spottypod: Highlights from the Midlands PR Conference featuring exclusive interviews with Jonny Dymond, Richard Bagnall and Rob Markwell

by Rachel Roberts |

The spottydog pack joined 150 fellow PR professionals at the recent Midlands PR Conference at Birmingham City University’s School of Media and as well as hearing from a range of cracking speakers, we turned newshounds to create our own podcast featuring highlights of the day.

The cracking line-up of speakers, who included BBC Royal Correspondent Jonny Dymond, AMEC Chairman Richard Bagnall, AI in PR Vice Chair Kerry Sheehan and Sheila Taylor, CEO of Child Sexual Exploitation support organisation NWG Network, all provided a unique perspective on the Conference theme – the business of communications, from their own expert viewpoint.  Across the range of insights presented, common themes emerged, including the impact media diversification, society cultural changes, emerging technology and the continued challenge of demonstrating how effective communications can deliver ROI.

Reflecting on the subjects discussed, it seems that whilst we’re working in a chaotic, ever shifting landscape, the message from all speakers was that organisations can be more in control of their narrative through strong leadership in communications.  So many external factors will be beyond our control – whether its Brexit, politics, the economy, the growing impact of China, the dominance of Google, Facebook and Apple – but as communications professionals we can take the lead in our own organisations and help organisations perform better by harnessing the power of effective comms.

But how do we take the lead if we’re not in the room? To influence the board, John Brown, Founder of comms agency Don’t Cry Wolf was passionate that PRs need to have a seat at the boardroom table.  If we’re not in the room, we need to get into it, demonstrating confident leadership as communications professionals, but also using our influencing skills to translate our creative and tactical ideas into strategic business solutions that will get buy in from the CEO and FD.

Helping our case to influence business strategy could be through better use of credible data. The C-Suite uses data to evaluate performance across all functions – sales data, people retention, finance and operational performance. Yet in marketing and comms, we’re still presenting dodgy dossiers with meaningless numbers according to AMEC Chairman Richard Bagnall. Help is available to generate the data and insights to make a better business case and influence the board through the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework tool. In particular, the Measurement Maturity Mapper tool has been created to benchmark an organisation’s use of data against industry best practice to assess how measurement is being used to for performance reporting, planning and to measure impact.

One story that doesn’t need to be measured for impact is clearly Brexit and with the Conference being staged hot on the heels of deadline day, it was inevitable that the elephant in the room could not be ignored.  In this respect it was timely to hear insight from Jonny Dymond, particularly how the reputation of UK plc is being viewed internationally.  Clearly, Brexit deliberations are set to continue for some time, but whilst the reputation of UK political leaders has taken a bashing, Dymond observed that the UK still benefits from the strength of its soft power, with the Royal Family, the BBC, marquee brands and sporting achievements helping to keep the UK on the global stage despite our political and military power being significantly less than it was.

In summary, the outtake from the Midlands PR Conference was that to lead, we need to communicate, so as communications professionals our opportunity to influence is huge – but we need to be in the boardroom so the business of communications is always on the agenda.

Listen to highlights from the Midlands PR Conference, together with exclusive interviews with Jonny Dymond, Richard Bagnall and Rob Markwell from Pitch Consultants, in our specially created spottypod podcast.