The Path Forward: Top Takeaways From PRSA Georgia’s 2021 Annual Conference

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This last year completely disrupted businesses across industries, forcing many of them to completely rethink the way they work. As PR professionals, it was our job to help our clients navigate these changes, giving them guidance on how to face them head on and what to do next.

To better understand of how the PR landscape has shifted over the last year, I attended the PRSA Georgia 2021 Annual Conference: The Path Forward. This year’s event explored how changes and challenges in 2020 have impacted ‘The Path Forward’ for PR, communications and marketing professionals.

After sitting in on a couple of days filled with sessions focused on trail-blazing strategies and tactics from various campaigns, it was clear that the way forward for brands – both B2B and consumer – is transparency and authenticity to stay connected with key audiencesThe conference featured three case studies that illustrated this effort in particular.

Information sharing and education is key.

Georgia Pacific – one of the world’s leading makers of tissue, pulp, packaging, building products and related chemicals – was abruptly thrust into the spotlight as news of the toilet paper shortage ran rampant in headlines. The communications team saw the confusion amongst customers and consumers, so they had to act swiftly, correcting misinformation, adjusting  messaging and educating consumers about the status of products. The small internal team leveraged media, nonprofit partners, employees and influencers to help get the message out.

In addition to sharing resources online and responding to messages on social media, the team realized there was an opportunity to educate its community about their manufacturing process and supply chain. Georgia Pacific posted photos and videos from employees and influencers inside their warehouses to give consumers the opportunity to see how toilet paper gets made. This “insiders look” gave reassurance about the state of toilet paper in a time of crisis.

It’s all about the people.

Pre-pandemic, IHG Hotels and Resorts (IHG) launched its biggest integrated campaign. This started with considering ‘why’ people travel and the role IHG and its brands, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, could play. The comms team decided that it’s all about the people – real connections matter and that IHG would be there to support these connections.

As a part of the campaign, the IHG team used a number of tactics, including earned and paid engagements with top morning shows to do giveaways where they surprised families with a trip to one of their resorts. They also partnered with brand ambassadors such as Jordan Rogers, who had grown up staying at IHG Hotels and Resorts and could talk about his experiences in a meaningful and authentic way.

At the end of the day, IHG was able to execute a campaign that drove engagement and ultimately put their brands top of mind when it comes time to travel. This will be more important than ever as competition in the travel and hospitality industries heats up, top brands fighting to bounce back after a year of struggling to stay afloat.

Communicate with compassion.

Newell Brands is a leading global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands including Paper Mate®, Sharpie®, Rubbermaid® and more. With over 30,000 employees worldwide and products in more than 90% of US households, Newell Brands quickly established a COVID-19 response team to communicate regularly and transparently with both internal and external stakeholders. The response team put together resources (i.e. WFH guidelines, surveys, leader toolkits, etc.) to help guide employees through this time of crisis.

The team also made sure that its frontline workforce’s safety was top priority. To support this, the team hosted the ‘Newell Now Mask Challenge’ to promote wearing face coverings on the frontlines. In addition to supporting its employees, its businesses across the company donated over 300,000 Newell Brands products to support communities in need, first responders and healthcare workers. By taking an approach that was both caring and considerate, the Newell Brands team was able to communicate with its key audiences confidently and clearly about its COVID-19 response.

At the end of the day, the success of a brand relies heavily on its ability to connect with its people. And in times of crisis, these communications need to be genuine. As the world continues to re-open, brands will need to make sure they don’t lose sight of this need for meaningful connection.


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