Capitol Communicator’s PR Summit DC was held on July 19th at the Nation Press Club. It was an impressive event with about 200 industry professionals in attendance. I was fortunate to be there, and I heard from some of the region’s top brands, associations, agencies and news organizations, including Lockheed Martin, Nestle, WGL, McDonald’s, American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries, Webber Shandwick, Levick, Social Driver, Yes&, Ogilvy, and many others.
The event is described as “the region’s premier full-day event addressing the disruptive convergence of communications, technology and media. The summit is for public relations, public affairs, communications and media executives focusing on emerging trends and the technologies that are creating a major shift in how organizations manage, report and distribute information.”
Topics for this year’s event included the proliferation of fake news, digital PR, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and how a 70-year-old agency “re-founds” itself. Here are a few highlights from the day’s sessions:
Fighting False News: How Leading Non-profits Combat Digital Misinformation
At its heart, fake news is a consumer trust issue. Consumers don’t know who to trust anymore, when political leaders discredit the press and even our own friends and family members unwittingly spread rumours someone shared on Facebook that looked like truth. The issue is further complicated from a PR perspective by the fact that there are really three different flavours of falsehood potentially at play: There’s fake news, misinformation and disinformation, and it’s important to know the difference. Fake news, ideally, can be dismissed – or it can be an excuse for not believing unappealing facts. Misinformation, on the other hand, can be chalked up to opinion bias. Disinformation, however, is the intentional spread of deceptive information. In the world of public relations, disinformation is a serious offense.
To combat false news, PR practitioners need to create content that heads off misleading myths and send messaging and talking points to local organization branches and other stakeholders. It will also be beneficial to develop and influence brand champions who can help give the truth “legs.” These third-party validators, who are not on an organization’s payroll ideally, will help build trust in the community.
The Purpose Imperative: From CSR to Social Leadership
Weber Shandwick spoke with brands and associations in the region about CEO activism. It was a timely topic since 2017 was the pivotal year for brands to begin choosing sides. Between the Paris Climate Accord and NFL players taking the knee during the National Anthem, it was hard to avoid for many companies – especially those based in DC. The city, by virtue of being the nation’s capital and home to US politics, now finds its agency leaders supporting major consumer brands who want to join the conversations swirling around the nation.
How do brands decide which conversations to jump into, though? Is the issue going to connect with both the brand and the consumer? As with everything else in marketing and PR, it has to be authentic.
Moving to the Digital PR Mindset for the Mid- and Senior Manager
Digital PR is relatively new, and mid-level and senior executives generally began their careers before it even existed. This session was intended to help those who’ve been in the industry for decades catch up, and offered some practical advice. Among the tips offered:
- Fine-tune messaging to the channel. Each social network demands a different tone based on its environment: Facebook is a gathering or reunion of friends and family, LinkedIn is a tradeshow. Twitter is a newsroom. Instagram is an art show, and YouTube is a movie theater. Develop your messages and adjust your tone accordingly.
- Social media is invaluable for rapid response. What are the bites you can get out quickly to be a part of the breaking story? Are there quotes or single, crystallized sentences you can disseminate quickly via social media? Relevancy matters in the DC brand business, and timeliness matters everywhere today.
Re-Founding an Agency: Ogilvy’s Next Chapter
Ogilvy is iconic. From David Ogilvy’s famous “Ogilvy on Advertising” (read by literally everyone in the advertising and marketing profession) to the agency’s creation of some of the industry’s most memorable ads, it’s one of the best-known names in advertising worldwide. So, when the agency decided to rebrand and “re-found” itself as a company that “Makes Brands Matter,” it was an enormous undertaking – but a necessary one.
According to the agency, servicing a client in our converging world means a collapse of agency silos and a deliberate consolidation within the agency to better serve clients. If employees needed an internal map to determine how to accomplish tasks, than clients would certainly be lost on where they could get the best service and advice.
Agency staff admit the re-founding process was painful! However, they realize that they need to be nimbler to better service clients. Clients are no longer looking for agencies of record; they are looking for solutions to specific business needs.
Overall, the event was educational and insightful, offering great, practical advice and inspiration to PR professionals from all areas of the industry. It was a great event to attend as we begin to work with Washington, DC – based agencies, brands, political and advocacy campaigns help reach their key constituents and consumers in a highly relevant way.