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Trust, creativity and beautiful/ugly | Themes from #PRIAcon19

Monday 18, Nov 2019

The Temple team was delighted to sponsor PRIA’s National Conference this year, which was themed Trust, Transformation and Relevance. It was great to rub elbows with industry leaders and emerging talent. For those of you who couldn’t make it to Melbourne, we’ve summed up the key themes here:


Arun Sudhaman - CEO, Holmes Report

Trust was the word on everyone’s lips: the role of communications professionals in knowing what audiences/stakeholders want, and how to engage them, played out in almost every presentation and discussion. Holmes Report CEO Arun Sudhaman noted that while marketers were primarily concerned with customers, corporate affairs people need to understand and engage with ALL stakeholders – consumers, employees, government, partners and suppliers, commentators and influencers, community. In a sneak preview of the 2019 World PR Report, Arun also identified the future talent demand skills sets, with research/insight/planning, data/measurement/analytics, creativity, crisis counsel and multimedia content creation topping the list.

CEOs are missing a trick: While “disruptor” CEOs like Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes are active and vocal on social media, some three-quarters of major business leaders have little to no activity on channels like Twitter and LinkedIn. Presenters pointed to a missed opportunity to directly engage around business purpose, achievements and direction. ANZ’s Shayne Elliott was named as a stand-out example in this regard. With stakeholder increasingly looking for authentic communication, this could be one for corporate affairs practitioners to move on. The reputation and business return from “humanising” CEOs through engagement was emphasised.


Richard Brett - CEO, opr Agency

Ugly/beautiful: Multiple presenters showed that polished and perfect is increasingly being replaced by raw and authentic. Opr’s Richard Brett summed up this trend as Beautful/Ugly, pointing to the rise of TikTok and Snapchat, fast-and-cheap memes, saying that in a backlash against fake news, real can be more valuable. Filtered Media’s Chief Storyteller Mark Jones showed that rough-and-ready can be highly effective in reaching customers.

Creativity with purpose: The World PR Report found that 83% believe brands could play an even bigger role in providing stability and a further 74% expect brands to take a stand on important issues. This year’s Cannes Lions PR winners were no different. Cannes PR Jury President (and Edelman CEO) Michelle Hutton said that all winners had insight at their heart, with a creative execution that captured hearts and minds. We were chuffed to see Australian winners in the global mix, including Lendlease’s bitingly clever “Safety Mums” campaign. The crowd watched in a stunned silence as Richard Brett talked through the #generationlockdown teaching video, where an 11-year-old in the US teaches adults what she’s learned in school lockdown drills. If you haven’t seen it, it’s striking, and some US states changed their laws as a result.

Time to dive into data and AI: Weber Shandwick’s Ian Rumsby explored the impact automation was having more broadly and in communication more specifically. He too showed that creativity was key to the industry’s relevance and that practitioners are often dealing with multiple professional challenges, including work/life balance, the rapid pace of change and need to transition to new technologies and ways of working. The day two Masterclass explored communications in a 5G world, including apps which measures interviewee’s stress rates. It even provided a breath pacer which we saw slowed the heart rate and improved perception. Other presenters said that data provides ever-deeper insights into audiences, planning and measurement, with an increasing demand for business results above impressions and views.

The Temple team thanks PRIA for the great content, fresh data and new connections.


Written by Susan Redden Makatoa - Director, Search, Temple Executive Search