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2017 Theme: Truth in Communications

Each year, Communications Week examines the most pressing issues impacting professionals in the PR, media and marketing industries.

There’s no denying that “fake news” and trust have dominated industry headlines. At the same time, the industry’s top communicators and marketers continue to bang the drum for transparency and authenticity in communications. This year’s theme, “Truth in Communications,” will examine these issues as well as PR ethics, disclosure in financial and legal communications and more.

What does “Truth in Communications” mean to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Submissions are now open for speaking slots, sponsorship opportunities and event partnerships.

Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of Communications Week 2017, which will take place October 16 - 20 in New York City and online. 

#CommsWeekNY #TruthinComms

How to Speak Like a (Female) Entrepreneur

By Leah Bonvissuto, Communication Coach + Co-Founder, Bespoken

Most venture capitalists are men—and most funding goes to male-owned start-ups. But does that mean you have to speak “like a man” to succeed?

Let’s get real. We are not men. We do not communicate like them; we do not lead like them. And yet, nearly every example of successful leadership leaves women out of the equation. We are told to speak up, stand up and negotiate forcefully. We’re called out when we don’t act like men—but often as not are deemed “too aggressive” when we do. 

It’s a lose-lose situation, and none of us will feel confident in our communication style until we feel true ownership over it.

But here’s what we know about the ways women communicate: We tend to have more empathy than men and often serve as better listeners—two incredibly powerful skills. Still, many of us are never taught how to communicate in a way that leverages either of them.

Here, we focus on communication tools we already own as a way to build our personal power. Note that these tools are to be practiced, not perfected. Aim to start small and in a safe space.

Practice Presence

You may be an expert multi-tasker, but clear, confident communication requires you to be fully present. Practice doing one thing at a time—say, giving your full attention to your bank teller or setting a date for an upcoming meeting and sticking to it. Practicing presence will help you acknowledge unconscious behaviors that aren’t serving you so you can direct your attention where you want it to go.

Practice Vulnerability

Great leaders are empathic—listening and collaborating are learned behaviors which should be harnessed and celebrated. Practice maintaining eye contact with people you’ve just met. Hold space instead of jumping in with suggested solutions. Vulnerability is a muscle—practice it and you will soon get more comfortable in the discomfort, allowing you to make more meaningful connections.

Practice Confidence

Speaking confidently about our passions does not come naturally to many of us. Land your thoughts with conviction instead of letting them trail off. Record yourself to listen for question marks and replace them with affirmatives. Literally take up more space. Making powerful verbal and physical choices changes the way you interact with the world—and the way the world interacts with you.

Doing anything for the first time takes patience and self-compassion so be kind to yourself! You are changing lifelong, ingrained behaviors, after all.

Leah Bonvissuto, Communication Coach + Co-Founder, Bespoken

Leah Bonvissuto, Communication Coach + Co-Founder, Bespoken

An award-winning theater director, Leah Bonvissuto has helped hundreds of people tell stories on stages of all shapes and sizes. In 2014 she co-founded Bespoken with Jackie Miller to help people tell their own story with precision and power. Leah pulls from the worlds of theater, mindfulness and movement to help people feel confident and in control of their communication.




#CommsWeek16 Panel Recap: Leveraging Video for Immersive Storytelling

Post by Tom Kirkham, International Account Director, Kite Hill PR

Our very final session of this amazing week was planned as an analysis of the benefits of video as a platform for immersive storytelling, but became a far more wide-ranging discussion around brands usage of technology to tell stories.

The discussion panel featured Katie Creaser, VP at Affect, Microsoft’s Chandra Stevens and Duy Linh Tu of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Technologies, with PRWeek’s Sean Czarnecki on moderation duties.

After reminiscing about their favorite video experiences over the years, the panel began by discussing what needs to happen for emerging video technologies to reach critical mass.

Creaser began: “The world of marketing and comms is getting more challenging. We’re looking for ways for the cream to rise to the top as the market gets more competitive - emerging technologies represent new ways for brands to get the wins they need.”

