fbpx

‘Silence has a price’ and other take home messages from CommsCon18

Thousands of communication experts descended on London for Cision’s first CommsCon – an event that promised to be a key date in the earned media calendar. Senior account executive Jemma Page shares highlights from the day.

Communications has never been more valuable

Key note speaker Sir Craig Oliver, senior managing director at Teneo Blue Rubicon, previously spent more than six years as then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications.

During his time at number 10, the news cycle moved beyond a 24/7 media environment to one of 360-degree news thanks to the rise of social media.

This transformed the way the government was required to communicate – but it wasn’t easy to convince the Prime Minister, who believed social media was a playground for trolls and narcissists, that he couldn’t afford to ignore the internet.

“Digital media had changed the world and the government had to change too,” said Craig.

“We had the choice to embrace it or be punished by it. We have to deal with the world as it is now and not the way we would like it to be.

“Social media has become a necessity, not a luxury, in the modern communications world.

“You have to tell your own story or it will be told for you. Each and every business needs to consider its narrative.

“Silence has a price – if you do not define yourself, others will define you.”

Put your audience first

After a quick tea and coffee break, we heard from Peter Heneghan, head of communications at the LADbible Group, which reaches one in two millennials in the UK on Facebook.

During the breakout session, Peter discussed LADbible’s Cannes Lion award-winning campaign Trash Isles, which aims to raise awareness among a young generation about the plastic pollution issue in the oceans.

Instead of just writing an article and social media, LADbible – along with global non-profit organisation Plastic Oceans Foundation – created a full-blown digital campaign to empower young people to lobby the United Nations to acknowledge the plastic in the oceans as a country in order to force the issue to be addressed.

LADbible did its research and found that there are four requirements to become an official state – and Trash Isles met all of them.

  • First, define a territory. The campaign claimed all the plastic in the North Pacific Ocean as theirs.
  • Second, form a government. Trash Isles established a monarchy and appointed Dame Judi Dench as queen.
  • Third, be able to communicate with other states. The PR and social media ticked this box.
  • The final step was to establish citizens – and this is how the campaign involved members of the public, by asking them to sign a Change.org petition.

New citizens received Trash Isles passports and the team also designed currency, stamps and a country flag.

Peter said: “We could’ve just uploaded an article, but our audience wouldn’t have cared. Our audience needed to become part of the experience.”

The results exceed expectations, with almost a quarter of a million citizens signing up, including American professional wrestler and actor John Cena, who offered to be the country’s minister of defence.

Suppress your demons

Ed O’Brien, MD of crisis management at Teneo Blue Rubicon, discussed how there are three demons that always rear their heads when we’re feeling the pressure during a crisis communications situation.

  • Tyrant – Ed said: “This is when you think everyone else involved is stupid – you don’t trust anyone.”
  • Fearmonger – “If you fail to acknowledge how bad things are and keep quiet, your demon is the fearmonger,” said Ed.
  • Lunatic – Ed said: “You forget the plan and you start thinking, ‘I am going to make my own rogue way in the world’.”

In order to supress these demons, Ed recommends preparing your crisis communications plan in peacetime so you’re fully ready when war breaks out.

He said: “Do your work in peacetime so when the crisis happens, you’re not panicking, intensifying the situation and driving the pressure up.”

What is the best way to contact a journalist?

In the final session of the day, we heard from four journalists about Cision’s State of the Media report, which surveyed 1,355 reporters from across the globe about the relationship they have with PRs.

During a discussion about how journalists preferred to be contacted, it was made clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

While Josh doesn’t mind receiving pitches for Glamour on Instagram, Ellen thought it was a “bit creepy”, with Paul preferring to kickstart a relationship with a PR over a cup of coffee.

Despite having differing views on this particular topic, one thing was certain – PRs cannot go wrong if they have done their homework.

It was important to all journalists on the panel that if communications experts can make their content matter to them and quickly give them access to the right people or research, there is a far better chance of landing a piece of coverage.

Final thoughts from the day

Despite being Cision’s first CommsCon, the event couldn’t have gone more perfectly.

It was a day of discussion, insight and debate surrounded by like-minded communications professionals and some cracking food.

I’m sure I speak for all attendees when I say I left the venue feeling inspired.

Although there wasn’t anything particularly ground-breaking to come out of the event, it did confirm one crucial thing – in a world filled with scrutiny, ensuring your brand’s PR and social media is done properly is more important than ever before.

Cartwright Communications offers complete PR, marketing and social media solutions that can ensure your voice is heard. Find out more about how we can help your brand here.

Jemma spent more than three years as an NCTJ-qualified journalist before moving into PR. She has extensive training in media law, public affairs and court reporting. Jemma’s journalistic approach to PR means she fully understands what makes a newsroom tick, allowing her to secure strong regional and national coverage for clients. Send Jemma an email or call her on 0115 853 2110.

It was important to all journalists on the panel that if communications experts can make their content matter to them and quickly give them access to the right people or research, there is a far better chance of landing a piece of coverage.

Final thoughts from the day

Despite being Cision’s first CommsCon, the event couldn’t have gone more perfectly.

It was a day of discussion, insight and debate surrounded by like-minded communications professionals and some cracking food.

I’m sure I speak for all attendees when I say I left the venue feeling inspired.

Although there wasn’t anything particularly ground-breaking to come out of the event, it did confirm one crucial thing – in a world filled with scrutiny, ensuring your brand’s PR and social media is done properly is more important than ever before.

By Jemma Page

Jemma spent three years as an NCTJ-qualified journalist for the Nottingham Post before moving into the world of PR. She now supports on a number of accounts which focus on law, commercial property and construction.

Contact