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The pandemic, protests and politics shape PRSA Maryland’s 2020 fall virtual conference, “Navigating the Next Normal”

Kathleen Koch, former CNN correspondent, and Jardena London of Souls@Work to keynote

The past year has taken “planning for the unexpected” to a whole new level as the pandemic, protests and politics continue to bring unimaginable challenges to the world, the economy and the communications profession. This will be the focus of the Public Relations Society of America Maryland Chapter’s (PRSA MD) 43rd annual conference “Navigating the Next Normal,” a completely digital event taking place Sept. 24-25, 2020.

Highlights include keynote addresses from former CNN correspondent and crisis communications leader Kathleen Koch and Jardena London, an agile transformation consultant and founder of Souls@Work. Sessions will also explore:

  • Social media marketing in a post-COVID-19 world;
  • How to respond to and address issues raised by protests;
  • How organizations can effectively discuss diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • The latest techniques to reach and engage audiences;
  • Corporate social responsibility and “corporate personhood;” and
  • How to remain inspired and maintain your stamina.

“Navigating the Next Normal” is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 24, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 25. More details on featured speakers as well as the full conference lineup will be announced soon. The fee is $50 for PRSA members and $60 for non-members. Registration information and additional details can be found at https://prsamd.org/event/prsa-maryland-virtual-conference-navigating-the-next-normal/.

Koch spent most of her career as a journalist, starting as a reporter on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and ending as a Peabody Award-winning network television White House correspondent. She left the news business in 2009 and wrote Rising from Katrina, the prize-winning bestseller about the recovery of her Bay St. Louis, Miss. hometown from Hurricane Katrina. Koch led a nationwide letter-writing campaign to encourage the survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan before turning her attention to aiding in disasters at home by creating LeadersLink.

Jardena London’s life mission is to help organizations become healthy, productive and fun. She is the founder of Souls@Work, a movement to create workplaces that give us energy and nourish our souls. As an agile transformation consultant, she works with leadership teams on Enterprise Business Agility. Her most recent successes have been transforming large legacy organizations into modern workplaces with breakout results. She has also served as co-founder and CEO of Rosetta Technology Group since 1997.  Check out her blogtoon on workplaces that thrive at www.rosettatg.com/blogtoon.

Conference sponsors include Chesapeake Employees Insurance and Devaney & Associates (graphic design), with additional sponsorship opportunities still available. Approximately 125 communications professionals are expected to attend.

Working to Continue with a Bold PR Future – Conference Recap

by Lisa Brusio Coster, Chapter President

It was a dog day of summer and the conference did not wilt under the heat. While NDMU did its best to keep us cool, 72 attendees at this year’s PRSA Maryland conference networked and learned new ideas and skills from our panelists and presenters. (To see details on the presenters, see the conference agenda here.)

In the opening panel on Changing Baltimore’s Narrative, we heard about the “Charm City Three-Step” – how Baltimore takes one step forward only to take two steps back. We were reminded Baltimore has a brand perception problem and we need to come together on a common theme. It was a deep, intelligent discussion with a few opposing views and in the end, a 15-minute Idea Lab was implemented for problem-solving, which allowed each table of attendees to work within specific parameters.

Afterwards, there were so many strong ideas expressed, PRSA Maryland decided to create a task force of sorts to take the lead on re-branding Baltimore. More to come on that concept, but initially, the goal will be to invite other PR, communications, marketing, and advertising organizations into the fold to accomplish the task.

Six sessions were held throughout the day, which covered diversity in internal communications, podcasting, public affairs, storytelling, niche audiences, and crisis. 

In the podcasting session, we learned the podcast audience is highly educated with high income and that most listeners fall between the ages of 25 – 34. During the storytelling session, we were told stories are the currency of human life. We were encouraged to find a way to blend informal and formal stories.

In crisis communications, we heard we must maintain trust with our stakeholders and whether you are viewed as caring is the single biggest predictor of how you are perceived after a crisis. In internal communications, we were counseled to expand our communications styles and platforms for various audiences and add our preferred pronouns to our email signatures. We were also reminded how important it is to have conversations with people with viewpoints different from our own.

In developing content for millennial black mothers, we heard how influential this audience is in terms of brand perception and buying power. And, in public affairs (PA) bootcamp we learned that while both PR and PA professionals represent organizations, PA is strictly related to the political, legislative, and government function, and closely related to lobbying. Some of the pressing challenges for PA practitioners revolves around crisis communications and risk management strategies.