“From a hardware perspective, things like VR are getting more streamlined,” explained Stevens. “We’ve been working with brands to embed the technology into what they’re doing and help turn consumers into fans. We’re looking at how technology can fill gaps in the customer journey and keep consumers engaged more holistically.”

“You have to put the story before the technology,” Creaser continued. “Figure out the goals first, the content and the narrative, and then decide the medium that will deliver the greatest impact.” Linh Tu picked up on this point. “When you had the first PDAs, you had to learn an entire new language - it wasn’t in our nature to do this. Machines shouldn’t be forcing us to behave a certain way.”

“As journalists, we have to figure out new ways to make money; our use of new technology has at times been a knee-jerk reaction to this," he continued. "But we’re not good technologists, just as most technologists are terrible storytellers! You also have to understand technology, not just in of itself, but in relation to different demographics, geographies, backgrounds."

“We’ve been looking at ways to create universal destinations for brands' fans, so that fans come to one place to get the best rich-media experience, the best engagement experience, the best community experience." “The problem is that too often the conversation we’re having with brands is about them wanting to use a specific technology rather than focusing primarily on delivering a great experience for consumers,” responded Creaser.

Czarnecki moved the debate on to the issue of branded content and its position within the marketing mix. Linh Tu was first to respond, arguing that, “Too many brands don’t know how to tell a story. Consumers are sophisticated and can smell BS when it comes to a commercial. We are getting very good at tuning out this content.”

“Journalists are poor advertisers but they’re good at storytelling and distilling things down to important facts. There’s less distinction between traditional journalism and branded content - this is a new way for journalists to sell their expertise.”

“PR professionals are probably not extending enough into native content or advertising and paid opportunities,” noted Creaser. “Earned media is getting harder to gain traction in.  Making smart branded content recommendations to clients could be a real asset for us, but we need to better understand how it works and the technology behind it.”

Stevens explained how technology is getting better and better at understanding how people are engaging with content. “We can capture where people’s eyes are moving, how attracted they are or engaged with an experience, and amalgamate all of this data.” Czarnecki asked how granular the data ought to be in order to be of value to brands. Stevens replied that, “It’s about the specific use cases. We need to respect people’s privacy, and we do a lot of data aggregation as a consequence, but we can also personalise where people are happy for brands to have their details.”

Returning to the subject of VR, Linh Tu noted that, “Using technology like this is getting simpler and simpler for consumers. But brands still have to understand when they should deploy it - e.g. Doing 360 video at the election debates is a pretty pointless experience. It’s about identifying what’s appropriate and what’s not, and not making foolish decisions because we’re enamored with a particular technology.”

“Brands have to be realistic as well as understanding the purpose of the content,” explained Creaser. “To expect that one video is going to close a B2B salein 24 hours is crazy. Video is not a tool for direct sales conversion in this context. We have to be clearer in agreeing what success looks like and setting brand expectations. The measurement might not be sales - it might be brand reputation.”

“The customer journey shouldn’t be described as a sales funnel anymore - it’s an ongoing journey with stops and starts in it,” added Stevens. “Brands can use data and machine-learning to better understand why the stops are occurring and come up with appropriate strategies for re-starting the journey.”

“We have a suite of tools - a range of things we can do at any particular moment,” interjected Linh Tu. “The mistake is that we don’t ever pause with new technology - there’s a danger in thinking that anything new should automatically replace the old.”

“Being able to bridge the gap between company vision, branding and technology is so important to CMOs right now,” said Stevens. Creaser picked up on this: “You wouldn’t normally launch a marketing initiative without first thinking it through, yet that’s exactly what’s happening with some tech platforms like Facebook live. Brands don’t think through the consequences and then they’re disappointed with the engagement. We have to be smart about what we initiate so that it has an impact that we can measure.”

“There are industries where specific tech platforms simply do not work. Everyone needs a digital strategy, but everyone’s strategy might look different - it’s about learning to say no to some things and yes to others,” concluded Creaser.

Linh Tu left us with a pithy reflection on the relationship between content marketing and technology and the need for quality content to take precedence, stating that, “The algorithm isn’t the answer. Good content will find a home, while no amount of algorithm changing will turn a dud into a superstar.”