My PRovoke17 Experience

The announcement of my name still reverberates in my ears, when the winner of Ace Business Communicator award was declared at PRAXIS 2017 in Jaipur. There are some days in life, when you feel, your belief in yourself is all you need and this day ranks on top of my list.

To add to the frenzy, receiving this prestigious award from PR guru Madan Bahal was an icing on the cake along with the platinum (Google tells me that Platinum is 30 times rarer to find than gold) opportunity to attend PRovoke17, The Holmes Report‘s Global Public Relations Summit — one of the most important event in the global communications world’s calendar attracting more than 400 delegates and 100 speakers each year, on an all-expenses paid trip to Miami, Florida, USA.

With a gleam of excitement in my eyes, I landed in ‘The Magic City’ of Miami.  I entered the venue and witnessed a horde of Public Relations professionals, all prepared to see the events being unfolded over the course of two days.

Day 1:

The event began with Paul Holmes, founder and chair of The Holmes Group, introducing the summit to the attendees, which was followed by an interesting session on ‘effective approaches for changing beliefs and influencing actions.’ Subsequently, the next session gave us an insight on, how there has been a global decline of trust in business and how public’s expectations for business role in society is increasing.

Discussion on ‘Should we use BOT or should we NOT’ to market the brand was enlightening in terms of the balance that needs to be maintained by CMOs and CCOs in using the AI platforms for marketing. The next session discerned that ‘The future of connected healthcare’ lies in the promise of personalised medicine and there is a massive interest in the topic of data in healthcare communication. Sarah Willis, Chief Communication Officer, GE Healthcare opined on how cloud computing is coming in, to centralise data from the localised databases, which was once a huge IT challenge.

The next panel comprising of John Seifert, Worldwide Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy and Mather and David Roman, SVP and CMO, Lenovo opined that marketing always had the duality of qualitative analysis and creative bent of mind, and today CMOs are in a privileged position with access of lot of data to make informed decisions.

The sessions post the scrumptious lunch, included discussion on ‘B Corps/Public benefit companies’, which balance the interests of stakeholders while creating a positive impact on society; conversation on how, a company’s commitment to building societal value influences brand relationships and consumer behaviors; a research report by John Gerzema from the Harris Poll revealed the inter-relationship between reputation, brand equity and consumer intent and a talk of Paul Holmes with Franz Paasche, SVP, Corporate affairs and communication, Paypal on acting thoughtfully in complicated situations, brought the day to a close.

Day 2:

The day started with a frank and honest conversation on navigating change in new reality, where the panel emphasized on the fact that international travel is going down in a truly virtually connected world. Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist, Edelman & Brett Lofgren, President, Newswhip shared the latest insights on the evolving media and marketing landscape and what communicators need to consider for programming.

In the next session, Dean Shaw, VP, Corporate Communications, Volvo USA demonstrated Volvo’s transformation from a brand known for family-friendly cars to the future of driving. They also opined that consumers may love you today but will shame you tomorrow if you go wrong. ‘The Culture Conundrum’ laid out the realities and risks, insights and perspective from two senior marketers from two culture-savvy brands – Excedrin and Royal Caribbean.

The last set of sessions included a talk on how brand messages become cultural movements in the society; a brilliant conversation with Lynn Novick, Director, The Vietnam War who discussed her approach to create and tell compelling stories from American history and the summit was brought to a perfect close with an intriguing talk between Stephen Forshaw, MD, Corporate Affairs, Temasek and Arun Sudhaman, Editor-In-chief, The Holmes Report how the communicators should go about their job.

The night ended with razzmatazz at Global Sabre Awards 2017 cocktail reception and dinner ceremony where the 40 best public relations campaigns from around the globe, were selected as winners from among its regional competitions along with the Holmes Report’s 2017 Global Agencies of the Year.

While the entire experience of simply being present at PRovoke17 was highly enriching, here are some of my take aways from the sessions:

A Guide to Cultural Change – Brand messages play a very important role in the cultural change movement in the society. These are the vital checks for driving a cultural change: timeline, emotional hook, call to action, influencer involvement, engaged audience and earned media. These checks form the crux of every cultural change movement.

BOT or Not – Artificial intelligence (AI) is the present and future and many corporates use BOTs for customer service. However, there has to be a balance that needs to be maintained by CMOs and CCOs for using AI platforms for marketing/customer service. Many times, a customer needs more than a standard/structured reply and needs to be catered with personalised service or attention.

Cloud Communication – The data in healthcare communication is generating massive interest to broaden the horizon of personalised medicine. In this endeavor, cloud computing is providing the platform to centralise the data from the localised databases and removing this obstacle or collation, which was once considered a huge IT challenge.

Dad’s Jeans – For millennials, CSR is like dad’s jeans i.e. old fashioned and boring. New narrative, which is fun, entertaining and fashionable works with them. The consumption of communication should further the social cause. There is a strong inter-relationship between reputation, brand equity and consumer intent and today, corporate reputation is driving the brand behavior. In these times, CSR, corporate reputation and brand building are all same in the marketplace.

Equity is in – All the brands today are being monitored closely in the age of social media and consumers who are in love with your brand today, will shame you tomorrow, if you go wrong. The equity of the brand is significant to a greater degree and needs to be maintained at all times, without letting the guard down. The brand equity defines the brand relevance and consumption.

Frank Communication – No matter how unpalatable the situation is, the communication has to be open, sincere and undisguised. Honesty in communication reflects strongly on the brand and hence, can help a great deal in controlling the damage/potential damage to the organisation in terms of any crisis/potential crisis.

To sum it up, my experience at Provoke17 was full of learning, networking and complete professional enrichment. I believe, it has added tremendous value to me as a PRofessional and I would again like to thank the consortium (Holmes Report, SCORE, On Purpose Communications, MxM India, Reputation Today, Promise Foundation and ICG) for the opportunity.

To quote Brian Herbert, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill but the willingness to learn is a choice.”, and I hope I never cease, to make this choice, ever.

Karan Anand
Manager - Corporate Communications and Brand Management at Everstone Group
Karan has over six years of work experience in corporate communications, marketing communications, branding, reputation management, research and analytics. Prior to Everstone, he has worked with ICICI Bank and Genpact.

Karan won the Ace Business Communicator award at PRAXIS 2017. Participants of the ABC prize were to individually respond to a brief on social change in a record time which was evaluated by senior PR professionals.

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