Our day wrapped up with a panel presenting Towson University’s (TU) re-branding campaign. The TU staff took us down the path of research through implementation, covering an 18-month process. While they couldn’t share their budget with us, one of the best takeaways was that brand ambassadors include faculty and staff; hence, that internal audience required a communications strategy that culminated with a roll-out presentation long before the external audience was informed. We were also reminded logos are not brands and key messages are not tag lines.

Events like these are not possible without financial and in-kind support, over and above our attendees’ fees. Once again, we thank our sponsors: Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company, The Bozzuto Group, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Researchscape, Coster Communications, Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, Megan Evans Photography, and Quandra Gray for design.

Is all trust lost? How to recover from a brand damaging crisis

Submitted by Jennifer Donahoe, PR & Social Media Account Director, Planit

On June 4, 2019, shocking and gruesome undercover video broke showing animal abuse at a dairy farm in Indiana where the popular milk brand Fairlife produces its milk.

Originally posted on social media, the video quickly went viral and national media and local media across every major market in the country covered the story. The words “horrifying,” “torture,” and “disturbing” became synonymous with the Fairlife brand.

The result? The brand’s perception was immediately damaged and public trust tanked, with customers banning the product, and chains such as Jewel-Osco, Casey’s Foods, Family Express and more pulled Fairlife milk from shelves. In response, not surprisingly, the “where to buy” section of Fairlife’s website was taken down.

As communicators, there’s a lot we can learn from this crisis. When Fairlife responded, how Fairlife responded, and most importantly, what Fairlife did in reaction to the crisis, will all be discussed on July 18 at PRSA Maryland’s conference session on How a Crisis Can Become an Opportunity.

You will learn:

  • How to prepare for a crisis
  • Rules of effective crisis response
  • What works – and what doesn’t work – in a crisis
  • Key messages to communicate, regardless of the crisis
  • The most important question to ask in a crisis
  • When to respond in a crisis

We’ll discuss all this and more, analyzing major recent crises to help you prepare for the foreseen – and unforeseen – so that your business or clients are ready no matter when or how a crisis strikes.

The reality is a crisis can happen at anytime to any company. If you’re ready to prepare and protect your client or brand, this session is for you.

Click here for more information on this session and more!

2019 PRSA Maryland Conference – Call for Presenters: Now Accepting through Friday, April 26

Posted updated 4/19/2019

Thursday, July 18 (NEW DATE)
Notre Dame of Maryland University

 

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT RFP

 

“What’s Truth Got To Do With It? The Future of PR!”

Truth. Transparency. Authenticity. The push to do business and communicate in a more open and transparent way.

Today’s consumers want more in their purchasing choices than a great product or service. Whether it’s shoes or eye glasses, luggage or even ice cream, the soul and character of an organization carry just as much weight.

What’s all this got to do with public relations? Turns out, pretty much everything.

When facts aren’t always facts and anyone can share information and call it news, public relations professionals – and their clients – are having to work harder than ever to tell their stories in an authentic voice that feels genuine and relatable. The expectation toward greater transparency influences every aspect of our profession – corporate messaging, internal communications, media relations, social media and digital strategy, storytelling, special events, how a CEO or organization responds to a crisis, and more.

While the need to sharpen and advance our skills is hardly new for the public relations professional, achieving the level of transparency required isn’t exactly easy. Bring your experiences to light and help raise the bar for Public Relations education by being a presenter at the 2019 PRSA Maryland Annual Conference on Thursday, July 18. This year’s conference will be held at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

For “What’s Truth Got To Do With It?,” we’re looking for great examples of how you are addressing and applying the demand for transparency in your work as a public relations professional. As a presenter, you will have the opportunity to impact individuals driven to improve themselves, the organizations they serve, PRSA and our profession. At the same time, you’ll have the added benefit of elevating your own skills and stature among peers who share in your passion and commitment to the profession.

Your experiences and insights toward innovative concepts and solutions are in high demand. By serving as a presenter, you’ll have the chance to demonstrate your evolution as a professional and further position yourself as an expert and role model in the industry.

 Suggested topics from our members include, but are not limited to:

  • Executive communications
  • How advancements in technology are changing the way we tell stories and share information
  • Shifts in the media landscape affecting how PR pros do their work moving forward
  • Social media strategy – finding the right voice and personality, engagement with audiences, use of influencers, etc.
  • Social media video applications – how you’re building engagement and/or solving a problem through applications like Instagram stories, IGTV, Facebook Live, etc.
  • Crisis communications and issues/reputation management
  • Telling powerful stories
  • How to build brand awareness
  • Measurement, tracking and metrics
  • Integration of traditional and social media
  • Tools for PR people on the cloud and via apps
  • Building your own brand as a PR professional (use of LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Marketing to multiple generations
  • Tools for creativity
  • Content development and strategy for multiple mediums
  • Effective writing in an authentic voice
  • Word-of-Mouth marketing – grassroots public relations using new tools
  • Making your message go viral 
  • Building your personal brand—do’s and don’ts of social media

Most sessions will run 60 minutes including question & answer periods. We are also considering 30-minute flash sessions intended to give attendees quick tips on a targeted topic.

