Last week, I went to the Holmes Global PR Summit in Miami.  While conferences can be short on substance and long on “rubber chicken dinners”, this one was particularly interesting because it attracted the senior executives trying to reimagine the role of PR/Comms within a converged marketing communications landscape.  

As John Chambers would say, “Disrupt yourself or be disrupted.”

Here are the 5 most interesting takeaways from my experience:

1 - “The war is over.  PR won.” - Chuck Porter (Chairman, Crispin Porter + Bogusky)

Besides the panel on Transformation, Culture + Disruption hosted by our CIO Michael Schubert (shameless Ruder Finn plug of course), Chuck Porter’s presentation was by far my favorite.  He essentially explained that PR thinking has underpinned CP+B’s best work because if your ideas are good enough to make news, well, then they are the news...and that’s what people like more so than interruptive advertising.  

In response to a question about the future of the agency model, he said that as the lines between Advertising and PR (and everything in between) have blurred, we’re all now using the same approach and formula.  

What he didn’t say was that the difference in the results has and always will be in talent and the application of creativity.  More on that in a minute.

2 - It’s all about Content, Influence + Experiences.

There was a genuine clarity around “integrated” having moved from a buzzword to a reality.  Whether it was the profiles of the top 40 PR campaigns recognized at the SABRE Awards or any number of panels confirming that the industry’s growth and competitiveness will rely upon its embrace of this new reality, “integrated” was everywhere.  Insight driven creative where experiences in the real-world, online and a little bit of both will become “the story”...and hopefully “the news” as Chuck would say.  

This philosophy is clearly a big part of today and the future of the industry.

3 - The best ideas should always rise to the top.

The topic of “how” came up in a number of different contexts including the complexity of modernizing a global brand’s approach to Marketing Communications given the current state of the social web and digital landscape.  Especially interesting were discussions tied to the profile and characteristics of the right agency partner and where Consultants end and Agencies begin.  While there were a lot more questions than answers, there was consensus around the importance of calibrating the right systems and agency/consultant rosters to enable the best ideas to rise to the top.  

Devil is in the detail on this one as agencies fight for their turf, brands have become increasingly concerned about the AOR value proposition, evolution of the CDO/CMO/CIO relationships and mandates etc.

4 - Wiring the plane while we’re flying it...and that’s ok.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it was refreshing to hear the extent of the industry’s embrace of the known and unknowns as the disruption in our industry unfolds.  It felt like there was a genuine embrace of transformation and the importance of having a commitment to a test/learn approach to deliver meaningful marketing communications innovation.  As Cadillac’s Andrew Lipman pointed out, Cadillac has effectively “disrupted itself” by moving from Detroit to New York to rebuild itself as a luxury brand.  

That’s a very strong leading indicator of substantial change and evolution rolling through our industry.

5 - Importance of trust and relationships.

While there seems to be no shortage of options and complexity in everything we do, it seems like trust and relationships are at the forefront of how to navigate these transformational times.  Digital/Tech etc aren’t silver bullets but trust and strong relationships equally invested in navigating these disruptive times are.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lastly, as a guy who can’t get enough of quotes, here’s a good one that speaks to the core of disruption and transformation:

  • “Ruder Finn’s Michael Schubert, who moderated the panel, pointed out that only 24% of companies on the 500 Fortune were on the list five years ago, meanwhile 40% of today’s Fortune 500 will not be on the list 10 years from now.”

So there's that...

E:; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin