Amith Prabhu: Reminiscences of the Global PR summit

16 Dec,2013

By Amith Prabhu


I was fortunate to be one of the five Indian professionals at the second edition of the Global PR Summit organized by the Holmes Report in Miami last month. The event as expected was bigger and better that the debut edition that happened in the middle of Hurricane sandy in 2012, which I also happened to attend.


While a lot of reports and tweets about the summit are available online, I want to highlight some of the milestones at the summit for those from India who could not make it and have an opportunity to attend the same next year in addition to being part of a similar event in India.


The inaugural keynote though high-level was well received. It had Jim Cicconi, who leads external and legislative affairs for telecommunications giant AT&T, share an insider’s look at the intersection of business and politics. Cicconi, who also serves as chair of the AT&T Foundation, served in the White House under two presidents: two years as deputy chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, and four years as a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and to White House chief of staff James Baker. An important excerpt of what he said is “You have to have a campaign mindset. You set your objectives. You have the military, the Special Forces, air cover—in our world, these like are advertising and PR and research and focus groups. And you also have external influences that have to do with how you’re viewed: whether you share the values of your customers, whether you are environmentally friendly. If you are viewed as a good guy company that makes a difference”.


The next important aspect of the summit was the presence of three authors who are celebrities in their own right. Steven Berlin Johnson, author of titles such as Everything Bad Is Good For You, Where Good Ideas Come From, Future Perfect, told the audience that Innovation is rarely the result of a “eureka” moment and more often the result of a diverse “liquid network” of people from different backgrounds with different ideas.


Douglas Rushkoff is the author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture. He stated that “Brands need to make themselves more immediately relevant. That doesn’t mean ‘flash in the pan’ publicity stuff. You have to keep arming your ardent supporters with the ammunition they need to champion you. Companies had to become more comfortable “not taking credit for things” and more focused on “enabling things to happen”.


The star of the summit was a debutant author and founding CMO of Facebook, Randi Zuckerberg who said that “Online connectivity has enabled women to tap into collective intelligence, take greater control of their lives and become more economically savvy”. She also distributed signed copies of her book Dot Complicated.


The biggest hit was definitely the hour-long session with Sir Martin Sorrell where he was sharp and savvy while responding to questions from one of his group company CEOs wherein he called on PR professionals to be more confident about what they were selling to the client.


All in all, the summit was well represented by both sets of professionals from consultancies and from in-house communications departments. India could have had more participation and a Youth Forum would be a great idea in the future summits. Most sessions have been videographed and are available for those who are interested in the Holmes Report archives.


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