After 2 days at the Top Communications Conference in Davos it is clear that the Public Relations industry is willing to take itself (more) seriously.
With a hundred delegates from countries as far as India, Japan, Russia, Malaysia and the Middle East the conference was again a success in the way that it gave a great overview of how senior PR professionals see their function and industry evolve.
Some take aways which I have highlighted in my notes:
- We're ready for the C-level function.
Although most delegates admit that we need better education and more management skills, most agreed that Public Relations needs to have a place on the board in any kind of organisation.
Being responsible for "ongoing relations with all constituents that can influence an organisation" gives us the legitimacy to influence top decisions.
We had some great examples where this is the case already. I very much appreciated the speech of Roma Balwani who was on my panel about the role of the Chief Communications Manager.
Roma is the Senior VP and Head of Corporate Communications at the Mahindra Group in India, one of the biggest organisation in the country and beyond.
She explained how her role evolved and how she's currently managing the global brand an reputation of the company. Support from the CEO, adding value to the vision and values of the organisation and being focused on return on investment where some of her key aspects with regards to her role.
- We are ready to own internal and employee communications.
This was a very interesting debate where Paul Holmes, Founder and CEO of "The Holmes Report" and Nettie Buitelaar, CEO of Leiden Bio Science Park shared their views on the question who should "own" internal and employee communications.
Again here, while there were some nuances in the discussion, most of us present agreed that we can not have good external communications without fantastic, open and honest internal communications.
Employees will and are talking about the company they work for and by definition influence the image of the organisation. Therefore there should be no discrepancy between internal and external.
While some advocate the principle "all employees are doing PR" - there was a consensus on the need for a context in which this could happen. Overall, transparency and trust towards employees were mentioned as the key ingredients for strong overall PR.
- We're still struggling with social media integration.
Maybe I am biased but I had the feeling that social media was again presented as "another channel" where clicks & likes played a too important role.
On two occasions I had the uneasy feeling that the Egyptian revolution was being hijacked by companies to create social media campaigns. One example was the Vodafone "Power to You" campaign.
Still on social media I was amazed to find out that reporters are still struggling with the intake of online sources and that FP7 projects from the EU are being set up to create "online monitoring and analysis tools" like Sync3.
As for my own part in the conference:
I promoted the Emergency 2.0 Wiki - a volunteer engagement with many others across the globe to create an open and free platform where all information is gathered on the topic of the use of social media for emergency management.
You are very much welcome to join our effort online. Below my presentation.
There were many other topics discussed as you can imagine.
I can not cover them all here but let me say I was amazed at the professionalism of all PR colleagues present and the will to engage in life changing and transparent communications for a better world.
It was great to meet up with like-minded colleagues from across the globe and am looking forward to next year.