At the end of October the CIPR held their annual National Conference at the British library. It featured a diverse selection of speakers across a wide variety industries and roles within communications.
The day started with a fascinating picture of big corporate communications problem solving with Matt Peacock from Vodafone. Wise-before-his -years, Matt painted a picture of the problems they have faced, and how they have faced them down. While his presentation largely focussed on the reactive elements the team has had to deal with (think corporate tax and doing business in Africa), he also elaborated on their systematic approach to proactive PR work. All projects follow a strict routine: Objectives, Audience, influence, Messaging, Tactics (in that order). He was tacked on where evaluation can into this model and he without hesitation said ‘within Tactics’. I’ll let you ponder if evaluation has a part to play earlier in the process…
Matt made some interesting observations on the challenges his team has faced, like fake news (‘evil’), doing business in dodgy countries (‘don’t’) and CSR (‘dead as a stand-alone function – those espoused qualities need permeate the entire organisation’).
Next was Scott Mcleod from Everton Football Club. He expanded on the ways organisations like his can utilise and measure fan engagement. Their listening programme follows a diverse selection of media channels and have been able to locate many media opportunities ignored by others. Scott expanded on their preferred social media metric – number of fans divided by the number of interactions. He demonstrated that this measure of fan engagement was credible and reflective of their stature.
Scott also demonstrated their process when dealing with media opportunities. While some where more intense in involvement than others, they uniformly reflected the values of the club and relevance to their audience and other stakeholders.
Kerry Thorpe from Ben and Jerry’s spoke about the great efforts taken to differentiate their corporate culture. From the fake grass in the office to the tricky process of naming new varieties – it was all about uniqueness. Kerry focussed on the organisations social purpose. Can a company owned by a multinational (Unilever) also have more fringe interests and values which align with for example environmental pressure groups – and make it sound credible, oh, and also produce a highly indulgent dessert? They seemed like a divergent set of principles requiring not inconsiderable skill to keep pointing roughly forward.
No one has missed the emergence of the new breed of online based news outlets. Peter Heneghan from LADBible explained what stories work well on their platform (did you hear about the ‘Trash Isles’). He also expanded on what type of issues and media properties work best. It was a valuable insight into what these publishers think is news and how they reinterpret the notion of ‘content is king’.
As a freelancer I have to choose conferences with care so as not to interfere with work commitments and to fit within the budget. It would have been nice to have seen more on analytics and measurement although I still really enjoyed the presentations, in particular the views on current and future strategies. Well done CIPR!