10 Takeaways from PRovoke 2018

November 5, 2018

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As The Holmes Report’s seventh annual Global PR Summit, PRovoke18, convened last week, the aptly-titled conference of communicators came to the nation’s capital for the first time, promising to address the critical issues facing the communications industry—and it didn’t disappoint.

From fake news to AI to big data, comms leaders and industry experts shared their experiences in today’s rapidly changing, and challenging, communications environment. Looking back at the two days of immersive thought-provoking sessions, here are 10 key takeaways for all communicators to consider:

1. Corporate Purpose is Key. Brands need a renewed focus on doing good as a part of their growth strategy. Profit and purpose can, and should, coexist harmoniously to create a solid foundation for any organization.

2. You Can’t Fake Empathy. AI is certainly the future, but while the technological advancement can streamline processes, nothing can replace a human’s judgment and empathy. You can’t cut out the human-touch completely and expect to connect with your audiences.

3. Measurement Needs to be Meaningful to Have True Value. We have moved beyond impressions, likes and views as the key metrics of a successful campaign – measurement must be connected with a market outcome. Did sales improve? What action did the target audience take? What change came about? The answers to these important questions are what should be tracked, measured and evaluated.

4. Bring the Big Idea. Even if the client doesn’t buy it, they love hearing it. Those creative conversations are relationship builders and jumping off points for meaningful work.

5. Encourage a Culture of Stewardship. More than ever, each employee is also acting as a spokesperson for your brand. Understand what they care about – with just as much focus as we put into understanding the target consumer – and take up the issues that are important to them and align with the brand’s values. The word “culture” may be one of the buzziest terms in the industry, but it remains one of the most important to address.

6. The Era of the Wild West across the World Wide Web is Coming to an End. The detrimental impact of fake news is felt both online and off, and legislators are working on regulations to combat the rise of “fake news.” From identity validation to privacy controls to competitive market forces, options are under review to corral the rampant spread of disinformation.

7. We All Have a Role to Play in Combating Disinformation. If you’re not actively fighting it, you’re part of the problem. Each of us has a roll to play, starting with filling the void. As communicators we need to be transparent and responsive – if we don’t provide the facts, the silence will be filled with fake news.

8. Do What is Authentic to Your Brand. You can’t fake empathy, nor can you fake your character. It’s important to take a stand, but you must make sure that stance is rooted in your values or it will come off as inauthentic. Engage where your organization has credibility and permission to be a part of the conversation.

9. Communicators Have a Seat at the Table. No longer seen as second string, communicators have earned their seat at the table and are helping drive the business decisions that matter to employees, customers and our world.

10. Holmes is Where The Heart Is. PRovoke18 culminated with the 2018 Global SABRE Awards ceremony and the ranking of the 40 best campaigns of the year, designated from 5,500+  global entries. The central theme running through the campaigns was purpose in action; the top campaigns all made a real difference in our world. FleishmanHillard was honored to be a part of Aflac’s second place recognition, in collaboration with Ken Willis, Inc., Carol Cone On Purpose and Marina Communications, for our work on “Aflac ‘Outducks’ a Reputational Deficit.”

FleishmanHillard’s Jason Werden and Chelsey Watts with the SABRE trophy.

Taking our lessons learned, we were set loose to continue to put our voices to work for provocative and meaningful action.