interviews with high-level media and more) for their CEO. They teamed up with larger organizations for bigger coverage and their CEO took advanced media training along with refresher sessions, especially before key interviews. The lessons learned were many:
  • Know the limits of your CEO
  • Welcome new processes
  • Talk to each other
  • Know when to ask for a helping hand
  • Be an extension of the client
Following the general session, two breakout sessions offered up plenty to choose from:
  1. Web Optimization through Content Development
  2. Stand Up and Be Heard: Promoting a Product Without a Product
  3. The Convergence of Brand Building Sales
  4. Evaluating Metrics – Measuring What Really Matters for Clients
  5. Utilizing the Award Entries as a Foundation for PR Campaign Structure
  6. Measuring the Value of Relationships
  7. The Evolution of Content: Communicating With More than Words
  8. Union Pacific – Celebrating 150 Years of Building America
The first day closed with the general session focusing on Crisis and Risk Communications. Dr. Joe Trahan, APR, Trahan and Associates built on his southern roots with, When the Stuff Hits the Gumbo Pot!”

public relations
Dr. Joe Trahan, APR, Fellow PRSA, talks passionately about crisis communications.
He reminded us all to be prepared and have a crisis and risk communication strategy ready for the worst case scenario. He shared: A-C-C-C x Two (Anticipate, Coordinate, Cooperate and Communicate x Two).

“We need to shape the message – not be shaped by it,” said Trahan. “Public relations is about relationship building and we need to use everything at our disposal to communicate.”
Using his “S A P P” model the key factors include:
  • Security  – know what you can and can’t say
  • Accuracy  – only release the facts
  • Propriety – build into your plan what you can release and when
  • Policy – do not disagree with policy on camera
Crisis leadership core principles and values noted by Trahan include being first, credible, visible, accountable and treating everyone with respect. In summary, have a crisis plan, practice and update it regularly, ensure senior leader buy-in and have only one spokesperson to ensure continuity and consistency of message.

The second day began with Andy Fletcher, CEO, Bailey Lauerman in the general session, “Sharing the Spotlight: The Increasing Value of PR in Integrated Marketing.” His approach has always been an integrated one with “PESO: Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned” or PR without boundaries. By integrating the message into the marketplace you can use a single approach with various methods.

“Every brand is launched from imagination.” -Andy Fletcher of Bailey Lauerman #prsamdc

The eight choices for the last two breakout sessions that followed offered a variety of topics for conference attendees:
  1. Once Upon a Time: Storytelling vs Stories in PR
  2. Magic Tricks, Tweets and iPads
  3. Getting Out of the Spin Cycle: Using our Skills to Elevate Public Discourse
  4. The Importance of Internal Communications to Business Performance
  5. Paid, Earned and Owned Media
  6. Teaching PR: Options for Sharing Your Expertise in the College Classroom
  7. How to Communicate Your Strategy More Effectively to Employees
  8. Beyond the Conversation: Using Research to Lead Change and Create a Civility Movement
Three Fs of effective internal corporate communications: fast, facts, face-to-face #prsamdc

The conference rounded up with the luncheon keynote focusing on “The Power of Communication: Elevating Public Relations with Senior-Most Executives.” Fred Garcia shared his insights in how best to engage the C-Suite in building a competitive advantage by showing how PR can provide strategic insight and measurable results that any CEO will appreciate. The secret? We as PR professionals need to understand our organization’s/client’s purpose and how we can help support or achieve that goal. In order to be successful we need to:

- understand our stakeholders and their world views (their values, expectations and how to move them)
- focus on the goal and intent first
- meet the executives at their level and relate it to what they care about
- demonstrate our value by showing them the link between the business goal and the stakeholder goal.

Attendees at the PRSA Midwest District Conference left with new insights and effective strategies to apply on the job. The 2014 conference has big shoes to fill and from what we’ve heard, you won’t be disappointed. Stay tuned for next year!
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