This year I had the pleasure of attending Detroit’s IABC Heritage Region Communication Conference! There, I took part in many sessions about everything from internship programs, to visual storytelling, to crisis communications and more. It was a wonderful three-day event filled with many takeaways – here are my top 5.

(1) Visuals Matter.

Ok, this isn’t groundbreaking but the way in which visuals were presented throughout the conference was prominent in two very different ways.

  • Ink Factory – words can’t describe how incredible this organization is. This team visually captured speakers’ key points throughout the presentation (no boring bulleted lists here!). Their talents are unmatched and result in a stimulating takeaway from each keynote. This is a totally different way to consider tackling your organization’s next event, retreat, etc.

  • Data – data can often be messy to write out and even harder to present through some of the traditional graphs we learned all those years ago (think the bar graph, pie graph, etc.). Stephanie Evergreen opened my eyes to the world of dot plots, lollipops, overlapping bars and more. Representing data in an easy-to-digest manner can be essential in ensuring that your target audience understands the information you so painstakingly aggregate.

(2) Brands have to be self-aware, now more than ever.

Some current brand challenges that organizations are facing were reviewed in a keynote session with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

  • Rapid diversification and specialization of knowledge – PR pros must be in tune with emerging industries and quickly learn to speak knowledgably.
  • Consumer activism – activists have a big microphone right now and organizations must listen and be attuned to their messaging.
  • Misinformation and disinformation – companies can clarify facts and demonstrate expertise on their owned public platforms when misinformation presents itself.
  • Technology and cybersecurity – it’s essential to use technology in a safe manner and be able to speak to constituents on security policies that protect their information.
  • Declining trust – as the public feeds into some of that previously mentioned misinformation, organizations must continue to tell the truth ethically and factually in order to keep consumer trust.

(3) It’s easy to fall into communication ‘traps.’

The top four discussed included the following.

  • Dumping more information on your audience than needed – now more than ever we need to be concise when communicating in-person and via social platforms.
  • Relying on every ‘next new shiny tool’ – new tools should certainly support the way we do our jobs and communicate with our audiences, but we shouldn’t drop tried and true practices to jump at every new item before it’s trusted.
  • Simply checking boxes as opposed to measuring success – being results-oriented and data-driven is essential to organization growth.
  • Saying “yes” to everything – we all want to, but quality is most always better than quantity.

(4) Internship programs have increasingly crucial organizational importance.

Starting out in our post graduate careers with experience is priceless. Personally, I really enjoy co-leading our Franco internship program and mentoring the amazing PR pros we mentor each semester. I loved this conference session from Blue Cross Blue Shield about how leaders can benefit from having interns. What’s in it for leaders?

  • Experience and touch points with what universities are currently offering, teaching, etc.
  • Exposure to a talent pool – the ability to find and evaluate potential, future employees.
  • A way to support current employees by providing a resource to help them with projects, as well as create an opportunity for mid-level staff to manage others.
  • A fulfilling way to give back and ensure the future leaders of the PR profession are well prepared.

(5) Crisis preparation can’t be understated. (Shameless plug alert.)

Franco’s President Tina Kozak rocked an amazing case study presentation, reviewing a crisis project that we handled involving reporting the violation of personal information that was being shared online. Crises are overwhelming, but with the proper spokespeople and plan in place, they can be manageable. Make your plan, do drills to practice and make your process mistake-proof. (Contact us if you need help!)

PLUS, our incredible nonprofit team were honored at the conference with a 2019 IABC Heritage Region Silver Quill award for their social media support of The Salvation Army.

The Detroit’s IABC Heritage Region Communication Conference was an exceptional event where I learned tons to say the least. Contact us to learn more about how we’re applying these findings!

Megan Bonelli is as senior account executive at Franco. You can reach her at bonelli@franco.com.