I had the privilege of spending Thursday, 28 March in Sydney at Mumbrella’s annual Communications Conference, Comms Con.
After jumping on a plane and making my way down to Sydney (a 5:40am flight – uggh), I made my way across to Martin Place and The Westin Hotel where the conference was being held. Upon my arrival, I signed in and jumped into the first keynote session, titled ‘Phoenix Rising: The Story of Klareco Communications’ Emergence from Bell Pottinger’.
In recent months, Elevate has been privy to a number of boardroom conversations with executives who want to get cut through in the media and with stakeholders. Increasingly, businesses are realising that they need to do more than promote a new appointment or advise on top tips. They need to demonstrate that they know more about the market than their competitors and this is their competitive edge. In turn, by sharing these insights, they are seen to be the authority on the subject while providing value to stakeholders and a sense of genuine competition to other industry players.
Without delving into the details of the British firm’s demise, the founders of Klareco (Klareco, Leadership, Agility, Respect, Entrepreneurship, Courage, Optimism) Communications spoke about their desire to move away from all of the negativity, and broke away from the firm - taking a major risk at the time.
Moving from the UK to Asia to launch the new brand, Klareco Communications faced an uphill battle from day one. And, they shared the story of how they worked hard to establish the brand in a market place that had been rocked.
It was a fascinating case study that detailed the importance of honesty, transparency, management, communication with clients, and being willing to take risks in order to establish a market leading communications company.
Following on from the Klareco case study, attendees were treated to a presentation by Marian Salzman, a wonderful PR practitioner, who can certainly teach us all a thing or two about Communications, and someone who arguably has one of the most divisive communications jobs in the world, working with Phillip Morris – the tobacco company. I was geared up to listen to her “Thank You For Smoking” pitch, as she promised to share the tales of how the tobacco giant has shifted gears, and is now working towards the creation of a smoke-free future.
How exactly are Phillip Morris doing this?
I’m still not 100 per cent clear on that answer, however, I do know that Marian has worked hard to ensure Phillip Morris do respond to the media, avoiding the cliched and often damaging response, “no comment” for which they (until Marian came on board a few years back) were becoming synonymous.
The hardest comment to listen to from Marian, and potentially her undoing in this spiel, was the announcement that Phillip Morris still make 80 per cent of their profits from the sale of cigarettes, and while large percentages of these profits are being used to drive a smoke free future, it’s a little confusing as to what the brand is aiming to achieve – what is the end goal? Marian outlined that Phillip Morris are working to move from bad to better and are still working to define exactly what that is.
Following the keynotes, I attended sessions with the team behind War on Waste, listened as WE Buchan executives talked about the future of Crisis Comms, heard the story of Four Pillars Gin, was treated to a first look at iSentia’s research findings from its Leadership Index, was captivated by the legal ramifications that are becoming prominent along with social media influencers, and listened as a panel debated the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future of communications.
It was a fascinating day filled with industry highlights, trends, and experience.
A few highlights I took out of the conference:
How to Create a Campaign for Change – ABC’s War on Waste:
- Target your audience and research the best ways to engage them
- Create momentum that will convert your audiences to action
- Demonstrate shock value that has never been seen before, and drive the audience to react and in turn create change
Crisis Comms is Dead: Why You Need to Take it Further:
- Embrace analytical tools and use them to measure crisis comms
- Build a crisis comms team and get prepared across the different platforms of communication (internal, digital, traditional media)
- The media might love you today, and shame you tomorrow – be wary when you step out of line
- Think beyond your crisis comms plan, and consider everything that is happening
Social Influencers – How to Protect Your Agency and Brand:
- There are risks to brand, agency and influencers – all can be liable for sharing false information
- Have a risk management plan before engaging an influencer
- Understand the true metrics of influencer reach – numbers can be faked / wrong
- Formalise the relationship – get a contract in place when engaging any influencer
- Tip – don’t place too many restrictions on an influencer in relation to their post – they have an audience and are often creative, so let them create
The Four Pillars to Freeing Yourself from PR (The title is clickbait):
- Tell the brand story – don’t push the sale of product, but make it an experience
- Focus on creating quality, not quantity
- Collaborate with likeminded brands / organisations to deliver more
- Use imagery – we are becoming an image driven society, so get high-quality, professional images and use them
- Be creative in order to grow your brand sales
- Focus on Swimming Pools not Oceans – focus on what you can impact (i.e. a swimming pool)
PR In the Age of the Robot:
- Artificial Intelligence is coming and will affect communication
- In order to leverage AI well, you have to know your client’s goals
- Today, AI is fairly rudimentary, and the development of emotional intelligence in AI is further away than we think
- AI will only report data and facts. It won’t tell the whole story, which can result in crisis – be prepared for this
While just a snapshot of what I was privileged to be involved with on the day, I know I will be doing all I can to embrace these learnings.
On the back of Mumbrella Comms Con 2019, I am more excited about the opportunities we as communication professionals have and look forward to seeing what the future has in store.