As the founder of a member agency, last week I attended the annual Public Relations Boutiques International conference, this year in San Francisco. For four days we were treated to presentations from a stunning array of industry thought leaders, shared best practices, celebrated successes with our comrades in arms, lamented pitfalls, lapped up inspiration, dodged the bay wind and ate some darn good food (I’m looking at you, Gamine). 

For those of you who share my PR passion, set among the rapidly changing communications landscape, here are 10 insights and highlights:

  1. Silent films are making a comeback. Fun fact – 85% of videos viewed on Facebook are viewed sans sound. When scrolling in your cube, at the doctor’s office, in front of your kids, etc., most people shut that noise down for fear of the unexpected and to avoid being a noise polluting jerk. If you are creating video content, make sure it’s just as powerful with or without sound. Text overlays are your friend.

  2. Build your content around big rocks and sliced turkey. Particularly for B2B marketers, the first step in a killer content plan is to identify what piece of knowledge you possess that can be the “big rock” anchoring your marketing content – this often comes in the form of an extensive downloadable guidebook or industry report you give away for free (or in exchange for an email address), and score massive lead gen in return. Once your big rock is built, carve it up like a turkey to feed the multi-platform content machine for months. A pull quote here. An infographic there. A tips list here, there and everywhere, and always linking back to your big rock download that feeds the prospect pipeline. ​​

  3. The band KISS is a model for progressive PR. I don’t know my heavy metal bands, but I do know content marketing sage Jason Miller’s presentation on “How to Achieve Face-Melting Content Marketing ROI” rocked my world. In one part, he likened the band KISS to the perfectly harmonized modern marketing team – Peter Criss on SEO, Paul Stanley on social, Gene Simmons on content creation, Ace Frehly on demand gen, and holding it all together and making big things happen, Bill Aucoin as manager and head of PR. For brands to succeed in today’s market you better have a perfectly tuned practitioner mix. 

  4. Hire for culture, not just credentials. While business owners drool over dream resumes, there was a group consensus hiring for cultural fit over specific skill set is often the best bet. Many agencies had adopted progressive interview processes using predictive technology, from companies such as The Predictive Index, to help ensure a candidate’s values, strengths and traits mesh well with the job role and agency on the whole. Skills are most easily taught to those who just “get it” when it comes to your agency – so go and get them, with science at your side.

  5. Search traffic trumps social. People go to search to buy. They go to social to browse. A recent study showed there is a 600% greater sales conversion rate among people who land on brand websites via organic search, as compared to those who get there through social. So how do you score that magic search traffic? Hint: see numbers 2 and 3 above.

  6. Facebook Live is the new deskside. Magazines and other print media are rapidly adopting in-office interview rooms where they can conduct Facebook Live sessions with buzz-worthy spokespeople who waltz through their doors. Brands need to delve deep into their spokesperson choice and serve up a notable representative the media can market to their followers, as opposed to forging ahead with old-school 1:1 deskside briefings behind closed doors. 

  7. 51 is a magic number. Once you’ve posted 51 blog posts, your index search factor will kick into high gear. Write on. (And check out Steve Farnsworth, he knows his stuff.) 

  8. Media love snacks. The legendary Art Agnos, San Francisco’s mayor from 1988 to 1992, honored us with an appearance and regaled us with hilarious stories of when communications, media and politics collide. He also introduced us to the “media snack.” In times of crisis or a slow news cycle, if you don’t have something big to feed the news hounds, give them an innocuous little tidbit to nibble on while they wait. Otherwise, they’ll go looking for trouble. Next time you’re on the front lines of a client crisis, don’t forget to pack the snacks.

  9. Blog posts are press releases waiting to happen. Big news press releases still have value to traditional media, though in today’s direct-to-consumer content world, we must evolve our distribution strategy. According to the super-smart Michael Pranikoff, Global Director of Emerging Media for PR Newswire, it pays to whip your best blog posts into a press release written direct-to-consumer style. Then, syndicate it via a web release that will spread it all up, down and around the Internet so your audience can get to clicking. 

  10. Press on. Facebook invited us to the mother ship and fascinated the group with upcoming insights we can now take to our clients as in-the-know advisors, and which we’ll keep to ourselves. But a shareable moment came in an anecdote about Sheryl Sandberg, her husband’s tragic death, and subsequent post about the fortitude to press on, where she credited a friend with encouraging her to go forth and “kick the sh*t out of option B.” The day she walked back into Facebook, signs bearing that phrase had been personally made by employees and wallpapered everywhere to show her love, support and solidarity. Because that’s what culture does.

So there you have it. As the communication landscape continues its tectonic shifts, as world events continue to surprise, as we sit in awe of the fact a belly laughing woman in a Chewbacca mask racked up 135M video views in free publicity, it is both inspiring and daunting to know we sit at the precipice of a PR, marketing and communications revolution. And those of us who attended the PRBI conference are ready to kick the sh*t out of it.

For more information on PRBI, or if you are an agency owner interested in joining us (by the way, our 2017 conference is slated for Berlin!), visit

To all my fellow PRBI members, I can’t wait to see you again next year in Berlin…Prost!