PRIA National Conference: #PRIAConf2015 day two round-up

Tue, Oct 27 2015

#PRIAConf2015 Conference Session Round-Up

Guests were welcomed to country as ABC's Michael Rowland (pictured) officially opened the 2015 PRIA National Conference. Tasmania’s Governor, the Hon. Kate Warner AM began the conference by highlighting the need for effective communication in any job – including hers. The Governor told the crowd how she’d wished she’d been schooled in PR.

The crowd was given an inside glimpse of the weird and wonderful, Museum of Old and New Art. MONA’s Leigh Carmichael discussed early concerns around the organisation’s signature ale, Moo Brew, not to mention the blank stares from tourism top brass that greeted him when the idea of MONA was put to them. It seemed there wasn’t much faith in the museum or its products. But Carmichael’s approach of thinking big and outside the square plus MONA’s daring new festivals, helped take it to heights of success not yet scaled in Tasmania.

Heidi Ross’ (pictured) plan to start a luxury camping business in Queensland were put on hold when friend and former colleague, Peter Greste was thrown into an Egyptian prison for his reporting for Al Jazeera. Over 400 days, Ross would manage the campaign to have Greste released. It stepped up and new tactics sought when Greste was sentenced. Ross persisted, got the world talking with a hashtag and softened Greste’s image.

Following the tragic events of Black Saturday, locals in Marysville came together to discuss their town’s future. Mining magnate, Twiggy Forrest told those present to come up with a, ‘great big hairy-assed goal’. So they decided to create a golf pro-am. Presenter, Nick Jans says this one meeting raised the community from the ashes, redeeming its spirit and raising hope. Jans told the crowd, when recovering from crisis, don’t just appeal to people’s heads but their hearts and guts.

The social media beast was tackled by Nicole Matejic, who said the strongest weapon for the battlefield is in our pocket, our handbag, our hand: the smart phone. Matejic said our audience is increasingly growing intolerant of buzzwords and bullshit.

Zoos SA’s Alison Hassel relived the turmoil of rebuilding the trust of the public following an image crisis spurred by local media outlets. Hassel stressed the importance of leading the conversation and maintaining transparency, especially when facing financial struggles. Surviving the war against public perception, Hassel reminds us to never underestimate the power of public sentiment, or the smile of a baby giraffe.

According to Sjaakie Adriaans, running the Mildura pound is not a walk in the park, but as any animal lover would stress, there are no bad animals, only bad owners. With euthanasia rates through the roof, Adriaans turned to animal lovers for support, seeking the most passionate individuals to help steer social change within the community. By changing the mindset of the people, the Mildura Council saw their euthanasia rates dramatically drop, and many fury friends rehoused in their forever homes.

Dr Melanie Irons (pictured below) gave a rip-roaring performance in the concurrent room. "In a crisis, speed trumps accuracy when delivering information - you can disclaim uncertainty and don't be afraid to tell the community what you don't know," she said.

Irons pointed out that it is important in a crisis to create a VOST - virtual operation support team, to help with gathering information, web content and administrative work. In a time when community's trust is still valued greatly, don't be afraid to call upon the resources of the community. Uncertainty is one of the biggest issues in a crisis and people need constant information. We saw this issue mentioned at the 2013 PRIA National Conference in Adelaide, when the Boston Police Department said the biggest challenge they had following the bombings was to control all the misinformation that was out in the open. The process of crisis communications is about sourcing information, handling it, posting it, and leaving it to the public to disseminate. Irons finished with saying, "Sensory and information trauma is the most frequent experience people suffer, which is why psychological first aid is so important."

Taking the public with you as Government was self-confessed bureaucrat Sarah Cruickshank’s (pictured) key message. Being real, saving the spin and picking correct channels were others.

The tragedy of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre looms even to this day for Stephen Large, CEO of the historic site. As the 20th anniversary of the horrific event approaches, Large spoke of the importance of remembering and delivering a world-class tourism experience.  

Guy Taylor squashed many a marketing thought bubble in telling delegates, forget kangaroo clichés and picnics: get creative and tell your story when selling tourism. He told the room to forget about customer service because after all, that’s something you may do to a cow, and focus on being different.

In keeping with the #PRIAConf2015 theme, Bill Lark of Lark Distillery fame, discussed transforming Tasmanian whiskey. He had no idea how to make the stuff but had a passion to do so and with Government help, obtained the first distillers license since the 1800s. He’s created a global brand, tempted new markets with the tipple and mentors many of the 17 whiskey producers now in Tasmania. Spending little on marketing, Bill Lark has built an empire and earned the name, Godfather. A magnificent tale that left us a tad thirsty.

