Our Managing Partner Jeff Davis and Project Manager Brooke Whitson attended the PR Summit DC at the National Press Club and came home with a wealth of knowledge about the latest in strategic communications. The 7th annual summit was created in partnership with Capitol Communicator, welcoming speakers, panelists and attendees from every facet of the PR community.

Here’s what they had to say:

Brooke: I’m a relative newbie to the DC PR community. I’ve spent the last four years working for a digital PR firm with nationwide clients. I relished this opportunity to meet colleagues and mentors in the field.

Jeff: Did you have a favorite session?

Brooke: It was so hard to choose which sessions to attend because they all offered value to my learning experiences. SEO, news releases, crisis communications, social media – they covered it all.

I really enjoyed the panel that you moderated with marketing execs from Kaiser Permanente, Meals on Wheels and AARP. It dealt with a crucial topic – defining the importance of PR in the age of convergence where brand, marketing and PR departments are making soup of the organizational chart.

What was your favorite session, Jeff?

Jeff: That’s difficult to choose, but I was struck by how today’s political climate led to so many speakers having to address the concept of “fake news,” and how such accusations are really designed to blur the lines and cause confusion. One session got into the nuances and definitions of disinformation and misinformation and how organizations are taking all kinds of steps to combat this. Having this discussion take place at the National Press Club made it even more bizarre, especially with the tribute in the lobby showing pictures of Capital Gazette staffers (where I used to work as a reporter) who were mass murdered for doing their jobs.

Brooke: I saw your tweet about the memorial and stopped in the lobby to see it myself. My husband and I met in a small TV newsroom. He is a dedicated journalist and I’m very proud of the profession. The speakers also noted how many people seek information to confirm their beliefs and biases rather than doing the work to find the truth. Do you have a second favorite?

Jeff: I have to say the keynote by trendspotter and former Havas exec Marian Salzman, now SVP with Philip Morris, was the most thought-provoking for me, including her statement that “influencers are the new media.” She said if you don’t have an influencer strategy, you need one, and if you do have one, you need to rethink it and keep tweaking until it really works for your brand.” This is all so new.

Brooke: I enjoyed Marian’s presentation, too. This really resonated with me: use the 10-10-10 rule. First find 10 influencers, then find 10 people who they influence, and then the 10 who influence the final 10. You end up with a powerful chain of people who can make a difference for your brand or organization.

Jeff: Agreed. Also, she shared this advice which shows the value of the PR discipline: “People follow influencers and take cues from them—at least in theory, but what about in practice?” Pay close attention to the metrics and understand how some can game the system and get gamed. She said we know to beware of fake news, so now we need to get skilled at spotting flaky influencers and the fake followers that can puff up the numbers.

Brooke: Yes, I liked that one too.

Jeff: We’re seeing sophisticated influencer programs that make me wonder how “influential” some of them really are with their use of slick photographs and formal payment requests. It’s almost like they’re self-proclaimed influencers first and the product endorsements are secondary.

Brooke: I know we could go on about Marian’s presentation, but there’s one more point worth sharing when she said, “Content is King, but Delivery Rules.” All of that good stuff depends on one crucial factor: getting the right content to the right people the right way.

Jeff: You’re right, we could go on!

Brooke: At the end of the day, the knowledge and connections in our swag bag is invaluable. You are hereby invited to join us at the 2019 Capitol Communicator’s PR Summit DC!