PRCA Summer Conference – Embracing Innovation

August 15, 2023By Natalie YoungInsights

In July, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) held its annual summer conference in London, drawing together a host of accomplished speakers covering all the successes, lived experiences, pain-points, predictions, and opportunities in the PR industry.

The talks ranged from accessibility to resourcing issues to creativity to inclusivity – is anyone surprised that mentions of AI peppered nearly every talk? In a career-first (but hopefully not last), I attended the conference alongside a colleague and was deeply grateful for the experience.

To date, the events I have attended tend to be tech-related  due to the nature of work at C8. These have always been of great interest to me, but it was brilliant to hear from other PR pros on what they are seeing in our industry, outside of traditional client work. So, let’s jump into the highlights!

The power of inclusivity

The conference kicked off with a hugely inspiring talk from Dr Amit Patel who, after suffering a haemorrhage behind the eyes, became blind overnight in his mid-30s. Dr Patel, alongside his guide dog Kika, spoke about the power of inclusive comms and simple functions companies can implement to make their websites/social media more accessible. He also shared his experience of working on what Blooloop awarded the most inclusive attraction in the UK and his very own feature on a CBeebies show, after his son pointed out there were no representations of their family on TV.

This talk was quickly followed by a panel on future-proofing the workforce, with speakers from Golin and Virgo Health, Reuben Sinclair, The PHA Group, Adobe, and WiPR. It was great to gauge the views of professionals involved in different sections of the recruitment process and the new policies they are implementing. One point I found particularly interesting was reports of the low percentage of over 50s in the communications workforce. This linked back nicely to Dr Patel’s talk and led to the question – how accessible is our industry?

Are we losing our creative courage?

Paul Spiers, founder of The New P&L® Brand Purpose Institute, followed with a thought-provoking session on whether we are outsourcing our curiosity to an algorithm. He cited the statistic that the average person consumes 34 Gigabytes of information per day which affects our natural curiosity. Two key practices stayed with me during his talk:

  1. ‘Just ask’: Listen, ask, listen, repeat – in conversation, it is important to practice this method to ensure you are making the most of what the other person is saying – don’t fall into the trap of just waiting to speak.
  2. Any subject of interest you come across, note it down and commit to researching it at a set time – don’t let ideas pass you by just because you are busy at the time.

I could discuss the talks all day, whether it was the inclusivity panel sharing ideas about ‘leaving loudly’ and ‘brave spaces’, the AI-powered communications revolution, or nurturing relationships in a digital age but alas, a blog has a word limit. Which leads me onto lunch – for me, a delicious tomato-based vegetable, tofu dish.

Ukraine Wartime Communications – Julia Petryk

The afternoon featured a deeply moving talk delivered by Julia Petryk, who described her communications team’s transformation from a PR function at Ukrainian technology company MacPaw, into a ‘PR army’. She and her team were forced to switch from their regular comms activity to become a vital team enlightening the world on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Alongside many notable campaigns, she was instrumental in a work-from-anywhere campaign  by spoof company Bathtub Creative to highlight the harsh realities of Ukrainian work life. Her team’s main comms strategy was to say yes to every media request that came through and the 1400+ media mentions in 70 countries speak to their success.

If you are reading this blog and can assist their efforts in any way, their website page can be found here.

One conference closes and networking opens

With minds racing after a full day, we headed to meet the rest of the team for an evening of networking on the iconic floating pub, the Tattershall Castle, as the sun set over the Thames and marked the end of the 2023 PRCA summer conference.