Sunday, June 2, 2013

Integrate To Innovate

With increasingly segmented markets, and equally diverse ways to communicate, it’s more confusing than ever for public relations professionals hoping to effectively reach their intended audiences.

Clearing up the confusion was the focus of the annual Communicator’s Conference -- sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators -- on Wednesday, May 8 in downtown Portland.

More than 300 communications professionals from business, government, nonprofits and agencies packed the Governor Hotel to hear from the pros about best practices in connecting with audiences: “Integrate to Innovate” was the theme.

As a longtime observer of the communication arts in marketing, public relations and advertising, I can say that pendulum has swung back from specialized, segmented communication efforts to more of an integrated approach in the continually developing digital age.

Keynoters included: Shel Holtz, a organizational communications consultant; Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing; and Jim Endicott, public speaking coach and consultant.

Holtz focused on “content marketing,” noting that every company must become a media company because of the decline of traditional news platforms. “We need to tell our stories” as public relations professionals, but warned that “content must be relevant and valuable because we are awash in a sea of data."

Companies and organizations must also be able to share that content and deliver what their customers want. What kind of content? Videos, podcasts, graphics and info graphics, webinars, gamification (yes, I looked it up and while it’s not in the dictionary, it appears to be a bonafide approach to problem solving) and more.

Odden, a digital wizard cited by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist and Forbes, echoed that theme: “Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost sales” and “who better to tell the stories” than communication professionals?

Endicott focused on public speaking. “The reality of our lives is that our audience will have the attention span of a five-year-old” and that most people are “very average presenters.” He said that speakers “must have a compelling story and messages that resonate." He encouraged attendees to “develop strong personal deliver skills because audience want to hear from real people.”

Breakout sessions focused on internal audiences, internal branding and integrated communications. Once again, this conference proved to be one of the best single-day opportunities to glean the latest in communications strategies and tactics in the Pacific Northwest. As a bonus, I was able to chat with a dozen former students, all gainfully employed in the field of public relations and communications.