The Future of Public Relations – Notes from PRovoke18

The night of PRAXIS 2018, held in Hyderabad, will always be special to me. I was filled with exhilaration, as my name was announced for The ACE Business Communicator (or The ABC) Prize 2018. My response to a brief on social change gave me this honour and recognition by the PR community. As the Prize Winner, I got the opportunity to attend #PRovoke18, the prestigious Global Public Relations Summit, organised by The Holmes Report in Washington DC in October 2018.

I could not wait for the day to fly to Washington DC. Before long, I found myself in the American capital city to attend PRovoke18! Enthusiasm was difficult to contain as I entered the historic Watergate Hotel, the venue for the summit. I was looking forward to the next two days at the summit and an incredible experience. The event hosted fantastic panel discussions comprising of around 100 speakers, who shared their knowledge on various aspects of PR, to an audience of 400 international delegates, providing an excellent opportunity for networking. The summit culminated in a highlight, the charismatic Global SABRE Award Night.

Paul Holmes speaking at PRovoke18

Founder and Chair of The Holmes Report, Paul Holmes introduced the event, PRovoke 18, and set the context for the upcoming days. The day one Keynote Session was on “Brand-building transformation with Influence at the Core” with Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble. He discussed the importance of influencer marketing and shared recent successful campaigns by P&G which contributed to the building of their business. The next session was on “Reputation Hacking: Preserving brand in the age of AI” that discussed the strategies to manage, defend and pivot crisis situations for companies. This was followed by a panel discussion on “Driving Business Impact in an Earned First World.” This panel discussed the approach of brands for survival in today’s market dynamics. The next discussion on “Fighting Disinformation in the Deep Web Era” was highly relevant for the present time.

Panel Discussion at PRovoke18

In the subsequent discussion, U.S. Senator Mark Warner talked about ‘Defending Democracy’ and how the challenging issues related to the internet could impact marketing and communications. Topics for other sessions were “Leveraging Communications Data to Transform the PR Function,” “Brandstanding – Why Brands must Provoke to assert their Purpose” and “Microtrends squared and the impact on PR.” The session on “Levi Strauss: Uncovering a Brand in Motion” discoursed upon the legacy of the Levi Strauss brand and what it meant to be a brand in motion today. The session thereafter, “Stop Fighting the Algorithm & Take Control of your Digital Reputation,” discussed digital strategies to enhance business reputation. Discussions during the end of day were on “Think Small, Go Big: Today, All PR is Local” and “Principles in Vogue? What Communicators can Learn from Diplomacy & International Relations.”

Day one was a plethora of knowledge giving reasons to look forward to day two of the summit.

My key takeaway from day one was about the challenge of fake news and misinformation in the current web era. This challenge should in turn be considered as an opportunity for all in the business of communications. Optimising the digital space for the benefit of a brand is an art and if applied well, can do wonders for achieving business objectives.

The day two Keynote Session had Paul Holmes in Conversation with Sir Martin Sorrell, one of the most controversial and compelling characters in the communications world. They talked about Sir Martin’s future plans, the global public relations business and the challenges faced by marketing agencies from around the world. The session that followed was on “Agility, Curiosity and Purpose: Role of Communications as an Agent of Change” which discoursed on the role of communication for a brand to be agile while being in line with its values. Then came the panel which enlightened the delegates about “Vicks’ Courageous Stand in India that Redefined Family Care” where The Vicks #TouchOfCare campaign was showcased. The campaign brought to light the heart-warming story of Shree Gauri Sawant, Transgender Activist and Social Worker, who adopted a young orphan girl giving out the message, ‘family is where care is.’

Sessions that succeeded were on “Culture Collision: Strengthening Company Culture & Reputation in an Activist Era” and “Applying the Science of Human Behaviour to the Art of Communications.” This was followed by a conversation with the leaders of The Washington Post, Martin Baron and Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. The panel discussion on “How Belief-Driven Buying is changing the way Companies do Business” explored the ways in which brands could successfully engage consumer attention. The final panel discussion was on “All Aboard the Purpose Bandwagon” after which Arun Sudhaman, CEO and Editor-In-Chief, The Holmes Report gave the closing remarks of the two-day journey.

My key takeaway from day two was about one common factor that all brands should have – purpose. With a clear purpose in place, all communication flows smoothly reaching out to the consumers as intended.

The inspirational two-day journey, defined by exchange of ideas and networking, ended in a splendid evening of the Global SABRE Awards 2018. The Awards honoured Global Agencies of the Year and recognised 40 best campaigns from across the globe. Overall, my experience at PRovoke18 was that of professional enrichment and fulfilment.

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Aarushi Jain
Assistant Manager - Corporate Partnerships at Smile Foundation
Aarushi has over three years of work experience in corporate partnerships and alliances, cause-related marketing, business communications, research and public relations.

Prior to Smile Foundation, she has worked with Avian Media in New Delhi.

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