'Invite a weirdo to lunch' and four other takeaways from the PRSA's International Conference

Industry leaders gathered in Washington, DC, at the PRSA's International Conference over the weekend to glean best practices and hear from media and Washington insiders.

Agencies, suppliers, and brands gathered in Washington, DC, this weekend at the PRSA’s International Conference to glean best practices and hear from media and Washington insiders.

Among the bold-faced names addressing the conference were Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, Good Morning America’s Amy Robach, and Polly LaBarre, one of Fast Company’s earliest editors.

1. Robach reflected on a segment on Good Morning America where she took viewers along for her first mammogram, which, to her shock, resulted in a breast-cancer diagnosis. This life-altering event also changed her mind about Twitter, which Robach had felt was "a nuisance." She came around to the point of view that the platform "connects us all in a way I never imagined" after receiving waves of support after her diagnosis.

Robach gave kudos to the PR industry for the increasing number of campaigns addressing the empowerment of women such as Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and the I’m Enough effort from the all-female band The Mrs.

2. Mike McDougall of McDougall Communications and Aimee Lewis of the Harley School laid out top trends. Among them: bigger equals better – think the iPhone 6 – and authenticity is a differentiator. Also, storylines are re-emerging, timeliness is driving value, privacy is changing, and ephemeral will grow – think Snapchat.

McDougall advised attendees to optimize communications for wearable technology, saying, "It’s coming sooner than you think."

3. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, discussed the need for progress on diversity in the industry. He said the target consumers of advertising and marketing campaigns have yet to be reflected in the "population creating the work."

Lomax added that diversity is something society in general is trying to get right, and the best fixes "will not yield results tomorrow, but rather in the next 10 to 20 years by building pipelines and keeping them full."

4. LaBarre advised attendees not to focus on what keeps them up at night, but rather what makes them jump out of bed in the morning. She advised PR pros to leave the jargon behind and speak like a human being using language that is homegrown and soul-stirring. She cited Australian enterprise software company Atlassian, outdoor clothing maker Patagonia, and Pixar as brands that have the "most inspired conversations with customers and clients."

She also advised attendees to adopt her "invite a weirdo to lunch" practice, saying that while it may not lead to a lasting friendship, it may result in insight into a different perspective.

5. Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, talked about the upcoming midterm elections.

"The public is frustrated because we have politicians who refuse to practice the art of politics," he commented.

Todd added that corporate donations to candidates are out of control, with billionaires having more influence behind the scenes than if their names were on the ballot. That reality is driving people away from the political process, meaning politics no longer attracts the best and brightest.

"Who wants to work in the sewer system of American politics?" he asked.

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