Thoughts From the Corner Office: The 2012 PRSA Chicago Agency Big Shot Lunch Remembered

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Football. Trees changing color. Pumpkins.  Brisk temperatures.  Shorter days.

These shout out the arrival of fall.  (Or autumn, if you prefer a more “robust” word.)  So does the annual fall luncheon hosted by PRSA Chicago that features a panel of local agency leaders.  Yesterday, these six leading public relations professionals offered thoughts and projections on the state of the public relations profession.

  • Rick Murray, President, Edelman
  • Patti Temple Rocks, Managing Director, GolinHarris
  • Bill Zucker, Midwest Director, Ketchum
  • Susan Howe, President, Weber Shandwick
  • Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, Fleishman-Hillard
  • Erica Swerdlow, Midwest Market Leader / Managing Director at Burson Marsteller
  • Claire Koeneman, Executive Vice President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

The task of keeping these folks engaged fell to moderator Jack Monson, Vice President of  a company appropriately called Engage121.  My friend and colleague Mr. Monson moderated last year’s panel discussion.  Read my post from the 2011 luncheon when you have a moment.

Without further ado, here’s what the Agency Big Shots had to say.  (Disclosure: I’m aggregating these thoughts into bullet points below because I simply did not take good enough notes to provide attribution. My apologies. All six panelists shared valuable insight.)

  • State of the Industry: Change — due mostly to technology — will take place even faster than before and require new skill sets.  Agencies now look for those culinary and visual skills, for example, along with knowledge of strategy and communications.   The lines between advertising and public relations continue to blur.
  • Social Media is Here to Stay: One panelist said the agency social media team presents a new development to the entire shop each week, over beers of course. Social media is paramount to mitigate a crisis; this includes new platforms like Instagram.  Public relations counselors should demand that clients have written social media policies in place for employees — and make employees sign agreements.
  • If You’re Seeking a Job: Candidates will rise to the top if they demonstrate curiosity,  resourcefulness and the willingness to “get out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibilities.” Younger account managers need to learn how to “embrace a spreadsheet.” Fortunately, solid writing and presentation skills still count.  Former journalists continue to be considered for agency positions.
  • Where the Business Comes From: Some agencies are experiencing more “organic growth” rather than keeping the lights on via new business pitches. When new pitches are made, the entire account team — from VPs to AEs — participate.  That means younger team members are being trained more on how to sell.
  • A Big Trend to Watch: Expect a greater “convergence” of paid, owned and earned media. The “live” events hosted by the Chicago Tribune serve as an example, so do some of the segments aired on “Ellen.”   This trend represents ethical public relations — providing there’s full disclosure of who’s paying for the campaign.

Yes, there was lots more; but this is what I scribbled into my handy pocket notebook.  Now it’s your turn: Did you attend the PRSA Chicago luncheon September 18?  What did you learn from the six panelists and subsequent discussion?  Or, just share your thoughts on where public relations is headed in 2013 and beyond.

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