Public relations professionals from PPRA, PRSA Philly and PBPRS gathered April 19, 2016 for the third ever State of the Industry event. As attendees enjoyed a filling breakfast, PPRA President Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway welcomed the audience followed by PRSA Philly President Kimberley Ciesla and Philadelphia Black Public Relations President Vincent Thompson. Next, guests transitioned into the main part of the event which consisted of four interesting panel discussions about the state of public relations in Philadelphia organized into two breakout sessions.
During the first breakout session, “Staying Out of the News: Insight from Philly’s Top Crisis PR Experts” event attendees had the opportunity to learn more about crisis public relations from some of the top Crisis PR professionals. The panel consisted of Cathy Engel Menendez, Director of Communications for PECO, Joshua Peck, PR Head at international law firm Duane Morris, and Christopher Lukach, president and member of the ownership team at Anne Klein Communications Group. Neil Foote, president of Foote Communications LLC and the National Black Public Relations Society, moderated the conversation, introducing various challenges faced by professionals who perform crisis management. By the conclusion of the session, audience members learned the importance of getting the facts, identifying the ideal spokesperson, sharing a plan for dispensing information with stakeholders and setting the tone for a crisis during the first response. The panelists also explained the importance of preparing for crises before they occur, already having established relationships with C-suite executives and being able to communicate the values of your organization when in doubt.
The other portion of the audience attended “The Influence Behind Philly Brands” during session one. This event was moderated by David Brown, Founder/Managing Director of the Marketing Collaborative and assistant professor of teaching at Temple University. Janeane Tolomeo of Di Bruno Bros., Trevor Prichett of the Yards Brewing Company and Paula Butler of Visit Philadelphia sat on the panel for this discussion. Each professional discussed some of the unique challenges their brands face and the ways they leverage their brand’s Philly connection to meet their bottom lines. While Visit Philly tries to make cultural connections with Philadelphia and the outside world to engage their audiences, Yard Brewing Company competes with large companies on their small budget by appealing to Philly loyalty and using social media, traditional PR and multimedia content to develop campaigns like their “Brew onto Others.” Tolomeo explained that the Di Bruno Bros employs market research, high level connections and influential partnerships to keep their finger on the pulse of consumers.
The second breakout session focused on two different subjects: social media and changes in healthcare. In “We Snapped, Posted & Tweeted… What’s Next?,” Rakia Reynolds, CEO and Founder of Skai Blue Media, and Matthew Dickman, Executive Director of Digital Communications at Comcast Corporation, shared their expertise with the audience. After giving brief professional backgrounds, Boyd and Dickman dialogued about their recent shared experience in the Comcast lounge at SXSW. They reminisced about how Comcast spent 1/10th the amount as many other brands at SXSW but generated more engagement by providing great content, incorporating various forms of social media and creating an interactive and engaging space. Boyd and Dickman continued the discussion providing advice about strategically growing interaction on social media, organic posting versus paid search, determining the appropriate content according to platform, incorporating snapchat for large companies and more.
Other professionals who attended the event elected to attend “From Consumerism to the FDA—How Changes in Healthcare Impact Communications.” Rachel Schwartz, Vice President of Tonic Life Communications discussed the role that patient bloggers play in affecting policies in the healthcare industry. Leah Sheppard, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications, also spoke about the more active role patients are taking in healthcare consumerism. Rather than simply following doctor’s orders, patients have begun to take agency advice in seeking out physicians and institutions and it is shifting the conversation in this field. For Charlotte Sutton, Health and Science editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she recognizes the rise in patient stories but what she looks for is the data underpinnings of these increasing patient stories.
After the breakout sessions, the audience heard from April Mellody, Deputy CEO of Communications of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee. The 2016 Democratic National Convention is coming to Philadelphia this July and Mellody is responsible for all aspects of official convention communications. A short Q&A session followed Mellody’s spiel that broached topics from communication challenges Mellody’s staff may face to volunteer opportunities. Attendees left the third State of the Industry event more informed about changes in the field of PR and with more insight about the state of Philadelphia in the near future.
Jameeda Rucker is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication and minoring in Spanish. Jameeda has held five public relations internships and multiple leadership roles in pre-professional organizations including her current role as Vice President of Public Relations for Temple’s Chapter of PRSSA. You can connect with Jameeda on Twitter @_JRPR_ and on LinkedIn here.