My experience at WPRF2016, Toronto

By Yalda Ahmadi

As I sit back and reflect on the World Public Relations Forum 2016 (WPRF2016) in Toronto, I realize what a great time I had there! I can still feel the thrill of being in the game and rubbing shoulders with the best and brightest in the industry.

I would like to start by thanking CPRS and my local society, CPRS-VI. I was both the winner of the CPRS Membership Month Contest, as well as the successful applicant of the CPRS-VI Conference Bursary. The two funds covered my registration and travel, valued at over $2,500! Without their supportive programming, I simply would not have been able to attend!

I have years of work experience and I have done it all – print, radio, TV, web, mobile, video – you name it. I joined CPRS in 2016 because of my desire to focus on non-branded marketing and public relations at this point in my career and in my job at Vancouver Island University. The opportunity of attending WPRF2016 was timely and immensely helpful to give me a great boost.

Over the three-day event, I attended multiple keynotes, workshops, and social events, and networked with colleagues from all over the world. I would like to share three highlights of what I learned:

1. Intercultural competencies is key

With the increasing movement of people around the world, intercultural competencies are more important than ever before in public relations. The theme of WPRF2016 was “communication across cultures” and the timing couldn’t be any better for professional communicators to have this conversation.

Today communication professionals, institutions, and organizations need to be constantly mindful of the cultural undercurrents when communicating to publics. We need to identify cultural distinctions, gaps, and effectively reach the masses while observing and respecting these differences.

2. Storytelling is the way to go

Although the list is exhaustive, here are my top three takeaways from WPRF2016:

This is not new but I always love to get reassurance on best practices. Storytelling is effective in communication and marketing because it taps into the emotional brain. In terms of communication, the human brain is divided into three parts:

  • The new brain: it’s rational and so it thinks.
  • The middle brain: it’s emotional and so it feels.
  • The reptilian brain: it’s instinctual and so it decides and acts.

Storytelling taps into the reptilian brain that is a more primitive part of human brain and it controls our actions. Neuromarketing essentially works on the same principle.

Storytelling helps us reach the public or target audience on an emotive level, connect with them, and create lasting impressions.

3. Organizations should be listening more

I attended a great session on organizational listening. It was a briefing on an extensive research that was carried out to find out how and how well organizations listen to stakeholders and publics. Organizational listening is extremely important for institutions and companies who are in the business of people such as governments, healthcare, education, etc. In order to be successful at organizational listening, organizations should focus on these seven canons of listening:IMG_3042

  1. Recognition of others
  2. Acknowledgement
  3. Pay attention
  4. Interpreting
  5. Understanding
  6. Consideration
  7. Response

You do not necessarily need to agree by listening, however, organizations need to build a culture of listening, create policies and invest resources into it.

Now that I have settled into my daily routine after WPRF2016, I am applying the knowledge acquired and lessons learned. I am writing the International Strategic Marketing and Communication Plan 2016-17 for Vancouver Island University, with a focus on public relations and non-branded content. I came back with a wealth of knowledge, more informed and enlightened about the public relations field as we have it today.

Once again, this experience would have not been possible without the support of CPRS and CPRS-VI – thanks so much!

You can reach me on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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