Veritas Attends PRovoke 2016 - Veritas Communications
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global PR, brand marketers

Veritas Attends PRovoke 2016 in Miami

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending the Global PR Summit, hosted by the de facto authority in global PR: The Holmes Group.

Beyond being hosted in beautiful Miami, the hotel and conference center at the St Regis Bal Harbour combines class, luxury and an outstanding North beach location. What’s more, the conference provided a platform to some of the brightest minds in marketing: Authors, Heads of Global PR, Global Brand Marketers and Political Specialists.

While many things were discussed, some trending topics and themes that stood out throughout the conference are as follows:

1. Agile PR & T-Shaped People

Agile PR is the communications practice now required for brands and agencies to succeed in communications and marketing. Agile is a term often used in the tech world as it means a process of working under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams.  In today’s world of constant change, we need to be proactive but also reactive, to shift gears at the drop of a hat, to include creativity and integrated approaches in all things we recommend to clients. We must challenge ourselves to be fluid in our work and in all processes, yet planned enough that we do not fall behind. We must make decisions quickly, be nimble, reply quickly, share our expertise across multi-functional teams and be able to learn and adapt. We must work in short bursts, sprints and scrums to remain effective.

Being agile also means we must remain connected, look at new forms of workplace and location flexibility as the perks we get for being ‘always on’. It means we must be reinventing all the time.

We need to learn to be T shaped. In new hires we make for our teams, we need to look for T shaped people – (a person with a vertical stroke of expertise that allows them to contribute to the creative process, but also a horizontal stroke that allows them to collaborate across disciplines). T shaped people have breadth and depth in their skills.  All too often, hiring managers still focus hires around traditional skills and ignore the importance of T-shaped, shows a survey by Holmes Group and Capstone Search. This needs to change.

2. Creativity, Technology, and Integration

Several sessions at the conference referenced both creativity and technology as key in to creating powerful campaigns. The key connector in leveraging these two things is successful team integration. From media, creative, and PR agencies, to tech, solutions providers, and hands on client involvement, successful strategies come from a collaborative team who understands the business challenge they are trying to solve. CMO of BP Fuels North America says “I don’t care where the idea came from”, she just wants the teams to be open minded, and have the attitude that working collectively will bring the greatest result. Partners are not always the same mix of people, and new types of partners should be brought in to keep thinking fresh and innovative.

Technology has a seat at the table in the marketing mix now more than ever. Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence in the last few years have progressed at alarming speeds, and are about to affect the creative progress in ways we cannot even imagine. Hod Lipson, Robotics Engineer shared examples and insights that we as humans are ready for artificial intelligence, and the world of creativity is about to be affected: think about a machine that is able to write an entire symphony, undetectably machine coded to the human ear.  At the same time, in this sort of collaborative approach to getting the best ideas and the most creative ideas, T-shaped people are required. Each practice and partner needs to know enough about every player in the mix to guide ideas and advise clients.


3. Giving a Damn & Brands Solving Real Problems

Casey Gerald, Keynote speaker and co-founder and CEO of MBAs Across America gave an invigorating talk to a roomful of attentive ears. “The idea that the only purpose of capitalism is to maximize profits is just as much a belief as the idea that Jesus Christ is coming back a specific time and specific place,” said Gerald at PRovoke16. There is a responsibility to #giveadamn, in whatever form that means for your organization and to close the gap between the 1% and poverty. With all the power we hold in our hands, with all of this technology, why are people suffering so greatly? We are not going ‘change the world’ in such a broad way, but we can as an organization, make a noticeable difference in a cause we put our best efforts towards solving. The more people who ask very simple questions about what their purpose is, the more thought and effort we put into closing the gap.

At the same time as giving back is important, several sessions spoke to and about brands focusing on solving real world challenges, and marketing in authentic and purposeful ways.  Brands should challenge themselves not to jump on every catchy bandwagon and tie themselves to trends in an inauthentic way to ‘seemingly’ remain relevant.  As marketers, we should try to lead culture, not chase it, and make meaningful connections for our employees and consumers. Thalia Mavros, founder of digital platform, The Front, said, “There has to be a through line from your internal values to your external brand.” Companies like Facebook, who are building solar planes to provide internet to remote areas via drones, and Celebrity Cruise lines took a stand by stating their global views and encouraging Americans to learn and live without fear, by exploring the world. In doing so, they took a stand, and also risked losing come clients. But living out their beliefs through the brand vision and mission, meant they could stand for something. “If you make a stand for something, you also have to take a stand against something”, said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

4. The Female Divide & Challenging Gender/Race Stereotypes

There’s a notion for some that we have achieved equality in the workforce. That women and men are seen as equals and it is a notion that I would like to believe. But, with alarming statistics, tales of first-hand contradictions, and expert views and opinions that poke holes in this notion, it would seem that reality is not so ideal. “We live in a white, male patriarchal society and until we address this we can’t do anything else,” said Teresa C. Younger, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation during this shocking panel.

In a recent study presented by Rockefeller Foundation and conducted by Global Strategy Group, the findings about the gender divide are alarming:

  • Only 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
  • Female CEOs are much more likely to blamed for a crisis (80% of the time in comparison to men at 31%)
  • 78% of female executives are asked about balancing work with family in interviews, in comparison to men who were nearly NEVER asked

And while there were many other proof points and statistics shared throughout the conversation, this divide is not solely employers and hiring boards. Media and society have a responsibility to look at candidates as equals and stop asking questions to women in the workforce like, “How do you do it all?” We must challenge them to raise their awareness of this issue and reflect it in speech and narratives.

The panel also discussed women adopting ‘male traits’ to compete – and potentially as we head into the future, with a millennial workforce requiring unique management skills, this just may give women a leg up. The CEO job description is changing, attributes like empathy are becoming more important. Men and women can learn from each other and adopt traits to create well-rounded CEO’s.

5. Influencer Marketing and Driving Sales

The last theme to be shared from the conference, which was woven into several presentations throughout the conference, is the staying power and importance of influencer marketing. Not just as a well-established practice (crucial to brand campaigns and the marketing mix), but as a sales lever –  highly effective in driving significant ROI for brands.

It was agreed amongst speakers that influencer marketing has made its mark and now has a permanent seat at the table. It was suggested that brands (and other agency partners) continue to involve PR and Influencer Marketing practices from the ‘start’, and not treat it as an add on to a campaign. That they be involved in the briefing from the beginning, always. After all, when it comes to creativity, big ideas can come from anywhere and often they are coming from a word-of-mouth or influencer campaign, i.e. from the public relations partner.

P&G shared findings of old company materials from the 1950’s, which included references to influencer marketing as part of the brand strategy. This used to come in the form of handwritten notes from customers and partners.

And while it used to be hard to measure impact of these word-of-mouth campaigns, this notion of ‘conversations to commerce’ is more tangible now than ever before. And influencer marketing is outperforming the pack as shown by some very encouraging statistics, including a finding by Nielsen Catalina Solutions that influencer marketing can drive sales 11 times higher than traditional digital advertising.


Taking a lesson from P&G, we will leave you with an important message to all brands aimed at driving sales, as shared by Lee Bansil, director of communications for P&G Global Health Care: “We don’t go to market without using the influencer. It’s integrated into everything; it’s part of our DNA.”
Thanks for reading,

Camille Kennedy, VP of Growth & Innovation