Jul 192012

Tuesday night I attended a networking event for leaders of communications firms in DC. It was sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America, National Capital Chapter and hosted by Ketchum PR. It was interesting to have some many executives from a very competitive industry in one room. The Capitol Communicator covered the gathering, and here is their take on the event.

After a bit of networking there was a short address by Roxanne Bernstein, SVP of Marketing and Communications for Cessna and a Ketchum client. She came across as someone used to talking in front of groups, peppering her comments with interesting sound bites. Here are some that struck me as memorable:

  • PR should stand for Promoting Relevance – I hadn’t heard that one before
  • Best Practices usually aren’t useful in our industry because they look backwards not ahead – really speaks to the speed of change happening in communications
  • Communications is a $500M per year business in the National Capital area
  • She wants an agency that is not afraid to debate with her, tell her that “her baby is ugly” when required – clients often say this, sometimes they’re not happy when you do it
  • A good PR idea should be channel agnostic – good point, and to me reflects thinking strategy first, tactic second
  • An agency should bring the unexpected to a client — not all the time, but regularly

These were good points, and Ketchum’s DC office was a very nice setting for the event. A representative from PRSA asked the attendees for feedback on whether these events should continue. That’s a good question.

Like a lot of industries in the DC area, PR and Communications agencies engage in “coopetition.” A firm you compete with one day for a client might be a firm you work together with next week. I think that is the key factor in whether these events continue.

These busy agency principals will ask themselves — is it possible I can pick up business from attending? If the answer is yes, then we’ll see more such PRSA leadership events.

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