Currents Conversation

We laughed. We cried. We listened and talked and networked and absorbed at the CPRS National conference in Victoria BC.

I was asked to write about Day Two which began with journalist, Anna Maria Tremonti and her presentation titled “Answer the Damn Question”. Ms. Tremonti came at this room of PR experts from her journalistic viewpoint and made all of us stop and think about what our “key messages” really mean. She encouraged us to speak from the heart as she shared some of the stories that had most surprised and moved her over the years.

One of the points she made that really resonated with me was that “if you make the decisions, you are accountable…so you should be willing to talk about them.” In other words, if you own your decisions, you own your ability to speak to them. She talked about “having a conversation”, “speaking without spin” and “connecting the dots.”

My take-away from her presentation is that we are no longer working in a world of scripted interviews given by clients we have carefully trained to stay “on message”. We all need to listen to the questions and then have a conversation…not an interview. A powerful message for everyone who speaks to the media.

Next I attended a fascinating workshop on employee engagement by Brenda Sweeney (Partner, Kennedy Jones & Sweeney Inc.).  She presented the program developed for Oakville Ontario Hydro to revitalize their Occupational Health and Safety Management system called “Stayin’ Alive” (cue the Bee Gees). Ms. Sweeney employed the RACE formula to develop the program which used peer teams, great graphics, fun events and team building to engage employees year round. The program was very successful, increasing overall awareness. Ms. Sweeney noted that having senior management buy-in and involvement was critical to the success of the program. CPRS thought it was pretty impressive as well and awarded this program a silver medal for the Canadian Government Relations Campaign of the Year. No disco balls were used in the making of this presentation.

Without a doubt, the biggest laughs of the day came during Rob Guenette’s (CEO, Taxi) presentation. I feel completely comfortable calling Rob by his first name – his casual style of presentation and “salty” (his word) language made us all feel like he’s an old friend. Rob’s presentation, titled “Doubt” , was all about trying new things and getting comfortable with failure – in other words, we need to challenge the sacred cows, take chances, make mistakes, go with our gut….and be a sh*t disturber. That’s what leads to brilliance. Rob’s commercial reel certainly had me convinced. People in the audience were asking him for a job by the end of his presentation.

The last presentation of the day I took part in was The Art of Media: Generating New Coverage delivered by Bill Carney and Mark Hunter LaVigne, both experts and published authors on this topic. This is a huge topic and they delivered lots of great information. I loved the line from the presentation – “Good communication can’t overcome bad judgment” – a mantra for many of us.  There was an emphasis on content, keeping media releases short and a reminder to really get to know the media you are pitching to – read their blogs and tweets and develop a relationship.  I thought a couple of the twentysomethings in the room were going to faint when Mr. LaVigne suggested sending media releases by mail – that’s Canada Post mail, not email. An interesting idea that really got people talking.

It was a great day, in fact all three days offered amazing insights – from Wayne Parrish of Postmedia who was the opening speaker on Day One to my last workshop with Andrea Montgomery from Halton Region’s Public Health Division (who brilliantly got her public health nurses tweeting) – there was something to take away from every presentation.

It was a fantastic conversation. www.susanevanscommunications.ca

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