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2018 ICON Recap: Live From Austin

November 2, 2018

[albert chau]
[albert chau]

On Oct. 7-9, the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, played host to an exciting discourse on the opportunities and challenges of the modern communications professional.

Flanked by the theme “Communications Convergence,” the 2018 PRSA International Conference featured presentations and professional development sessions that tackled the way tech disruption is shaking up traditional PR areas.

“It’s a bit like the Wild West out there, so it’s appropriate that we’re convening here in Austin,” said PRSA 2018 Chair Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, who presided over the opening General Session on Oct. 7 before an audience of 2,000 professional communicators and students.

The Conference featured a diverse group of keynote speakers. Kicking things off during the General Session on Oct. 7 was former Airbnb and Coca-Cola executive Jonathan Mildenhall, who spoke about purpose-driven marketing.

During the General Session on Oct. 8, economic analyst and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich discussed the importance of communicating with people you disagree with. Later that day, Stella Low, senior vice president of global communications at Dell, spoke at the Networking Luncheon about building awareness for her company’s products.

The final General Session on Oct. 9 included two keynotes — one from DoSomething.org CEO Aria Finger on marketing to Generation Zers, and one by digital marketing expert Ann Handley on modern storytelling strategies.

The Conference also featured more than 100 professional development sessions on topics such as crisis management, social media strategy and corporate communications. Cathy Hackl, APR, shared the world’s first holographic press release. And Janet Smith, senior director of brand communications for the Atlanta Hawks, discussed how her team engages fans and players before the start of the NBA season.

Because Austin is known for its food, culture and nightlife, the Conference showcased the best in local arts and entertainment. The Opening General Session began with a performance from the University of Texas Mariachi Band. At the opening Night Reception sponsored by Critical Mention, named “A Taste of Austin,” attendees dined on country-fried steak and waffles, while listening to Austin-based R&B artist Juston Hargrove and taking pictures in front of the city’s famous “I Love You So Much” mural recreated as a step-and-repeat banner.

Other networking opportunities for attendees included the Diversity and Inclusion Celebration, the Networking Hall and Exhibit Showroom, the Cocktail Reception with the Exhibitors and the Professional Interest Sections After-Hours Sweet Social. — Dean Essner

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