Scottish festival set to celebrate the future of public relations

I’m looking forward to visiting Edinburgh in June for the Festival of Public Relations. Here’s why.

The two-day Festival of Public Relations: The PRofessionals is exactly the sort of forward thinking conference that we need to address the opportunities facing the public relations business.

The event is the brainchild of Aura PR boss Laura Sutherland.


Organisations are shifting beyond the promotional use of media to embed public forms of engagement via new forms of media in every area of the organisation. This is the future of public relations.

My session on Friday, 17 June will draw on client work at Ketchum and teaching at Newcastle University.

I’ll be looking at how our business is changing and the skills and tools needed by a modern practitioner, agency and communication team.

I want to bring together a lot of themes and issues covered by other speakers.


Vision and values

Smart organisations are confident and root their communication in their organisational purpose. They understand their publics because they listen and create content that resonates, is appropriate and easy to appreciate. Ross McCulloch is the founder of training and events firm Be Good Be Social which helps organisations be the best they possibly can.


Say do gap

Any gap between what an organisation does and what it says will be called out. This is an issue that has been played out since social media went mainstream. Dan Slee is a public sector communicator and founder of Comms2point0 who helps organisations engage with citizens.


Paid influencer

We’ve shifted from journalists being the primary influencer to a variety of people across different forms of media from Instagram to YouTube. Paid media allows us to work smarter, amplify the outcome of campaigns and assure results. Threepipe founder Jim Hawker has re-built his agency through mergers, acquisitions and reskilling, to deliver an integrated solution to clients.


Creativity is a public relations discipline

Public relations has taken its place as a discipline that can deliver creativity and return on investment. We’re taking our rightful place alongside advertising and creative agencies. Graham Goodkind’s agency Frank PR is renowned for its bold, creative approach while the Holmes Report has named Claes Bodén’s agency Jung Relations as one of the most creative in the world.


Words and pictures

The press release, first used in 1906, remains public relation’s primary form of content. The internet loves audio, images and video. Investigate your mobile device. It’s a multimedia production suite. Now Go Create’s Claire Bridges will be encouraging delegates to be more creative and use different forms of media.

Note: we’ve got two practical creative workshops during the festival, including ‘How to use video in PR’ by Capture Media


Listening and the demise of demographics

Traditional marketing models no longer work. Social media subverts all norms and hierarchies. Consumers are telling you how they feel and what they think. Yard Digital’s Ian Daniels and Whitespace Managing Partner Iain Valentine are at the forefront of helping organisations use data to take a collaborative, channel agnostic approach to campaign delivery.


Stop posting shit on the internet

Public relations is proving its value as a means of lead generation. It’s a smarter form of marketing that starts with listening and it’s called public relations. LinkedIn’s Jamie Pham will explore content marketing and the need for alignment with consumer behaviour.


Gender is a public relations issue

Women are paid less than men. Women aren’t adequately represented in senior positions, on conference panels or in industry activities. Everyone in the profession has a responsibility for change. #FuturePRoof founder and agency boss Sarah Hall is taking a lead on tackling this issue.


Equality isn’t solely a gender issue

Gender gets the headlines but there’s work to do in lots of other areas of public relations. Equal employment opportunity for all irrespective of disability, ethnicity, class and sexuality remains a work in progress. Curzon’s founder Farzana Baduel is at the forefront of tackling this issue in the UK.


PR workflow

Tools and workflow

Much of the public relations business runs on Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets. There are tools to optimise every area of workflow from listing and planning, to content and relationship management. Coveragebook’s Stella Bayles and Prezly’s Frederik Vincx both have this issue firmly in their sights.

Also read: Four PRStacks to modernise your communication workflow by Frederik Vincx


Show me the money

The Barcelona Principles have asserted the need to root measurement in an organisation’s. Watch out for practical templates that you can apply to campaigns in 2016. Clare Smith is chief marketing officer, Scottish Government, responsible for public information and engagement.


Inside out

The best advocates for an organisation are almost certainly the people on the payroll. Yet most organisations gag their employees with policies and rules. Equal effort should be applied to external and internal publics. Louise Macdonald leads Young Scot and helps young people connect them with their local communities.


Community as media

Communities are the most influential form of media. People come together to form publics to discuss and tackle issues around a common purpose. I’m keen to hear from the Huffington Post’s editor-in-chief Stephen Hull about the huge community that it’s built.


Get on, or get out

Time serviced is the traditional measure of competence in public relations. It’s bullshit in a business that is changing so fast. Professionals need to invest in their own professional development. This is the story of the Festival of Public Relations. It’s also the title on my session.


The Festival of Public Relations: The PRofessionals takes place in Edinburgh from 16 to 17 June. Tickets are priced form £70 for a half-day session to £240 to attend the whole event.


I hope to see you there.

Guest post by Stephen Wadddington (@wadds), partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum.

Get your tickets now!