MONDAY 18 NOV 2019 5:01 PM


Public relations has changed. That much is apparent based on the CIPR National Conference programme. Not only were traditional PR practitioners on the docket – like Lansons’ Tony Langham – but so too were HR experts, governmental digital pros, researchers and planners, and futurists.

The resulting environment is something wholly different from what it would’ve been, say, five years ago, in which PR professionals are recognised as those who have to manage all kinds of communications on behalf of their companies or clients.

Keynote speaker Joanna Blackburn showcased that ably. Deputy director of communications & engagement at the Government Digital Service, Blackburn discussed the challenges of condensing the tens of thousands of government websites into a single online centre. In doing so, the Government Digital Service was able to better serve the nation, but also capably worked with leadership to do so. She was followed by CEO of the CIPD, Peter Cheese, who discussed the ways in which companies are responding to Generation Z, both as employees and as an external audience.

Despite the PR heartland of reputation management, communicators are now being tasked with broader remits, like the three speakers who discussed non-profit communications. Leanne Manchester from the Wildlife Trust, independent consultant Helen Reynolds and Kate Lawson of Tiny Tickers shared their experiences in cash-strapped local councils and charities. But, rather than hindering great PR, a lack of resources can allow for excellent communications to make a real impact. “The best social media is the cheapest social media,” Reynolds says. That thought was echoed by Lawson and Manchester who discussed their approach to social media analytics and the gathering audience data: test and trial, and time. Trusted with their business’ communications portfolios, from PR to digital to branding, they said that has allowed them to get an undeniable sense of who their audience is, where it is and what it wants.

Langham followed the morning sessions with a talk on trust in a modern world, focusing on the ways in which communicators can derive great stories from their companies, regardless of the sector. The afternoon sessions looked into communications in the future, particularly with regards to the changing nature of work and the workplace.

The themes were clear, change, a digitally integrated future and, ultimately, the practitioner at the centre of a company’s communications.

The annual CIPR Excellence Awards are open for entry until 27 February.