Thursday, May 11, 2017

Walking The Talk

When it comes to communications, if you’re not leading with your values, you’re on the wrong trail, warned keynote speaker Alex Thompson, Vice-President for Brand Stewardship and Impact for Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), at the PRSA Communicator’s Conference in Portland on Monday, May 8.

“Seeking a higher purpose with a solid bottom line does not have to be an oxymoron,” said Thompson. “If you lead with your values, that’s the same thing as developing your brand. As they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, companies must connect communications strategies with their social mission and impact.

Thompson related introducing the strategy of encouraging REI customers and to “opt outside” instead of shopping on Black Friday to the company’s board of directors. The notion of closing stores on one of the biggest shopping days of the year was certainly bold if not risky, but ultimately resonated with both customers and employees.

In another keynote address, Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications (UO SOJC), noted that despite increasing use of digital media, we “can’t forget face-to-face communications. Storytelling is important, but so is engagement.”

Breakout sessions focused on strategic planning, storytelling, video production, brand strategies and crisis communications. Now in its 21st year, the one-day conference continues to provide excellent value as a professional development opportunity for busy public relations practitioners on a hectic schedule.

For me, it also another opportunity to connect with colleagues from the newly reconstituted PRSA Oregon Chapter and PRSA North Pacific District, as well many former students from my classes in the UO SOJC, all of whom appear to be gainfully employed. Good news for my current students, to be sure!