NEW YORK: Ken Shuman, VP of communications at Trulia, won the Battle of Big Ideas on Tuesday at the PRWeek Conference in New York when he described how the PR industry needs to redefine itself both in terms of title and strategy
Shuman faced off against four other participants, including Mark Bonchek, founder and chief catalyst at ORBIT+Co; Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting; Sarah Austin, creator and host of Pop17; and Lauren Wesley Wilson, founder and chief networking officer at ColorComm.
Shuman started his discussion saying the PR industry has died, but that death brings new opportunities. He said PR should be redefined as “communications” and that comms professionals should have a seat within the C-Suite, alongside the CMO and CEO.
To make sure the industry delivers value across all channels, Shuman said it needs to understand and use research effectively, embrace data, be proactive in building corporate reputation, own content creation and understand SEO, and build dialogue with consumers.
Bonchek's big idea focused on two-way conversations in digital and how the concept of “many-to-many communications on a global scale” is revolutionary for the PR industry.
He said brands need to figure out if they want to broadcast one message to many people or start a dialogue with a community, and that depends on whether the company wants to “persuade and promote or enable and empower.”
“It's not content that is king anymore; it's context,” added Bonchek.
Also in the digital arena, DeBroff talked about the role of digital influencers and how they are a form of “social media currency.”
She explained that influencers have a niche audience, specific platforms to engage audiences, passion about the topic they cover, and a large reach.
Influencers, she added, create convergence to purchase more than anyone else because of the trust they have in and impression they make on their followers.
Rather than discussing ROI, Austin talked about “return on community” as well as the importance of mentorship and giving back to children and teenagers. She said if a company has a cause it supports and its employees care about it, they will be more apt to help and become part of the solution.
Austin added that the cause needs to line up with the core values of a brand in order for it to be embraced by consumers and staffers.
Diversity in the PR industry is a topic Wilson concentrated on during her discussion, where she said inclusivity is key to reaching consumers.
She said a firm needs to know and understand the audiences it is trying to reach.
While many agencies and companies have diversity programs, Wilson said there is still little diversity across the industry. To change this, she suggested that firms and brands bring on more diverse interns and that executives recognize diverse people more often.