Reflections on 2019 Page Annual Conference — Transformative Change At The Speed of Now

I’ve just arrived home after spending three days listening, reflecting and engaging with a world-class list of speakers and presenters at the Page Society annual conference. From digital communications agency guru, Sir Martin Sorrell — now with S4 Capital and formerly with Saatchi & Saatchi and the WPP Group — to Amy Weisenbach, SVP Marketing of the New York Time, to Titus Kaphar — an artist who, as he says, seeks to dislodge history from its status as the “past” in order to unearth its contemporary relevance (one of his works that he displayed — ‘Behind the myth of benevolence, 2014′ literally, metaphorically and politically draws back the curtain on the myths that we have created and continue to believe — to the last presenter of the conference, Vikram Mansharamani, author, Yale and Harvard lecturer and futurist — who painted a picture of a rather challenging future ahead. His 2011 book Boombustology provides a framework for understanding the boom and bust economic cycles that our world has faced (and is now facing) and how we could do a better collective job of identifying and evaluating these trends on our personal and professional lives.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

Sorrell — the digital communications market place is now worth $1.7 trillion USD with a projected 20% growth rate. The big three digital companies account for about $225 billion (Google — 125; Facebook — 52; Amazon 12). Asked what troubled him most — “the lack of speed and agility of organizations”. S4’s philosophy is now: faster, better and cheaper — faster — responsiveness; better — technology; cheaper — efficiencies in buying and placing. He said that the biggest issue facing CEOs today — is “getting people inside their organizations to face the same way at the same time. How do you harness your people to work together”.

Weisenbach — Amy’s presentation focused on the NYT’s ‘The Truth Is Worth It’ campaign. Here’s one example based on their reporting on what happened in the Rohingya in Myanmar. This campaign launched in 2017 and it was the first brand campaign for the NYT since 2007. David Rubin, CMO and head of brand for the NYT, challenged the marketing communications team with one simple task: to create marketing communications that is as compelling as the NYT journalism.

The objective was to build an emotional connection to the NYT brand. When it launched two years ago, the theme was “what is the role of the truth in society”. Today the theme is “what does it take to deliver the truth”.

Amy said that NYT journalists are now pitching the marketing team for their work to be the subject of ‘The Truth Is Worth It’ campaign.

Kaphar “The political is personal.”

One of the most inspiring and passionate presentations that I have heard (15 September 2019)

The power of art, the visual and the movement to amend history. I couldn’t begin to do service to Titus’s presentation – so here is something similar from his Ted Talk. If you are near Tuskegee University in October — do yourself a favor and see his exhibit “Knockout”

Mansharamani — another engaging presentation. Vikram identified four major trends (or lenses that he suggest that we view future global pressures): China; technology; energy and demographics. He cautioned that we may be approaching a global economic crisis because of the following deflationary pressures: currency wars; inequality and populism; civil unrest; protectionism; and slobalization — the reversing of globalization. Here’s a short cut to his message — an interview with Brendan Coffey in Forbes Magazine from May 21, 2019.

I’ve been a member of the Page Society for more than 10 years and more recently a member of the Board of Trustees for four years. I’m inspired by the organization’s commitment to thought leadership and pushing CCOs to be more global, organizational thinkers, leaders and problem-solvers.

At the conference we launched our newest thought leadership report: The CCO as Pacesetter. Let me know what you think so that I can share it with our leadership team.

Terry

When Your Graduate Student Writes A Groundbreaking Masters Capstone Thesis

Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to my Master of Communications Management capstone student, Sharlyn Carrington, present the results of her groundbreaking study on the lived experiences of 21 black women who work in public relations in Canada (mostly Ontario). It was one of those moments that makes your extremely proud to be a professor, a mentor, a researcher and a colleague.

Shar’s own lived experience working in public relations in Ontario is what drove her interest in this research. It is an excellent example of trying to make sense a phenomenon (have other black female public relations practitioners in Ontario had the same experiences as I have in my career) and diving into the literature on gender, race, intersectionality and public relations.

My McMaster University colleagues (Drs. Philip Savage and Alex Sevigny) believe that this thesis has at least 2-3 manuscripts that could be carved from her study and are very encouraging of Shar to pursue publication (and maybe even further graduate studies!).

Here are three recommendations that Sharlyn landed on at the end of her research:

1. Black women need to be disruptors — “black female practitioners have a huge responsibility to be disruptors, to be brave and speak out when they see and experience unacceptable behaviours. These practitioners can encourage more black women to enter and to stay in public relations, find more opportunities to mentor, help crate networks and find opportunities to be seen to the younger generation of diverse practitoners”.

2. Public relations associations need to be scupltors — It is the responsibility of associations and public relations programs to reshape and rebuild the reputation of public relations. They should look for opportunities to employ more diverse faculty and guest speakers, because seeing black leaders and practitioners can send the signal to diverse audiences and student that they too can succeed in this practice.”

3. Organizations need to be nurturers — Organizations need to shape the environment in which public relations operates. They can increase diversity by creating an open environment where people can talk about inclusion, and experiences without fear and enforce cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias training.

I look forward to reading her published articles in the not so distant future — warning to public relations journals … these articles will be arriving in your editor’s inboxes in 2019 —  groundbreaking research results are on their way.

Hopefully Shar will also be available to present her findings to professional associations and public relations programs across Canada.

Congrats Shar — thanks for inviting me along for this wonderful journey.

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