Ideas & inspiration from ICON in Indy

By Mike Boehmer, APR

Wow! What an experience. The 2016 PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis served up an endless flow of interesting breakout sessions, thought-provoking keynote talks, and opportunities for connecting with public relations professionals from around the country.

Mike Boehmer, APR, Chris Kemper, APR, and Jonathan Kissell, APR -- all Cincinnati PRSA members at the International Conference.

Mike Boehmer, APR, Chris Kemper, APR, and Jonathan Kissell, APR -- all Cincinnati PRSA members at the International Conference.

I’ve been mulling over the almost overwhelming abundance of information presented at the conference. Here are some thoughts that bubble up:

  • Don’t get too distracted from the fundamentals. The basics we learned in college and at the outset of our careers still ring true. We’re here to help build mutually beneficial relationships. We need to provide value to key audiences. We need to help them solve problems. We need to listen carefully to their needs and plan accordingly. They will reward us with loyalty, referrals and/or repeat business.
  • We can make great strides by identifying the key influencers in various communities and working with them.
  • Enlightened leadership counts on our counsel, especially when it comes to reputation management. One stupid employee action can sink a company, but organizations can build great credibility by handling crisis situations properly.
  • Tie your communication goals to business goals. Your communication dashboard should reflect how you are helping achieve these overarching goals.
  • Don’t stereotype, especially when it comes to millennials. Not everything is generational.
  • Pay for play is growing and will continue to do so. Earned media and media relations remain vital, but paid content continues to play a larger part in our world.
  • New technology, demand for content, an explosion of communication channels, and rising need for reputation management are fueling a time of growth in our field.

To the last point, Fred Cook, CEO at Chicago-based agency Golin and a faculty at member at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, offered findings from a recent survey of 1,000 industry leaders.

The survey points to time of growth in next five years: $14.4 billion to $19.3 billion. Agencies expect their head counts to grow 26 percent, and in-house 11 percent.

Cook said that PR needs to tap creativity and courage to grab its share from marketing and advertising. But we’re in a bit of an identity crisis. In this time of convergence and rapid change, only 27 percent believe the name “PR” even describes what we do. (By the way, more than one person mentioned during the conference that we need to collaborate and partner with marketing and advertising, and not see this as adversarial.)

According to the survey, the most important skills in next five years: writing (89 percent), strategic planning, verbal, content, social media, media relations, business literacy, analytics (62 percent). How to instill these skills? Hiring or retraining.

Most important traits: teamwork (90 percent), problem solving, critical thinking, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, hard work (79 percent).

Cook said the survey points to more complex, strategic, challenging and important work ahead for us.

Whew! I’m sure glad we have PRSA to help us along the way with great educational and networking opportunities like the annual conference.

Mike Boehmer, APR, is the Media Manager for Mercy Health.