There was more than one side of PR on display at Future Comms 15 yesterday as a fractious morning gave way to positivity for both the present and future of the industry.
After taking our seats in the (very comfortable) auditorium at the Crystal in London’s Docklands the atmosphere turned decidedly frosty partway through keynote speaker Robert Rose’s presentation.
Rose, a self-confessed marketing man, dropped in a line about how PR was not in the business of telling the truth – but rather what ought to be the truth. Cue some rather angry tweets (check out the hashtag #FC15) and a debate about the meaning of ‘truth’ and PR which spilled in over in to almost all the morning’s presentations.
It seemed to spark paranoia about how the profession feels about itself and is viewed by others. Many of the tweeting commentators found it hard to believe that we were still having this discussion – that it felt more like it belonged on an agenda from 20 years ago rather than one about the future of communications.
The only real reference to the future of comms by mid-morning was that content is the future. Again, not exactly news – PR has been providing the content for years.
Fortunately the morning session finished with a remarkable presentation that really showed the value of our business.
Chris Webb was the Head of News for the Metropolitan Police for more than a decade and he ran us through a case study of how he and his team handled communications during the 7/7 bombings in London.
Webb made clear the tremendous challenge of dealing with a situation that changed so rapidly witnesses were speaking to the press while the police still thought that they were dealing with a power surge (the official TfL line at the time).
Despite how well Webb and his team performed on the day, working with other organisations and the media to help everyone achieve their goals and protect the public, he is concerned at how the rise of social media since 2005 would make the job virtually impossible today.
This led Webb to provide some tips for dealing with crisis comms including how social media’s rapidly changing nature means that any strategy that is not reviewed at least every six months is not fit for purpose.
Webb was the last speaker before lunch and helped everyone leave the room having been reminded of the great and important work comms professionals can deliver.
After lunch there was a terrific case study by Zoe Clapp of UKTV which showed how knowing your audience and valuing research enables you to go that extra mile and see your coverage deliver in ways that are hard to imagine. #Chocobatch (a six foot reproduction Benedict Cumberbatch) is not an image to be forgotten quickly…
CIPR President Sarah Pinch hosted a panel on the subject of PESO (Paid Earned Shared Owned) which looked at PR’s relationship with paid content – something that the panel agreed needs to be built in to any strategy from the off.
The panel, which included Stella Bayles, a volunteer from the audience, felt that paid for content is not an excuse for producing ‘crap’ (this was a surprisingly sweary conference) but the chance to boost what you have produced. Former Guardian Technology Editor Charles Arthur said: “So much relies on virality these days and people wonder why they flop.”
The day was rounded off with a few laughs in the form of social media #fails from comedian David Schneider and a summing up from Wadds who felt that the day had shown PR needs to sell itself more assertively.
As you would expect from such a switched on audience there was plenty of tweeting going on and blogs published and in that spirit feel free to leave your comments below about what you thought of #FC15 and what you took from the day.