It was a standing-room-only crowd for a Thursday morning breakfast Q&A with Arianna Huffington, chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. The Q&A with me was part of breakfast program hosted by PRWeek and MSLGroup entitled: “Davos 2013: Communications Takeaways from the World Economic Forum.”
She spoke very frankly about conversations she was a part of while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month.
- On women in leadership: “Women shouldn't feel they have to do leadership in the same way as men,” says Huffington. She believes a female voice can add a different perspective to the corner corporate offices. Men, adds Huffington, often use sports metaphors in business life or say things such as “we're gonna kill it,” whereas in today's evolving global business mindset, a more nurturing approach would be more effective.
- On the need to disconnect: “Leaders need to renew themselves,” says Huffington. She took an impromptu poll of the audience asking, “How many of you have your smartphones on your nightstand?” When about 90% of the room raised their hands, she urged PR and communication executives to take the time to turn off and de-stress. Huffington does not keep her smartphone in her bedroom overnight and she relayed to the audience that she had an incident where, like Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, she fainted, fractured her cheekbone, and needed stitches because she was overworking. And as difficult as it might be, PR pros need to convince their clients of the needs for a work-life balance.
- On social media: While social platforms have dramatically elevated the importance of public relations in the overall marketing scheme, there is no replacement for the face-to-face connection, says Huffington. “There's something in our DNA that still craves the human connection.”
Social media has also made it easier for brands to tell their own story and become bigger players in the area of content creation. In this area, Huffington advises that transparency is essential. The Huffington Post clearly delineates to subscribers its news content created by staff reporters versus content created in partnership with brands.