Earlier this month, we sent Ashton Brown and Shelby Solberg down I-35 to Austin, TX for PRSA’s annual International Conference. They networked, heard some fantastic keynote presentations and dialogued with other communications pros about the latest happenings in our industry.

Over the course of the three-day event, they identified three major motifs that seemed to string together every session and conversation:

Brands are taking a stand against social injustices, and consumers are noticing.

Did you know that 79 percent of Americans expect brands to take a stance against social injustice in 2018? What’s more, 87 percent will buy based on brand values. In our current political and media landscape, opinions regarding societal issues are no longer expressed on an individual’s voter ballot. More than ever, people are looking to top brands as another voice in the fight against social issues, and industry giants, from Nike to McDonald’s, are listening and taking action.

But what does it take for a brand to choose to stand up for social injustices? How can a company predict if the ultimate reward for such a choice will outweigh the risk? Determining a few key elements can help:

  • Understand the business impact

  • Assess the stakeholder impact

  • Determine connection to the company

  • Make sure the issue stance aligns with company values

But the bottom line: Standing up for social injustices takes courage.

PR is always evolving, so you’re never too experienced for a refresher course.

PR pros are probably tired of hearing about our evolving industry, the “changing newsroom” and the move toward digital PR. But the truth is, we’ve got to accept the direction toward which the industry is moving and learn to adapt.

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Taking a class to sharpen your writing skills or listening to Michael Smart share new and unique ways to pitch reporters is not just for new professionals. We saw seasoned and successful communications pros sitting in these types of session at ICON because they knew there was always more to learn and no one is ever going to perfect their skills in this line of work.

Pitching is still all about relationships, but there are new mediums by which to pitch and new types of media members to reaching out to. Are your media relations strategies and tactics up-to-date?

Don’t view the PR evolution as a burden, but rather an exciting chance to be on the cusp of new ideas.

Stay hungry, never tire of learning and embrace the change.

Sometimes brands are only remembered for when they chose poorly.

In this day and age, it only takes one wrong move for a company to end up on the wrong side of public opinion. In public relations, we define that wrong move as a crisis.

The word “crisis” is originated from the ancient Greek word “krisis,” which is defined as the moment in a Greek tragedy in which the main character must make a choice that will ultimately determine their destiny. In other words, to choose. That being said, a modern day crisis can be described as the management of decisions made at a turning point. Unfortunately, as public relations professionals know well, moments such as these occur all too frequently. Fortunately, a few tips can help guide you in making such decisions in the event of a crisis:

  • A company’s goal in a crisis should always be trust

  • The defining question to ask yourself during a time of crisis: What would reasonable people expect a responsible organization to do in this situation?

  • The single biggest predictor of reputational harm in a crisis is the perception of indifference

  • Silence’s isn’t always golden

It’s this series of choices during critical times that can shape the public’s perception of a brand. An interesting experiment can help illustrate this point further: Ask the person next to you to name three major brand crises that were handled well and three that were handled terribly. They can probably provide examples of the latter much quicker than the former. Why is that? 

Because we only remember brands that chose poorly.


ICON is an awesome opportunity to keep a pulse on the industry, learn from some of the best PR leaders and meet people from around the world. We encourage you to attend if you have the chance and to get involved with your local PRSA chapter for professional development opportunities throughout the year!

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