Five things I learned at #PR360 - and why I’ll be going back
Updated: May 16, 2019
#1: The first toothbrush I ever used is still (not) biodegrading somewhere in Lincs where I lived as a baby. This was just one of the horrific environmental realities presented to us by Hil Berg in her compelling, impassioned presentation. She took us through why Iceland created the iconic Rang Tan video to raise awareness of the devastating deforestation caused by palm oil production. Her presentation gave insights into managing a situation which went global fast with no let up - and some changes she might have made to the strategy with more planning time. It also showed Iceland to be a family business which truly cares about staff, customers and the planet rather than just paying lip service (or greenwashing). We should all avoid palm oil, although it's in pretty much everything we consume, it seems. For now.
#2: Procurement as part of agency selection is not going anywhere, particularly in global RFPs where consistency is key - but the agency world is becoming increasingly resistant to the traditional beauty parade. WE's Ruth Allchurch chaired a panel of agency and in-house leaders who agreed that establishing relationships in advance of any meetings is key to accurately interpret the real brief on the table and deliver a winning response. Scorecards aside, we all know that the decision comes from the heart not the head even if we have to tick some boxes to satisfy the left brains in the room. If we can’t “Ditch the Pitch”, we can certainly save PPTs to send later - the trump card is getting people who have built a rapport in advance to have a meaningful conversation during the meeting. We’ve won some of our longest-standing clients that way (looking at you, Zipcar - 6 years and counting).
#3: Influencers are getting increasingly aggrieved about the scrutiny they are under vs. ‘celebrity’ brand ambassadors who are not required to disclose commercial partnerships in quite the same way as bloggers / vloggers. During a panel discussion looking at the impact Fyre Festival has had on the credibility of influencer marketing, influencer Alfie Deyes (owner of the PointlessBlog with 5.5m subscribers ) spoke passionately about how Serena Williams can flash the latest trainers under her dress to be pictured worldwide and yet she is not subject to the same regulation. He and his peers are under constant investigation and yet it is very rarely found that an influencer has acted inappropriately. This should give confidence to brands that they can find ethical partners - and also calls into question whether the standards bodies have their eyes in the right places.
#4: PR cannot ‘do it all’. In one of the first sessions of Day One, 3 Monkeys | Zeno’s Sarah Ogden chaired a lively discussion where panellists considered PR’s place in the mix and the impact trying to ‘do it all’ can have on mental health. While PR pros often consider PR to be higher up the ‘chain’ than marketing, encompassing reputation as well as sales, the consensus was that we need to focus on storytelling and which specific channel is appropriate to tell the story that our employer or client wants us to tell. That might be to help promote a product or to protect a reputation. Whatever the story, it needs to relate to the corporate or organisational vision. If we try to ‘do it all’ we risk presenting a fragmented picture which no-one will believe. Also, we’ll be very stressed. When this does happen because we’ve taken on too much - gin helps (according to Thomas Cook’s David Child, with whom I agree wholeheartedly).
#5: Poor mental health is a big problem in our industry and particularly in the agency sector. Frank’s Graham Goodkind pointed out that responsibility for helping staff avoid stress lies at least partly with clients. Agencies can provide a great work environment and have all the proper policies in place, but a demanding or bullying client can lay this to waste. As a team we decided to ditch a nasty bully only last year, despite the big bucks they were dangling. There are many more clients out there - but a fabulous colleague is irreplaceable. I’d also say that where a client’s location or a project timeframe makes long working days unavoidable, an agency or employer can proactively address this by allowing time off in lieu and forcing staff to take it. Long hours = eventual burn out. Mental health in the workplace is about listening and acting fast to support. Last night, the Women in PR committee I sit on organised a special event to look at how to tackle mental health in the industry as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. If you missed that, please do take time to complete this Opinium/PRCA survey supported by Women in PR and PRWeek so we can understand and better deal with this pervasive problem.
This is the first time Danny Rogers, John Harrington and the rest of the PRWeek team have hosted a two day conference like this. Brighton was a good location - a very refreshing change from London. George and I found it a great source of interesting, provocative content and food for thought. We also got to spend time with some of our favourite people and catch up with some old friends. It will be a firm fixture in the PRN calendar.
@prnetwork @nickyregazzoni @georgeblizzard @ruthallchurch @davidchild @HilBergHBC