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OCTOBER 25, 2019 //     

PRovoke19 Recap: Day Two

By: Tara Chiarell

The second day of The Holmes Report’s PRovoke19 reinforced topics discussed on day one with in-depth conversations around the evolving role of communications, the importance of authenticity and the power in an ignited audience. Here are more insights from the two-day inspirational, thought-provoking conference with professionals from around the world.

Evolving Role of Communications

CCO, CMO, CRO, CIO, CTO – never before has the C-Suite been so deeply involved in the communications process and budget discussions. Part of this is because as practitioners become more integrated, so do our clients. Given the role tech plays in how we measure success, more comms departments report to CIOs and CTOs. But even more so, as we contemplate a possible recession on the horizon, CFOs and CROs now play a larger role in budget allocations.

We heard directly from a CFO (at a PR conference?!) about his concerns and how he pushes his comms and marketing teams to tie results back to business goals and show how they drive business/sales impact. They want more than awareness metrices, impressions, site click throughs; they want to see deeper ROI -- how do marketing teams drive conversion and purchase.

This is something we have struggled with as an industry. Not just because PR traditionally hasn’t been set up to have that direct sales impact, but navigating the channels inside our client organizations to get those metrics can be challenging. While there is more scrutiny than ever before on PR to justify dollars spent and resulting impact, the consensus remains it is the channel to invest; and budgets have risen as more traditional marketing activities, such as blended content, now reside in PR.

Brand Purpose + Authenticity

Authenticity was discussed again, but in relation to brand purpose. In the politically driven world we live in today, brands face immense pressure to take a stand on everything from gun violence and the travel ban to sustainability. While many CEOs and employees may feel personally passionate about an issue, it’s imperative to take a step back and really think about how this ties to our core business and our employees.

We heard from long-time IKEA CEO Lars Petersson, who ran the company through the lens of its motto “What’s good for people is good for IKEA.” This helped filter out and prioritize campaign efforts, weigh the benefits and fallout of taking risks, and remove inherent personal bias. Under his tenure, sustainability was a core focus, because Ikea uses 1% of the world’s wood and cotton in products; this was a natural tie to the business.

Lars also took a quick, strong stance against the travel ban in an employee letter because of his personal beliefs and how this would affect IKEA employees around the globe. The letter was leaked and created controversy around the brand. But in the end, he felt it was the right thing to stand up for his employees globally and for human rights.

March for Our Lives

The day ended in a powerful talk with three of the women who lead the March for Our Lives movement. They spoke about the communications strategy at inception and how it has evolved in the past 20 months.

  • Audience Platform: The students, who range in age from 14-18, understood the key to reaching your audience is to talk to them on channels where they are already active. This is an audience that grew up online and knows how to activate a base by communicating through Twitter and social media to share how they felt and knows where they can control the narrative. Social media is organic to this age group, so they used it to rally an audience that traditionally is not vocal around political issues.
  • Diversity: Self-proclaimed, the group was far from diverse at inception. But in listening to criticism, learning the history and larger issues of gun violence and who it affects, and wanting this to be more than about them, they took active steps to make the organization and effort as diverse as the issue itself. “You can’t cure one without the other.” Without evolving the effort to include voices of those who have been affected by gun violence for decades, they never would have had the impact they’ve achieved.
  • The Power of Silence: This group taught all communicators the power of staying silent as they led a moment of silence at a march in Washington, D.C. featuring 800,000 supporters – silence for as long as the rampage in Florida. All too often, we have an urge to say something, defend ourselves, our brand. But sometimes, silence says a lot more.

Tara Chiarell is the general manager of Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office.

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