Ten take-forwards from 2023 PRSA ICON conference and Health Academy

Nov 07, 2023
Ten take-forwards from 2023 PRSA ICON conference and Health Academy

By Trish Nicolas, EVP rf.engage Americas

Ten take-forwards from 2023 PRSA ICON conference and Health Academy:

1 – Your notebook isn’t big enough to capture all the AI tools that PR and comms pros should be aware of and playing with. Just sayin’. Bottomline: Use AI like that always-tactical-yet-eager-to-please team member and get it working on the menial tasks (and check their work like the most critical college professor) so you can focus on the activities that require empathy, strategic thinking, and human connection.

2 – A labyrinth, a botanical garden, a glass dome, and a hotel walked into a bar… The Gaylord Orpyland Resort – the venue for the 2023 PRSA ICON conference – was giggle-provokingly massive. Even though we were inside, the vast flora, themed areas, and water features felt like we were outside. Until you looked up and saw the sprawling glass ceilings. (References to The Truman Show were a common conversation topic.) THEY EVEN HAD A NAVIGATION APP and a foldout map attached to your room key. Because… labyrinth. (Yes, I did get lost once. OK, twice.)

3 – “Ground your conversations [about DEI+B] in how it matters to the bottom line. Shape the dialogue in a way that the C-suite can understand the buying power and impact of minority groups. Make space and room for people on your team to communicate and be heard, and create an environment where they feel empowered and supported”… as shared in the exceptional session on “The Importance of Representation in PR & Communications” with panelist and former colleague Sophia Marshall, senior vice president of Communications at Comcast.

4 – Rideshare meetups can ignite great conversations and friendships. The conference used the Whova app to facilitate access to the agenda, speaker, session info, and meetups. It was *very* helpful in learning about the ~2000 attendees and personalizing my agenda.

5 – We’re all learning, all the time. People of all ages, communications disciplines, and backgrounds attended the conference and Health Academy section. They (we!) asked questions, took notes, and engaged in deep conversation about the topics being presented, as well as challenges so many of us are navigating, including employee engagement, mental health and wellness, trials and triumphs related to technology, leadership, information inundation, and breaking through the noise with internal and external audiences. We knew this, but audience engagement is an ever-moving target.

6 – “When you write a goal or action, you increase your chance of taking the action by 46%” and “Energy, mindset, and positivity are reciprocal” are two golden nuggets from Ken Jacobs, owner/principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, in his standing-room only session on “11 Things You MUST Start Doing NOW To Be A More Effective Leader.”

7 – Mental health matters to us all. Katie Thomas, senior manager of Population Health Marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, reminded us all of the importance of pediatric mental health and wellness with her summary of the #OnOurSleeves campaign, as presented in “Building a Movement to Break Mental Health Stigmas.” Look it up – it’s a beautiful body of work!

8 – “Leadership is intentional influence. If behavior isn’t changing, you aren’t leading.” I was enthralled by Melanie Parsons Gao, master trainer at Crucial Learning, in her talk in “Crucial Conversations and Influence.” (Thank you for the book “Crucial Influence”!) And in true form, an idea came to me at 2 a.m. that night for a slogan for her case study on lowering the weight of commercial flights (and hence, the carbon footprint and environmental impact) by encouraging passengers to (ahem) eliminate before they board: “GO before you go.” (Instead of “KNOW before you go”… get it?)

9 – King Charles III and Ozzy Osbourne are the same… and different (OBVS). Susan Hite, CEO of PsychoGeometrics, and I presented on “From Demographics to Psychographics: Understanding Why Your Audiences Engage in Communications.” We talked about declining human attention spans, rampant people manager burnout, rising worker disengagement, and how much communication is not even seen since it is buried by too.much.information. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom! Attendees took the Shapes AssessmentTM and learned about their dominant communication styles and how they can make a difference in communications strategies, campaigns, and content by understanding audience psychographics.

10 – The future of communications and PR is in good (human) hands. There is so much experience, expertise, and creative thinking to tap. The seasoned pros have so much wisdom to share, and the next generation of experts are already rocking the profession. We are in GREAT hands!

P.S. If you visit Nashville, make time to enjoy the National Museum of African American Music. It is interactive and very well executed. You even get to build a playlist with an RFID bracelet during your visit!

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