Proposals must be submitted on or before FRIDAY, APRIL 26 (NEW DEADLINE). For more information, contact PRSA Maryland office at info@prsamd.org or 443-283-8060.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT RFP

*Graphic by Quandra Gray

Influencers Share their Stories

From left to right: Tracy Imm, APR; Jessica Fast; Jill Smokler, Christine Carter, Margaret Nam. Photo courtesy of conference lunch sponsor Planit

Submitted by Tracy Imm, APR

One of the most talked about sessions at 2018 PRSA Maryland Conference held on June 12 featured four top thought leaders on influencer communications. On stage we had three influencers, two of whom are also in the PR/Communications profession, and an influencer strategist.

The panel discussion highlighted that PR professionals are well positioned to leverage social media influencer relationships and connect brands to targeted buyers. We are skilled at delivering business results for our organizations through earned media and the more we understand the perspectives of the influencer the better job we can do as PR professionals.

“It’s hard from marketers and communicators to accept: you can’t control everything. Allow the relationship to be imperfect and authentic.”

Here is a quick recap of what our panelists shared.

 

  • New York Times best-selling author Jill Smokler (aka Scary Mommy) shared with us her journey from mommy blogger to macro-influencer with a platform that partnered with major brands like Target. Before her platform was purchased she had more control over the content strategy decisions (which she liked) and she saw how having an investor changed the game. She recently left her role at Scary Mommy to pursue new opportunities where she can control the content strategy and tactics and discuss topics she finds interesting.
  • Christine Michel Carter reviewed her strategies as a micro-influencer sharing her views with other black millennial moms. She has consistently created content over the past ten years and she now has brands such as Brick Bodies sponsoring her content. She shares with her audience in an authentic fashion in order to engender the “know, like and trust” factor. One eye-opening point she made was in sharing how she measures the unicorns (impact of influencers). Her formula: Average engagement per post divided by the number of followers times 100. Her influencer score is 1.95% compared to Beyonce at 2.73%.
  • Jessica Fast from Abel Communications talked about how brands are looking for social media influencers to promote their products and services. She shared several case studies with the audience. She underscored that we need to understand influencers are not media outlets, they are people, not reporters telling your story. The power of the influencer is in their authenticity. “It’s hard from marketers and communicators to accept: you can’t control everything. Allow the relationship to be imperfect and authentic.” She also noted that we shouldn’t limit our thinking. “Don’t think about influencers as just individuals, explore relationships with influential groups.”
  • Margaret Nam from Planit, another micro-influencer who works with influencers for her clients, discussed the tactics she has used to grow her audience in the Baltimore marketplace and the new opportunities that have come her way as a result. She noted that micro-influencers provide more opportunities for added value content, a niche, targeted audience and lower cost.

 

PRSA Maryland Chapter thanks all the event sponsors who helped make this conference possible. Click here to see who was there! 

If you attended the conference, check out the pictures below and by clicking here. If you didn’t, see what you missed.

2018 PRSA Maryland Conference Recap

130 communications professionals gather in Towson for 2018 PRSA Maryland annual conference.

Each year, the PRSA Maryland Chapter gathers together a diverse network of communication professionals at its annual conference and provides attendees with a day-long professional development and networking opportunity. Speakers share their insights, industry knowledge and, most importantly, vision for the future of public relations. The 2018 conference, held June 12 at the Baltimore Sheraton in Towson, was no exception, attracting 130 attendees and speakers.

Attendees engaged with prominent social media influencers as well as heard experts present on topics about fake news, analytics, what CMOs expect, and the latest changes in social media.

The conference keynote speaker featured a presentation by Ed Bodensiek highlighting the convergence of communications, marketing, and customer experience (CX). Click here to see the full agenda and learn more about our speakers. 

PRSA Maryland Chapter thanks all the event sponsors who helped make this conference possible. Click here to see who was there! 

If you attended the conference, check out the pictures below and by clicking here. If you didn’t, see what you missed.

Photos courtesy of Coyle Studios

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors