Peter Williams disrupts the PR industry down in Hobart at #PRIAConf15

Sun, Oct 25 2015

Day one of the 2015 Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) National Conference kicked off with a stunning sunrise in the beautiful surrounds of Hobart, Tasmania. The initial instalment of #PRIAConf15 involved the eagerly awaited MasterClass, which was hosted this year by Chief Edge Officer, for Deloitte’s Centre for Edge, Peter Williams, @rexster. The two-part MasterClass brought the 40 delegates to three iconic Hobart venues: The Tench historical building, MONA, and Lark Distillery.

PRIA National Marketing and Communication Manager, Neil O'Sullivan, welcomed delegates to the eerie yet interesting surrounds of the Tench. The room of attendees featured some new faces to the MasterClass but many familiar ones as well and it was fantastic to see previous PRIA South Australian President, Leigh McClusky there as well. Leigh was big driver behind the conception of the relatively recent refresh of the MasterClass back in 2013, when this preamble segement of the conference was brought to SA's Barossa Valley. In that year, the Crescenzos from Chicago, USA, explained why 'Content is King' and we visited three local wineries in the Barossa really setting the scene for the theme of the conference that particular year, The Inside Story.


Fast forward to 2014 and again, the MasterClass continued the spirit of appreciating the local heritage of the PRIA Conference destination city. This time, we were in Brisbane. The conference was hosted one week after the famous G20 Summit, and PR professionals were given a taste of what it was like to be a global VIP in three very underrated CBD locations. Delegates that year got some very interesting takeouts from the local tourism body, Brisbane Marketing, on how to manage such a major event. The history of the two MasterClasses prior to 2015 really were a direct evolutionary result of why the main PRIA Conference came to Hobart, Huge Transformations, and more succinctly the reason of this year's MasterClass theme, Disruption.

Tasmania has gone through its own huge transformation in recent times and no better place than Tassie to showcase what this was all about. PRIA's annual MasterClass also gives the conference that one chance to go a little outside of the 'PR prerequisite' and there certainly wasn't a better person to deliver that than Peter Williams. The regional Victorian native could be touted as a tech/digital/disruptive whiz but not be his own admission. His impressive background and passion for what he loves was audible from the outset. His mannerisms and quick wit had the audience engaged right from the beginning. 

Williams brought guests up to date on current disruption in today’s industry in what is one of Hobart oldest buildings, the Tench Penitentiary. Delegates were treated to guided tours of the prison and got an insight of the history behind this cultural landmark. Williams delivered an unconventional yet entertaining first session, with lots of practical learnings, whilst delving into what disruption is all about. Unless you've been living under a rock, most people will know of Uber and Airbnb, but Williams explained the thought processes behind true disruption. He talked about the narrative, working with the brand, getting buy-in from those holding the purse strings and gave some very usable examples of how this can be achieved.

In fact, that was the whole ethos behind his delivery. He challenged attendees to be innovative on little time and he said how sick he is of hearing, "We simply don't have time to be innovative or creative, we are too busy." Williams was adamant the best ideas can come in seconds and minutes, really good ideas often get thrown out when they have to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy. His question to the audience was, 'How are you going to convince your boss that what we are doing is the right thing and that the plan is going to work?' Trust... or don't hire me.

Attendees were then split into groups to think of how they could 'disrupt' their own PR environment using easy-to-implement thoughts and ideas. When it came to the initial thoguhts on what is disrupting PR and where it is falling short, measurement and showing ROI again peered its head and retaining and finding talented staff was also a common issue that appeared. Guests were then asked to keep the rest of their ideas until part two of the MasterClass. 

Next stop on the tour was MONA, and Justin Johnstone (JJ), Head of Guest Services, gave a very frank intro on the mind of David Walsh and the day-to-day of working with his particular disruptive boss. Next, Peter Williams brought the room through the second and final leg of the MasterClass, learning about future disrupters and what technology communicators need to invest in. Whether it was gravity lights, diabetes trackers or scanning real-life documents, he left the room of PR professionals in awe.

The MasterClass then came to a close at Lark Distillery, another iconic Tasmanian venue, where guests had the opportunity to sample some of Bill Lark’s famous whiskey. Lark will be speaking at the main PRIA Conference on Monday, 26 October 2015, at the Grand Chancellor.

Taking place alongside the MasterClass throughout the day was the satellite event, the annual PRIA Research Colloquium, held at University Tasmania, hosted by PRIA Education Manager, Julian Kenny. Some fantastic insights and research were shared amongst the academic PR community.

PRIA’s National Board also met during the day, finalising the details surrounding PRIA’s impending Strategic Plan. The annual PRIA’s Fellows meeting took place too with the Fellows continuing to play a pivotal role in PRIA’s direction in 2015 and further afield.

After an action-packed MasterClass and governance meetings, delegates were welcomed at the Henry Jones Art Hotel, where over 100 PR professionals, including main PRIA National Conference host, Michael Rowland, ABC, caught up over social drinks at the close of night number one of #PRIAConf15. Local PRIA Tasmanian President, Jacquie Ray, gave a sincere welcome to all guests and officially opened the 2015 conference. 

The hashtag for the conference, #PRIAConf15, hit the top five trending hashtags in Tasmania over the course of the day, adding anticipation to what might be still to come for the two main days of the conference, starting tomorrow.

If you want to follow the conversation during the conference, tweet PRIA via @PRIANational using the hashtags #PRIAConf15, #2015GTAs, #Hobart, and #Tasmania, over the next two days. You can also send pictures via PRIA's Instagram account, @PRIA_National. 

Author: Neil O'Sullivan, National Marketing and Communication Manager, PRIA.

For more photos on day one from the conference, click here.

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