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.