July 19, 2020
The CPRS National conference was delivered differently this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were introduced to an online platform called Remo, which allowed attendees to move between tables so we could network and catch up with our peers. The workshops were like webinars but with interactivity of voting on questions for the presenters. All the sessions were recorded so we can go back to workshops that we didn’t attend.
Transformation 2.0 delivered learnings that still have me thinking about them a week later. I want to share with you three of the lessons that I learned from the conference and hope to continue my awareness so I can put them into practise.
Take a look around the table
Christine Szustaczek, MCM, APR talked about her experience of organizing a Pride event for Sheridan College. In 2016, students asked if a Pride flag could be raised on campus. A Pride flag was created with an S on it, representing Sheridan College as a compromise with the student union because the college only had three flag poles. The first flag raising event was historic, attracting local media and at first, praise from students. But then students began to speak up and pointed out there was no LGBTQ+ representation around the event planning table.
“When you don’t intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude,” said Szustaczek. This quote and her experience had me thinking of events that I have organized in the past. My takeaway from this workshop is to pause and consider who I should include when planning an event. Sheridan College changed its consultation process for its Pride event, creating a more inclusive community.
Learn more about artificial intelligence
The opening keynote for the conference’s second day was Kerry Sheehan, the Artificial Intelligence in PR Chair for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). She opened my eyes about artificial intelligence and presented a chart showing AI’s increasing role in public relations. In order to stay competitive, PR practitioners need a very good understanding of data so it can help drive results and smash goals, says Sheehan.
The list of AI tools she mentioned are tools that I have taken for granted and haven’t considered as AI. For example, I would never have thought that Doodle is artificial intelligence. There are even more automation tools coming to the market, and we have to become familiar with them. Sheehan warned that PR practitioners are sleepwalking into AI. We also have to be aware that there is no regulation of AI, and we are in the role to hold organizations to be accountable and ethical. CPRS National and CIPR are planning to publish an ethics guide to AI in PR this summer.
Implement strategy before leaders begin on social media
Jane Antoniak, MCM, APR, manager, communications and media relations at King’s University College, and Alex Sévigny, PhD, APR, associate of Communications Management and Communications Studies at McMaster University, talked about having your CEO as a digital communicator. What I found fascinating is Antoniak took the time to reach out to leaders with a survey and interviewed them about their social media use. Her research found that leaders were autonomous in their social media use and that communicators are their trusted advisors.
Sévigny says the advantage of having a leader online is having an authentic voice and a virtual open door. It provides a way of humanizing a leader so they can become more approachable. There are also risks of having a leader online, such as their mistakes being public, their messages lacking depth and their vulnerability to criticism. Sévigny feels leaders should have limited freedom on social media. In order to talk on behalf of your leader on social, you need to have experience, understand analytics and strategic planning. Don’t have a junior practitioner take on this job. Sévigny takes the time to have an in-depth interview with a leader to understand their lexicon of familiar terms so he can use them on their behalf.
There were many takeaways from Transformation 2.0 and I’m glad I invested my time to add to my knowledge. Thank you to all the speakers for sharing their experiences.