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PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference Recap

Tyler Balkin

This week, I was able to attend PRSA’s Second Annual Strategic Collaboration Conference in Chicago. The conference brought together public relations, marketing and corporate communications professionals from all over the country to discuss the best approaches and skills to collaborating effectively and building stronger communications strategies.

Joseph Strupek, Assistant VP of Public Affairs at State Farm, discusses storytelling at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference
Joseph Strupek, Assistant VP of Public Affairs at State Farm, discusses storytelling at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference

We explored topics ranging from how big data impacts teamwork to impactful integration strategies. The day and a half conference was jam-packed with valuable sessions, but here are some of the key takeaways:

Storytelling Needs an Integrated Process

There were two great sessions on the importance of storytelling, and both covered how to best connect with audiences. Today, a well-told story requires much more than a good idea, it needs to have a personal touch to resonate with audiences. One of the concepts discussed was visual storytelling. Visuals allow stories to be told in a more emotional and impactful way. For instance, Coca-Cola changed their website a few years ago into a storytelling platform, where customers can share their own personal brand moments.

PR and marketing professionals can apply this specifically to campaign development. We recently did this with our cyber secure study for CompTIA. CompTIA worked with Walker Sands to launch its 2015 social experiment and data study, Cyber Secure: a Look at Employee Cybersecurity Habits in the Workplace, where the team dropped 200 preloaded USB devices in busy, public areas across four major U.S. cities. Surprisingly, 17 percent of people picked them up and plugged them into their devices. Having this personal touch with the social experiment made the campaign much more influential and meaningful overall. Watch the video to see for yourself!

Behavior Over Demographics

One of my favorite sessions of the conference was given by Bonnie Harris, Founder and CEO of Wax Marketing. She discussed how behavior, not demographics, should drive communications strategies. This means we need to shift our focus from who our audiences are to what they do, and understand how behavior influences media relations and PR campaigns.

One example she gave was Warby Parker. The e-commerce eyeglasses company was first to do a behavioral launch of their brand. They wanted to understand the behavior of people who wear glasses rather than the different buckets people who wear glasses fall into. If you don’t know Warby Parker, look them up, they’re a huge success—further proving the point that behavior works better in the long run. Bonnie also touched on how PR pros can use behavior analysis in their media relations efforts. For instance, a blogger will have different behaviors than let’s say a print journalist, so you shouldn’t pitch them the same way.

The Wave of Data Journalism is Coming

We hear the term “big data” used all the time in the tech world. Most PR professionals think they can’t get in on the big data action, but the truth is they can. We live in the age of “data journalists” and they are introducing new editorial opportunities for PR pros to jump on. First, what is data journalism? As Mary Buhay, SVP of Marketing at G&S Communications, puts it: Data journalism combines statistical analysis of large data sets with the traditional activities of gathering, evaluating, producing and disseminating news to help citizens make informed decisions about their lives (I know that was a mouthful). Mary discussed how PR pros need to develop a deeper understanding of these journalists to create a data-driven media relations strategy. The time of the data journalist is now, and PR pros need to get on board.