Let’s be honest, when you head to a conference in San Diego your entire office is wondering, is she going to actually attend a panel or lay in the sun all day? Fortunately, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), put together an incredible line up of nearly 200 speakers, 100 breakout sessions, and three days of unlimited networking opportunities that left me forgetting about the poolside palm trees.

The 2019 PRSA International Conference marked my fourth time attending, yet this year I left more inspired than ever before—and it wasn’t just because I heard keynote speeches from Bob Woodward, Laura Ling, Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Richard Dreyfuss. The combination of exceptional presenters and innovative panel topics gave me a wealth of ideas to bring back to #agencylife.

While I wish I could download all of the insights I returned home with, Well Done Marketing’s marketing team has told me that would be an unreasonably long blog post. So instead of sharing everything, here are three of my biggest takeaways from #PRSAICON.

Ethics matter—and not just for companies.

The United States is in an interesting chapter, and if the climate of media relations is reflective of politics, one thing’s for certain: ethics matter. Most companies have a code of ethics they hold their employees too, but for public relations professionals, it’s essential to have your own personal code of ethics as well. But while PRSA has an industry code of ethics, most PR pros don’t have a personal code. When asked to explain where they draw ethical boundaries, most PR pros are unsure how to respond.

If you haven’t fully baked out your personal code of ethics, no need to panic! PR pros can look to current headlines to start defining what they consider appropriate and what they consider in violation of their values. But it is important. PR pros are responsible for holding themselves to their code of ethics throughout their entire careers.

Balance qualitative AND quantitative research.

Half of the PR pros reading this just closed the browser. The public relations field holds a grudge against numbers, but after #PRSAICON I’m even more convinced that data is an essential part of our practice. I had the pleasure of sitting in on Numbers Talk!, which included Col. Ann Knabe, Ph.D., APR+M, Staci Reidinger, APR+M, and Nicole Schwegman, APR+M. To kick off their presentation, the panelists pulled the audience to see who had pitched a story using quantitative research in the last months, month, and/or week. I was one of the few who’s hand was still up at the end.

At Well Done Marketing, we’re constantly encouraging our clients to tie their news to data points—either locally or on a national scale. From there, we’re able to help quantify the impact of what they’re doing to address workplace issues, community challenges, and industry trends. It’s a great way to localize national headlines and further establish our clients as subject-matter experts as well as to pitch stories with trustworthy data. As the PR industry looks ahead, data and facts will continue to play a critical role in media relations. But you don’t need to be a research analyst to get started integrating data in your pitches. Here are a few ideas:

  • Include Googling in your arsenal to identify quick, dirty facts.
  • Reference historical data to get a feel for the coverage you got, not just the tactics employed.
  • Phone a friend and pick their brain. Figure out what worked well, but most importantly, what didn’t work, and use their experience to work smarter.

Combat crises with social.

Social media was a resounding theme during #PRSAICON, but not in the way you might initially think. As PR pros, we already understand the importance of a social media strategy and what that can do to elevate or damage brands. At #PRSAICON, a great deal of the conversation focused on how to use social media ethically and in real time when crises arise.

One of the keynote panel presentations included top communication staffers from the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army and Pentagon. Going into this panel I was well-aware of the total number of my hours that go into social media management, but I failed to consider how social media has changed the role of our top military professionals.

We’re in an Information Age, but with information inevitably comes misinformation, and this panel provided key tools to protecting your clients and their truths:

  1. Leadership has to set your main priorities.
  2. Determine your clear and concise talking points.
  3. Don’t just play defense. Block and tackle.

It sounds simple but hearing Captain Brook DeWalt of the U.S. Navy put it into perspective. Captain DeWalk shared an example of a time when the Taliban was spreading negative and inaccurate propaganda across the digital platform. Working with his team, he took to Twitter to combat and eventually get the sites shut down by simply sharing a unified message of truth filled with proof points.

As PR pros, we know that clients panic when their reputation is on the line. But it’s our job to help educate our clients about the role of social media and the power social media can provide when stakeholders are informed and mobilized in the same direction.

The 2019 #PRSAICON was a wonderful conference. Though these three takeaways were most impactful for me, there were many other topics discussed and insights shared. If you’re interested in learning more about the conference or discussing your current PR challenges, let’s grab a cup of coffee! Email me, today.