When 40 public relations consultants get together, there’s bound to be some magic sparks. This year’s 11th Annual PRConsultants Group Conference in Orlando, Florida, was a great example of long-time peers collaborating on the latest in strategy, technology, valuation, community service, and creativity in the field of PR. Created this year by a fabulous duo, Susan Hamburg and Brendy Barr, along with their committee, here are some highlights of the Orlando Conference:
- Situated at the newly renovated B Resort in Lake Buena Vista, the group was treated to fabulous hospitality in recently remodeled rooms.
- The group’s annual “Tech Tools” session by PRCG members Toni Antonetti (also outgoing PRCG President) and Julie Dennehy announced a new Pinterest Board featuring the latest in tech tools . Many free and low-cost technology gems are posted there. Incoming PRCG President Bob Schiers, who was able to spout off the meaning of “url” (do you know?), won Social Media Engagement for Dummies; and member Heidi Langer shared another great book resource, Release Your Inner Nerd by Beth Ziesenis. I bought both before the conference ended, and they’re loaded with great tech tips.
The agenda was packed with high-profile speakers, who had way more creative ideas than I could list in just one blog post, but here are some of my favorites, including some really great quotes that illustrate each topic and really drive home the power of PR…
- Dollar General Sr. Director Corporate Communications, Dan MacDonald, presented “The Little PR Engine that Could.” He talked about PR as earned media; their brand’s laser focus on value and serving others; and about how highly valuable traditional tactics can be in PR including phone calls and relationships. MacDonald also talked about how social media marketing (i.e., Twitter parties) can catapult a brand in terms of quick, massive reach. An excellent point he made was that social media channels are also customer service/response channels.
- Cabot SVP of Marketing Roberta MacDonald said that “PR is a really good story.” Owned by dairy farmers, Cabot Creamery is a cooperative, and MacDonald talked about several PR “wins” including setting a Guinness World Record for the largest mac ‘n cheese; taking “true local celebrities” on a cruise; and more. My favorite quote from MacDonald: “If you’re measuring just on impressions, you’re missing it. It’s the depth of the heartbeat.”
- Co-Founder of B Corp Jay Coen Gilbert clarified, “Business exists to serve the community; community doesn’t exist to serve the business.” He shared the secret behind authenticity: “PR pros have a choice about what story to tell and how to tell it. And, 70% of customers care about the company behind the product.”
- Social Media Specialist, Communication & Outreach for Southwest Airlines, Adam Rucker started with a quote from Herb Kelleher, Chairman Emeritus Southwest Airlines: “The business of business is people.” With a Facebook fan following of 4 million plus, let’s just say Southwest is very much IN the social landscape. Rucker shared some great anecdotes that made social media headlines on their channels and that anyone could “luv.” For example, on National Dress up your Pet day, someone actually dressed their bulldog as a Southwest airplane. They fly kids for Make-a-Wish to wishes; one time, the passengers raised $500 to help the child buy souvenirs on the trip. He also shared some examples of how social media/Facebook posts during a crisis have quickly created a sense of calm and even made it to TV demonstrating a quick and responsible response.
- Social Media Managing Editor, Disney Parks Gary Buchanan presented “Innovation & Innovention (& a dash of Pixie Dust) #GetCre8ive.” He started with Jean-Luc Godard’s quote, “It’s not where you take things from. It’s where you take them to.” And a Disney quote, “If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.” He shared a recent example of leveraging the news during NY Fashion Week where they had a red carpet preview of their new parade costumes and lots of magical anecdotes including eating a “kitchen sink” ice cream concoction and being an apprentice to the “move and dance and shake.” Could you eat an entire “kitchen sink”?
And that recaps our first full day together.
That night, the group had a private tour of Disney’s Animal Safari, which ended with a thunderstorm and running through puddles to dinner. But hey, PR people know how to make lemonade out of lemons, right?
Day Two kicked off with more great sessions…
- First, Dunkin’ Donuts Chief Communications Officer Karen Raskopf, whose early days at 7-Eleven were the catalyst for the founding of PRConsultants Group. Raskopf presented Dunkin’s blend of traditional and new media and how seasons and holidays drive creativity.
- And then we took off with “3.2.1 Launch! Branding Space” with Andrea Farmer from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Farmer shared stories of media success inviting reporters to share milestones and some of the process behind the historical events.
Thanks also to our sponsors Jungle Buzz and Cabot Creamery, it was a great conference, full of lots of creative brainpower. Plus, meeting live, the group of market-exclusive PR professionals is able to network and share business thoughts for the year ahead.
Author Bio: Amy Kossoff Smith, who served on the 2014 Conference Committee, is President of Write Ideas, Inc., and Founder/Editor of PRCG Powerlines, is an award-winning publicist with 20+ years’ experience in retail PR & promotions. She also publishes an online parenting magazine, The MomTini Lounge. Featured on The Today Show and all local TV networks, she also publishes a national wire column.