Key Takeaways from the 2018 PRSA International Conference

by Lauren Leetun, APR (pictured third from the left)

Many people associate Austin with “keeping it weird,” and while I did happen to come across one or two locals who were a little different, the vibe at the PRSA 2018 International Conference was anything but weird. In fact, if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be inspiring. I must thank the Orlando chapter for providing me with a scholarship to attend. As an independent practitioner, expenses surrounding a conference of this scope and magnitude can sometimes feel a bit out of reach. But thanks to the scholarship, I was able to see and hear from some of the most interesting public relations and marketing minds around the globe. Leaving ICON, I felt energized and ready to take on new challenges for my current and future clients.

One of the recurring themes among keynote speakers at the conference was how much of a difference public relations professional can – and should – make during a time when many audiences feel more divided than ever. Perhaps Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich put it best when he said: “You have a great deal of influence over the tone of our national communications. You have a great deal of influence over your clients in terms of helping them to understand that civility- and by that, I mean just merely being respectful – is critically important and is good for them as well as for the country.”

The overarching theme of this year’s conference was communications convergence, and it’s a concept I’m sure most of us grapple with from time to time. What really constitutes a journalist nowadays? What is considered real news and what isn’t? I can tell you that there were several encouraging statements I heard from those in PRSA leadership at the national level that made me feel well-represented and defended. There are people in some of the highest positions of our organization that are consistently going to bat for PR professionals who may feel embattled or tired of having to fight against the notion that we provide ‘fake’ news on behalf of our clients. I was also encouraged to hear that leadership is turning its attention to the value that PRSA’s sections provide members; as a section leader myself, I have witnessed first-hand how important it can be to meet – even if it is virtually – with others who are in similar roles to brainstorm ideas, discuss hurdles, and even partner from time to time.

One of the most exciting pieces of news I heard during the conference was that ICON will be held in beautiful, sunny climates for at least the next two years. San Diego is next up in 2019, and, believe it or not… ORLANDO is slated to play host in 2020. As you well know, a lot can happen in any given profession in two years’ time, and given our current political climate and the fact that Orlando’s 2020 ICON will be held right before a presidential election, I think we’ve got a great opportunity to showcase just how critical public relations professionals are when it comes to leading both a national, and international, narrative.

Leaving Austin, I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and to meet some new ones, and I was especially appreciative of the opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest in this business. I’m excited to put what I learned into action in the weeks and months ahead, and look forward to what I’ll most certainly learn in San Diego, Orlando, and beyond.

Thank you again, PRSA Orlando, for the scholarship and for the opportunity to represent our great chapter in another really great city.

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