After an interesting rendition of Bob Dylan, AustraliaSCAN’s David Chalke discussed to changing face of comms, the power of proximity and one-term-wonders being born of growing impatience. Wrapping up Day One, Lelde McCoy from Reputation Group and Linda Brennan from RMIT joined forced to discuss putting the social in social media.

The final session of the formal part of the day was PRIA's Annual General Meeting where the Institute delivered its first financial profit for several years. A new president will be called for at the EGM taking place in early 2016. 

Golden Target Awards National Finals

Last night saw the 39th Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) Golden Target Awards (GTAs) held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania, as part of PRIA's 2015 National Conference, Huge Transformations. The packed house hosted consultancy and in-house senior Public Relations leaders at the industry's night-of-nights - the pinnacle of the annual PR awards program.

The night was hosted by Dr Melanie Irons, UTas, who also spoke during the main PRIA annual conference earlier that day, who thanked GTA co-chairs Angela Coombes and Grant Smith, for their unending support and hard work in managing the program. Representatives from Isentia, Arthur J. Gallagher, Copyright Agency and PRIA's own council and board volunteers, helped present the long list of awardees.

Dr Melanie Irons, Master of Ceremonies

Big category campaign winners on the night included Rowland; Hardman Communications; PR Edge; Weber Shandwick; HBF; Red Agency; VIVA! Communications; Cannings Purple; Bayer Australia; Ogilvy Australia; Sydney Convicts Rugby Club; and

Ava Lawler, Managing Director, Australia at Weber Shandwick, said, "We are grateful to our client, Accor Hotel, who had the courage to support a truly innovative and integrated campaign. We are also fortunate to have an inspired, smart team that worked tirelessly to drive tangible, business-focused results."

Ava Lawler and Graham Le Roux

Erik Denison, Media and Public Relations Manager, Sydney Convicts Rugby Union Club, said, "Winning this award is a deep honour and we hope it will continue to help elevate the issue of homophobia in sport and motivate continued change." 

"Many of the players on our rugby team, myself included, have felt unwelcome in sporting environments because we are gay. Sport remains one of the last pockets of western society where homophobic behaviour is widely accepted," he said.

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia, congratulated the Sydney Convicts and Bingham Cup organisers and said the awards are well deserved. "As a long-time advocate for equality I was greatly impressed by the ability of these passionate rugby players to draw attention to discrimination of LGBTI athletes. Over the years, particularly over the last 18 months, they have elevated the need to address homophobia in sport onto the national agenda and united people who are normally competitors to work together on this important issue," said Turnbull.

There were big individual award winners in Dr Melanie James, University of Newcastle, winning Educator of the Year; Emma Kershaw, Dairy Australia, winning Top sPRinter of the Year; and Arthur Delbridge LFPRIA & Paul Rushton-Clarke MPRIA, sharing the National President's Award, presented by PRIA Life Fellow and Tasmanian local, Greg Ray.

Group winners consisted Patrick Macdonald (pictured), Regatta Hotel, winning In-house Team of the Year; James Wright, Red Agency, winning Large Consultancy of the Year (for the second consecutive year); with the penultimate gong going to Fee Townshend, PR Edge, who took home the National Campaign of the Year with 'Yellow Pages: RUOK? Covers Partnership'. Susan Redden Makatoa, Ogilvy PR, accepted two GTAs, including the International Campaign of the Year, for Ogilvy's work with Al Jazeera English in freeing Peter Greste.

"For the team, especially Steve Reilly and Michael Hartmann who put in hundreds of hours, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was our privilege and our honour to have played a part in bringing Peter home. Freedom of the press was absolutely core to this campaign, so we wholeheartedly supported it," said Susan Redden Makatoa, Group Managing Director – Corporate, Ogilvy PR. 

James Wright, Group COO, Havas Worldwide and Managing Director, Red Agency, said, "We are humbled and honoured to go back-to-back as consultancy of the year. It's a testament to the dedication, passion and expertise we have across the consultancy that is delivered day in, day out, that has enabled us to pick up these consecutive wins. We have a vision to redefine the meaning and role of PR in today's world and you can see that in the work we are doing. I want to thank all of my team for their supreme efforts in making this happen."

Red Agency

"Winning a Golden Target Award is the pinnacle achievement for any PR consultancy and we feel very privileged to have been recognised by our peers. With six awards and one GTA trophy, last night was the biggest in Icon's history – and proof that our integrated approach to PR can achieve big things for clients.

"As an agency committed to sustainability and positive behaviour change campaigns, winning a Golden Target Award for Love Food, Hate Waste was particularly thrilling," said Joanne Painter, Managing Director,

Authors: Claire Todd and Neil O'Sullivan

Click here for all photos of the day

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