Status Labs Attends PRSA Conference

9 Takeaways from #PRSAICON

This week the Status Labs’ PR team attended #PRSAICON – the 2018 International Conference of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Fittingly, the theme this year was Communications Convergence, and boy was it! Gathered together in the backyard of our headquarters in Austin, Texas, communications pros from all over the world discussed PR trends, big ideas, authenticity, live music, fake news, crisis strategies, best practices, and best tacos.

Here are our favorite takeaways from the three-day, session-packed conference.

1. ABG – Always be Googling

“Always be Googling your name,” advised Kerry O’Grady, a Professor of Public Relations at NYU who hosted a session largely focused on best practices for handling online trolls during a crisis situation involving yourself or others. O’Grady exuded strength and composure – as many college profs do – as she candidly shared how she turned an online nightmare into a teachable PR moment after being mistakenly identified as a different headline-making “Kerry O’Grady” in 2016. (#Notsecretservicekerry)

Put your name and company’s keywords into Google alerts and remember to Google yourself every now and then. This is the best way to stay both ahead of, and in tune with, your own reputation.

2. Build Trust Early and Often

“The more trusted and beloved a brand is, the harder the fall,” explained Bethany Bentley, the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at the Smithsonian, and Isabel Lara, Senior Director of Media Relations at NPR. These two communications experts have managed their institutions’ reputations during sensitive times. They explained how the media and the public hold your brand to a higher standard, so it’s imperative to restore trust during and after a crisis.

3. Be Transparent

It is our job as PR pros to be trustworthy for the media and our clients. In our digital environment and during times of crises you must be transparent and authentic with your audiences. Be upfront about what you know and what you don’t during a crisis because everything that can come out will. Customers, stakeholders, and the public have the ability to recognize half-truths, so we must advise our clients on the value of transparency and authenticity. Our own Director of PR, Lacy Jansson, and Director of Culture, Clair Rogers, spoke about this at length in their session “Crisis Courtroom: A Brand on Trial”.

4. Engage Internally

Corinne Gudovic, partner and managing director of Ketchum Home discussed various ways a company can optimize exposure. It is as simple as looking within your own network and company to reach new audiences. Utilize and leverage your internal crew to increase exposure by having employees share earned company news on their social channels. Reach out on LinkedIn or other industry connections and ask them to share a press release or an interesting article. Take note of who else within the company can help you drive the corporate story in the news. If your CEO has exhausted coverage there are likely others who want to share your brand or company’s news. Don’t be afraid to appoint others in the company to share their stories.

5. Pitch UFOs – Unique, First, Only

It’s no secret that breaking news journalists are only interested in compelling newsworthy stories. Don’t get blacklisted by a journalist because you continue to waste their time pitching dull, self-promoting pieces. Monica Teague Clark, senior manager of external media and content strategy at Whirlpool Corporation, stressed the importance of only pitching UFO stories – a story that is Unique, is First, and is the Only story like it. Newsrooms are ALWAYS excited to spot a UFO.

Stella Lowe, SVP of global communications at Dell Technologies  was the speaker at the networking luncheon and spoke on “Impactful Storytelling in a Converging World”. Stella shared her insights on the changing world of communications and how technology, combined with a purposeful, authentic, multi-media approach, enables us to reach our audiences.

6. When There is No News, Create News

It’s imperative for every PR practitioner or agency to have a system in place to produce coverage even when the client doesn’t necessarily have new news to share. In addition to tracking relevant news cycle, you should constantly look for opportunities to promote product leadership, brand leadership, employee’s expertise, and operational expertise. Find ways to tell corporate stories of your company’s people and principals during a time when the news might be slow.

7. Don’t Ignore Micro-Influencers

“The average influencer engagement rate across industry vehicles is 5.7%. As a comparison, the average engagement rate for brands on Instagram has fluctuated between 2-3% in the past year,” said Kate Finley, Founder and CEO of Belle Communication. As social platforms continue to evolve at a rapid pace, it is important to keep in mind that micro-influencers can be powerful brand advocates. Leveraging small partnerships in today’s digital age can enhance your brand-building campaign.

8. Build a Rapport to Outlast your Campaign

Finley also explained that when cultivating relationships with clients, focus on building a long-term relationship. Establishing credibility is key to securing a lasting reputation. Make yourself indispensable as a PR or communications pro by being dedicated and dependable. This will foster trust which in turn leads to more authentic content and lasting partnerships.

9. Learn From Metrics

The 4 most valuable metrics that PR professionals should utilize for a brand’s perception are, permanence, purchase probability, and economic value. Sam Ruchlewicz, director of digital strategy and data analytics of Warschawski Public Relations urged PR professionals to ask themselves, do the people who hear/see/experience the story think of your brand more favorably? How memorable is your story? Does your story inspire action? And in the end, is the story a profitable endeavor? All these metrics align with the KPI’s the C-suite commonly looks at – profit, sales, customers, credibility, perception, trust, awareness, and thought leadership. Use these metrics to evaluate best practices and strategize for future success. Don’t jumble information or solely rely on vanity metrics in order to impress a client. Be honest and utilize the data to push for progress. In other words, don’t be afraid to pivot based on metric findings, or else you will never learn or improve.

The #PRSAICON conference was extremely educational for the Status Labs’s PR team. The knowledge we gained throughout the conference can be attributed the teams’ successful effort of dividing and conquering so that we were able to attend an array of sessions. Even more, we absolutely loved being able to present our own seminar “Crisis Courtroom: A Brand On Trial” for communication pros from around the world in our beloved hometown of Austin, TX.  Looking forward to seeing everyone again at next year’s #PRSAICON in San Diego!

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