Public Relations Tactics

Conference Recap: Global PR Summit New York

August 4, 2017

Laure Day [global pr summit]
Laure Day [global pr summit]

Provide value. Manage expectations. Always keep learning. Scan the horizon for what’s next. Have empathy. Know your audience. Think before you write.

These were just a few of the key takeaways for communicators who attended the Global PR Summit, presented by P World, at Condé Nast’s New York City offices on June 8. What follows are highlights from two of the event’s keynote addresses.

 

Strategy at the speed of light

“Our job is not just to cover the news — we try to predict the news,” said Lauren Day, vice president, head of global communications strategy and operations at Prudential Financial. You all consume the news but it also probably consumes you, she said, adding that we’re oversaturated with information.

“The world is changing, but it’s not progressing. It’s our job, as communicators, to make sense of the chaos, help leaders and step up,” she said.

Change and progress are not the same. Many people experience change, but few are progressing. Day also noted that the world doesn’t just need our tactics, but also our judgment and strategic perspective as PR pros, while reminding the audience that an observation does not necessarily indicate an insight.

Communicators have a unique view, which makes us like a “human algorithm,” she said. Here’s what “we bring to the table” for our organizations at large and why our role is unparalleled and necessary:

  • An outside-in view, making information relevant to everyone
  • A portfolio view that allows us to see laterally across the organization
  • A real-time view, monitoring news and responding with speed and accuracy
  • A consequential view and ability to understand short- and long-term decisions

Asserting these views and constantly adopting new technology is paramount for communications pros, she said. But the PR profession has a problem: We spend too much time trying to prove our value instead of providing value.

“A PR strategist sees problems before they happen and anticipates them,” Day said. “We need to redefine the PR function to align with strategic insights.”

To do this, we must create a culture of learning, which starts with properly onboarding employees. In order for them to grow, you have to get out of your comfort zone (and physical environment) and share what you know with them.

“The path to learning and to collaboration is the same. Insights and analytics drive strategic work. You must always be learning and sharing,” Day said. “For communicators to become strategists, think about what your vision is on a credibility curve between trust and execution.”

The art of apology and forgiveness

A brand is a promise that you make to all stakeholders and a reputation is what they say about you when you’re not in the room, said Mary Jo Jacobi, U.S. presidential adviser, corporate director and strategist.

Can you have a strong brand (how you make others feel) with a bad reputation (what they truly believe about the brand)? Or vice versa?
“You must deliver more than people expect,” said Jacobi, who formerly served as communications chief at BP America, Lehman Brothers and Royal Dutch Shell. “Reputation equals experience, minus expectations.”

As communicators, we’re actually in the experience business, she said. “The key is making sure that the experience you deliver is better than the expectations at the outset. You must manage these.”

To do this, disseminate clear, consistent and simple messages to everyone. If your audience isn’t getting the message, then you’re not communicating well. “We need to always be horizon-scanning and thinking about what’s next,” she said. “One unguarded remark can ruin everything.”

Jacobi suggests taking time to process what you’re trying to say and always thinking about your material before you submit or post it.
“Write it, read it and put it to the side. Then, read it again before sending,” she advised. “Think before you write.” 

People will forget what you say, but will remember how you make them feel, she said. When you do something wrong or when a crisis hits that is related to your company or industry, “show remorse that you are sorry, and do so with feeling and with empathy,” as authenticity and compassion are two important qualities of a strong communicator.

“The communications chief needs to be brave and apologize on behalf of the company sometimes,” she said. Empathy and a sincere “sorry” can make a bad situation better, especially when the sentiment is heartfelt.

“Events don’t happen in a vacuum. What is going on around us is important too,” Jacobi cautioned. “A little empathy goes a long way. Feel their pain; be sorry you caused it.”

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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