Highlights from #PRSAICON

By Bart Graham, Sr.

Hosted by the PRSA Hoosier Chapter in Indianapolis, Indiana and located at the Indiana Convention Center.

At the PRSA 2016 International Conference, I had the opportunity to enhance my personal and professional network while engaging with some of the world’s most influential companies and organizations that call Indiana home. Read on to hear more about my experience at #PRSAICON.

It all began with the opening general session.  What a session! Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles and IndyCar driver Conor Daly welcomed us to Indianapolis and got the attendees pumped up.  Did you know that the track has had three 100 year celebrations?  Keynote speakers were Human Rights Advocate Derreck Kayongo and NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly.  Did you know that Scott Kelly was exposed to the equivalent of 20 chest rays worth of radiation every day he was in space?

Professional Development Session #1, Writing without BS:  Copy Strategy for Today’s Readers by Josh Bernoff, president, WOBS LLC.  Key points taken away were to treat readers’ time as more valuable than your own and use brevity.  Did you know that the average daily hours spent on your smartphone is 3.3 hours?

The “Florida Delegation” got together for a meet and greet and networking at the High Velocity Sports Bar.  It is nice to be at a large conference and know other people that are attending.  Networking is key to our industry and a good time was had by all. 

PRSA Tampa Bay members Diane Jones, Jenny Blevins, and Beth Watts

The day’s events were capped off by the race themed Opening Night Reception: “Start Your Engines”.  An outstanding event that was planned by the PRSA Hoosier Chapter.  I felt like I was back at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

Day two kicked off with Keynote speaker, Cybersecurity Expert Theresa Payton.  

She stated that most companies and individuals have had their security breached or will be breached.  She posed these questions to the attendees.  Have you changed your secret answers recently?  Does your company have a backup plan in case of a cyber-attack? 

The next Keynote speaker was NCAA President Mark Emmert and he was interviewed by award-winning broadcaster Jack Ford.  The NCAA is based out of Indianapolis.  Did you know that when you are watching Saturday football and March Madness that you are only seeing 3% of the college sports that the NCAA controls?  They oversee 90 national championships, 19,000 teams, and 1,100 institutions. Wow!

The next PD session was From Apathy to Ambassadors:  Moving Audiences to Act.  The speakers were Deanna Martin, membership and communications director, American Society for Healthcare Engineerin;, Jay Love, CEO of Bloomerang; and Kate Snyder, principal strategist, Piper and Gold Public Relations.  Theories such as the 0/10/90 rule and “SMOT” were discussed but the key takeaway I found is that if your organization finds someone interested in them, you need to focus on them and make them feel special. On the flip side, there are people that may have no interest in you, your program, or your organization so you shouldn’t spend much if any time on them.

Next was the Business to Consumer Expert Express Session featuring Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications; Brandi Boatner, digital experience manager, IBM; and Rob Biesenbach, corporate communications consultant, Rob Biesenbach LLC.  Rob had us do an 18 word memory test.  The first word on the list was beach and 60% of us remembered that word.  The last word on the list was seagull and 75% of us remembered that word.  However, a number of people remembered the word sand and it wasn’t even on the list.  Did you know the human attention span is 8 seconds?  

Off to the Cocktail Reception with the Exhibitors.   IndyCar driver, Conor Daly was very accommodating.  

Joanna, Conor and Jenny Blevins

Third-Party Outlets: Mastering Media Relations in the Digital Age session:  Everybody was raving about Michael Smart.  So much so that he actually taught more than one session at the conference.  “Main stream media still matters” according to Michael but you may need to use creative ways to pitch them.  Pitching different producers is allowed.  Adding third party outlets adds credibility to your pitch.  But one of the main things is to know your target.  Spend 80% of your time on 20% of your top media outlets.


One of the final sessions I attended was PR Tactics to Boost Your Next BIG Event taught by Christy Glesing, APR, director of public relations, Well Done Marketing; Jennifer Hanson, senior communications director, Downtown Indy, Inc.; and Sabrina List, vice president of marketing and communication, 500 Festival.  Did you know that the Indy 500 parade ranks up there with the Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? They mentioned how the use of celebrities will enhance your event.  But, you must always have an emergency management offsite PR center.

And, that is the end of my Indy adventure thanks to PRSA Tampa Bay! I encourage everybody to attend a PR conference.  You won’t be sorry. Speaking of, are you ready for lobster?  The next PRSA International Conference is set for Boston on October 8-10, 2017.


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