As marketers increase budgets, it is imperative that PR agencies play beyond traditional media by creating authentic content and buying influence to stay on top.

In February IPREX, our leading global network of independent communications agencies, held their annual Global Leadership Conference (GCL) in London. As a host partner, Mason Williams had the pleasure of both attending and helping deliver a packed 2-day programme dubbed ‘Beyond Silos – operating and managing in an integrated communication industry.’

With the last two conferences held in sunnier (Madrid) and cooler (New York) climes, it came as a slight disappointment that we would not be hot footing it to Miami for the 2015 GLC. However, this subsided with the prospect of showing off our home town to 30 PR professionals from New Zealand, Sydney, Malaysia, the US and Europe amongst other exotic destinations. Granted, chaperoning the GLC party on the underground from St Pancras at rush hour on a Friday evening was a slightly stressful experience, but we can happily report that all made it to Bounce to enjoy a Ping-Pong and beer filled evening of revelry.

When it came down to work, the focus of this year’s conference centered on breaking down the silos of the communications industry, namely the traditionally held distinctions between terms such as ‘PR’, ‘Advertising’, ‘Social Media’, ‘Marketing’ and ‘Events’. Our first keynote speaker, Arun Sudhaman of the Holmes Report, kicked things off by explaining that the boundaries between owned, earned and paid media is now blurry with the days of ‘true’ PR dissolving. As marketers increase budgets, it is imperative that PR agencies play beyond traditional media by creating authentic content and buying influence to stay on top. It was interesting to see the same message conveyed through Danny Rogers’ (former Campaign and PR Week Editor) presentation as he re-iterated the growing difficulty to distinguish between PR, advertising and marketing and the need for new skills to deliver fully integrated campaigns.

Our very own Sarah Wilson, Board Director here at Mason Williams, started Saturday morning’s day 2 with MW staple Creative Steals. Delegates were asked to send examples of campaigns that had struck a cord with them in advance for showcase prior to a group discussion. Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’, Everlast ‘Whistling At Your Mom’, Tui ‘Catch a Million’ and Organic Valley ‘Save the Bros’ were discussed amongst other stand out stunts. It was fascinating to see that almost all lead with video and most delivered creative but simple messages full of heart – a representation of brands marketing with audiences and not at them. Again, this session brought home the need for 21st Century PR to supply multi channel integrated campaigns that speak to audiences beyond just editorial inches.

It would take a far lengthier summary to do justice to all 12 sessions that made up the 2015 GLC – the delegates that presented their own case studies highlighting the successful implementation of in-house news sources were particularly thought provoking. We shall leave you with Iprex president John Scheibel’s metaphor that independent PR agencies should “go where the hockey puck is going”, in other words, pre-empt how the market is changing and get your campaigns there before it’s too late.

With such as lot accomplished in 48 short hours (both in and out of the conference room) the only way it could be topped next year would be to include a trip across the pond to our partners in Singapore, Sydney or California.

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