"Communications professionals have allowed themselves to be seen as a secondary function in business," Sir Craig Oliver told attendees at Cision’s inaugural CommsCon event in London. "It’s time to step up and take your place at the table... My headline would be, recognise communications has been demoted and be a champion for it and push it, because it has never been more vital."
As well as reflecting on his time as David Cameron’s director of politics and communications, Oliver urged comms professionals to be champions for businesses, too.
"It is more important than ever for corporate comms to play a prominent role in making a better case of how a business can positively impact society, rather than merely using social media as a way to sell products," he said.
Oliver was the headline speaker at the packed event. The day split into keynote speeches, panel events and debates with participants from publications including, LADBible, the Daily Mirror and Pink News and PR representatives from KFC, Gumtree and HSBC.
The future of comms?
Cision also used the event to announce the opening of a new global innovation and research centre. The Cision Innovation Lab will focus on the creation of industry-standard frameworks and approaches that follow the best practices of Earned Media Management, with the aim of helping to transform communications into a business driver.
"Cision is building transformative technology to enable a modern communications industry – one where comms is realised as one of the most valuable assets within an organisation," said Kevin Akeroyd, Cision CEO. "We led the charge for a new era with our breakthrough Communications Cloud and the Cision Innovation Lab is an important component to achieving our vision for the future of comms. We're taking a new approach to innovation, helping global communications professionals to more holistically connect earned media with paid and owned media."
David Barker, president of data and innovation leads the Cision Innovation Lab. Under his leadership, the Lab will anticipate and solve the communication industry's challenges through product development, strategic acquisitions, and select partnerships with organisations in the paid and owned media spaces.
CommsCon 2018: the four key takeaways
1 Don’t forget to build relationships with journalists Nada Farhoud, consumer features and environment editor, Daily Mirror, said: "Journalists have been taking on more and more roles so we have less time than ever to read press releases. You need to make yourself stand out. I tend to respond to the people I know. So why not invite me out for coffee and let's see how we can help each other out."
2 Measure reach to increase effectiveness Convergence in comms, marketing and advertising means that the future of PR will increasingly be about leveraging data to craft co-ordinated, multi-channel campaigns impacting the behaviour of target audiences. So "the reach of communications outputs needs to be measured," said Tamara Bennett, head of media relations at Virgin. "That way you can gauge the effectiveness and engagement levels of your existing audiences."
3 Creativity solves issues Gabriela Lungu, WINGS Creative Leadership Lab, urged comms professionals to be bolder with their creativity and to focus on originality rather than merely sticking to the ‘if it ain’t broke’ mentality.
4 Human touch helps crisis management Jenny Packwood, head of brand communications at KFC, detailed how the brand handled its "chicken crisis" via social media, using a proactive, human response to to earn back the public’s goodwill and come through the situation with its reputation intact.