Article by Justine D’Addio
In a serendipitous coin toss between colleagues, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2019 PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference in Tampa where top communications professionals gathered to dissect the latest industry news through keynotes and professional development seminars.
Throughout the event’s two days, I took copious notes – eager to elevate my PR game and report back to my colleagues. As expected, most discoveries were hyper-specific to PR professionals while others translated beyond merely the communications world and resonated more as life tips. Read on whether you’re a seasoned PR pro, business professional or simply looking to upgrade your communication with others.
THINK HUMAN FIRST
It sounds simple. Before you speak, act, post on social media, etc. try remembering that the receiving end is an actual human. Typically, we experience a communication barrier when interacting with others via text messaging, emails and social media. We have invented every possible new way to avoid personalized interaction and, frankly, have become pretty rude in the process.
“Being present and aware of the humanity in all of our decisions would change the entire way we do business.”– Sarah Evans
In her “Status Update: PR in 2019 and Beyond” keynote presentation, Sarah Evans (founder and CEO of Sevans Strategy) stressed the importance of human relations. Sarah went on to demonstrate that, “Being present and aware of the humanity in all of our decisions would change the entire way we do business.”
STOP TELLING PEOPLE HOW GREAT YOU ARE
In the “Where Purpose Meets Profit” panel, I was eager to learn more about nonprofit strategy since I have a couple on my client roster. Among learning about the biggest nonprofit challenges, facilitating partnerships, and donor motivation, my biggest branding takeaway was to minimize the “Look at me!” attitude and focus on elevating others instead.
“Minimize the ‘Look at me!’ attitude and focus on elevating others instead.”
Doesn’t that make sense though? The simplest way to spark a conversation with someone is asking them about themselves. By listening more, we can discover shared missions and forge meaningful partnerships. Focusing on authentic vs. transactional relationships are proven more successful in the long term.
GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE
In one of my favorite sessions, Stride Media Group founders Danielle Bayard Jackson and Josh Talkington explored how the lack of diversity in PR and the newsroom contributes to biased, and therefore, inaccurate news reporting. As PR pros, we’re contributing to that bias if we fail to consider varying perspectives and the communities who are viewing our stories.
“If you tend to associate with a homogenous group of people, chances are you’re having cyclical and biased conversations.”
Similarly, it’s difficult to have a layered conversation with someone if you aren’t equipped with the knowledge to relate to their age, race or socioeconomic background. If you tend to associate with a homogenous group of people, chances are you’re having cyclical and biased conversations.
CREATE A MEMORABLE MOMENT
The most interactive workshop I attended was “A Speechwriter’s Secrets to Inspiring Audiences”. We were given random objects as groups and allotted a few minutes to create a pitch that would sell it. The groups who were most successful kept it simple, concise and usually inflected humor.
“Go the extra mile to connect and the reaction will be worth it.”
At one point, we were shown a 1962 clip of former President John F. Kennedy addressing a crowd at Rice University, a nationally televised event that would announce America’s moon landing efforts. “Why go to the moon?” he asked. “Why does Rice play Texas?” The hyper-personalized analogy got a cheerful response from the audience and created an unforgettable moment. Go the extra mile to connect and the reaction will be worth it.
YOU’RE ALLOWED TO SET BOUNDARIES
As an introvert working in a front-facing industry requiring a ton of client contact, media interaction, influencer events, etc., Morra Aarons-Mele’s closing keynote “How to Be Great at Networking (Even if You’d Rather Hide in the Bathroom) really spoke to me. She explained to a packed room full of professional communicators that saying “No” to networking opportunities and pitching less might actually serve us and our clients better.
“…saying ‘No’ to networking opportunities and pitching less might actually serve us and our clients better.”
Ambitious introverts are experts at setting limits and managing their time, not only to save their own sanity but to streamline their efficiency. It turns out disconnecting can be just as important.