By Breanne Krager
“Our industry is truly about being connectors.”
This is the statement that kicked off the 2018 PRSA Western District Conference in Denver by the conference’s first keynote speaker, Shonali Burke, president and CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting.
Even though I had to constantly remind myself to close my mouth as it was agape in awe during this woman’s presentation, I was able to absorb most of what she was saying. The overarching theme to her presentation wasn’t about her successes or best pitching strategies, but rather about what, in her words, is the most effective marketing tool: community.
Whether it was intended or not—and I don’t think it was—this theme of community was present in every keynote speaker’s presentation. It was also a common thread throughout the majority of the breakout sessions. It was even there at the afternoon yoga session we did as a group—the instructor was very keen on us breathing and stretching together as a community!
Importance of Community in Public Relations
Here’s some takeaways from the conference’s other speakers/presenters on the importance of community.
Aaron Norris, vice president at The Norris Group
Aaron’s first breakout session was about “Navigating the New Media Relations Landscape,” in which he talked about how the news has changed over time and what we can do as media relations experts to navigate and capitalize on these changes.
One of the biggest takeaways from this session was that local news consistently garners more viewers on average than national network news programs. What does this mean? People are more interested in what is happening within their communities and how it will affect them and their families. How do we use this information? We have to focus on and actively engage with our local audience.
Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
Peter is a well-known entrepreneur, corporate keynote speaker and author—we were actually given his latest book, Faster Than Normal. Thanks, Peter! In addition to his encouragement to simply “suck slightly less,” his presentation focused on the importance of getting out in your community—or wherever you are—and talking with people.
In order for anyone to be successful in our careers, we have to remember that “no one has the right to an audience.” We find and engage with our audience by asking, “how can we help you?” When it comes to public relations specifically, it’s our job to find out how our audience gets their news. How do we do that? Ask!
Chad Melis, marketing director for Oskar Blues Brewery
Oskar Blues Brewing, established in Colorado, was the first brew-pub to begin canning their craft beers. Not only did they begin the craft-beer-in-a-can craze, but they have grown to add breweries in Brevard, North Carolina as well as in Austin, Texas. They are also one of the four breweries who make up CANarchy, a collective group of breweries whose goal is to be the #1 provider of American craft beer.
How did they become so successful? Apart from benefiting from some stellar PR, Chad emphasizes the fact that Oskar Blues makes decisions based on the company’s core culture. They strive to create products that the community can gather around and spaces where everyone can come together.
Cary Pfeffer, senior consultant and CommCore
Cary leverages the nearly three decades of experience in journalism and public speaking to provide counsel to CommCore clients on media communication and presentation delivery. He is also an expert with it comes to crisis communications, which was the focus of his presentation.
His first tip for preparing against a communications crisis is to build your company’s credibility from day one. How do you do this? By proving to your audience that you have their best intentions at the forefront. If a crisis were then to ever occur, the credibility your company has built within your community will help you to save face in the long run.
Y’Anad Burrell, strategic communications & fundraising consultant at Glass House Communications
Y’Anad Burrell and Pauline Rivera, owner of La Voz Publishing Co., delivered our morning keynote presentation on the last day. The topic: diversity and inclusion. If ever there were two words that belong in the definition of community, I would say it would be these two.
I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up this post than with a quote from Y’Anad that made all of us at the conference stop and ask her to repeat it.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance at the party. Equality is knowing the songs at the party.”
As PR professionals, our goal, first and foremost, should be to facilitate this dance between our clients and the community. Let’s not forget where #PRmatters the most.