This year’s PRFest took ‘The Sustainable Future of the PR and Communications Industry’ as its key focus, but if you thought ‘sustainability’ = environmental issues only, think again:
‘By sustainable I don’t just mean environment and sustainability practice,’ said PRFest founder Laura Sutherland in her introduction to the five-day virtual festival. ‘I mean: how can we stay relevant? How can we thrive?
‘I would like our industry to start thinking positively, so we can start planning for the future; recognising change and embracing it, rather than running away from it.’
To catch up on sessions focusing on social innovation, upskilling, underrepresented voices and more with speakers from across the industry, passes to the recorded webinars are available here. For a taster, here are some of the insights from day one’s session: ‘How will PR pros need to adapt and what are the learnings from COVID?’
1) Think local
‘Stupidly, I used to think that if there’s a national message being put out, while we might not like the creative, we should accept it – why would we try to recreate it? The pandemic has made me change my view. Local organisations know their people best; messages do have to be tailored to very specific communities. You really understand how important local knowledge and local insight is, now – localism really does work.’
Zander Mills, corporate communication manager for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue
2) Get to know your audiences
‘The understanding of community has had to get so much deeper. We’ve worked on vaccine hesitancy in Hackney, why some of our communities don’t trust the NHS – when you listen to black women talk about the enormous disproportionality in terms of maternal death during pregnancy and childbirth, how can you expert them to trust vaccinations?
‘Another example: we consulted our behaviour and insights team on connecting with the members of our community who aren’t technically-savvy. We ended up calling them on their landlines, and that’s something we wouldn’t have considered doing before. Community insight has helped us connect with different people in different ways. It will help us to be better communicators for years to come.’
Polly Cziok, strategic director, engagement, culture, and organisational development for the London Borough of Hackney
3) Turn your camera on (yes, really)
‘It’s great being able to IM people on my team. I found digital transition hard at first; I didn’t know if I should IM particular things; I didn’t want to bother my manager. But people made themselves available, and that made me make sure I was as helpful as possible to my colleagues, too. I felt closer to my team, even though I was further away. But for that to happen, I had to put in effort. Putting my camera on in meetings, speaking up. People can be very anti putting their cameras on, but you can read body language, people can see that you’re authentic with what you’re saying.’
Naomi MG Smith, account executive for Westco Communications
Watch all the recorded sessions from this year’s PRFest with a catch-up pass, available here.
You can also read more about the aims of this year’s PRFest from founder Laura Sutherland and get more tips on sustainability in our write up of this year’s CIPR conference Climate Change and the Role of PR.