I was able to swing by PR Week’s annual NEXT Conference yesterday held at the Sheraton New York Hotel where I grabbed some sound from the publication’s UK-transplanted new editor Steve Barrett. I asked him about the differences between the PR industry here and across the pond. He basically said that social media is more developed here, and that the UK also lags the U.S. in the economic rebound. Listen to his remarks here (RT 4:12).

Zimprich, Day, Kerins and PR Week’s Iacono (l. to r.)

As Steve noted, the conference has built much of its cache by drawing as panelists a first-rate line-up of senior communications executives, mostly from the corporate and institutional side of the PR spectrum.

I was able to catch PR Week executive editor Erica Iacono, who’s imminently en route to Ketchum, moderate a panel on global-local communications featuring Ray Day, VP, global communications for Ford Motor Company (and Scott Monty’s boss), Ray Kerins, VP worldwide communications; head of global corporate media relations, Pfizer, and General Mills’ brand PR chief Greg Zimprich.

Here are a couple of bites from the always quotable (and former agency guy) Kerins:

Re: social media: The train’s left the station. We have to be on it.

Thursday [tomorrow] we’re holding internal social media webinar wherein Pfizer employees from around the world will share their best social media case studies.

All communications runs through PR. It’s not about controlling versus saving [the executives from] themselves. We’re a very regulated business.

Ray Day added:

Ford CEO Alan Mulally is a communications dream. He views himself as chief reputation officer.

It took someone like ScottMonty to shake up the conservative culture. He’s our SM evangelist.

Behm, Diermeier, Frymark and Ashooh (l. to r.)

The next panel, moderated by Edelman’s Steven Behm, focused on crisis communications and featured former AIG communications chief Nick Ashooh, now VP, corporate affairs, Alcoa, Daniel Diermeier, IBM distinguished professor of regulation and competitive practice, Kellogg School of Management, and Catherine Frymark, SVP, communications, Discovery Communications who, as you probably know, recently had to deal with a gunman at Discovery’s Maryland headquarters.

I had a chance to ask the panel about crisis preparedness plans, and whether they’re still useful given the sea change in how news and information travels today. I believe it was Diermeier who correctly recognized that every crisis has distinct dimensions, but that crisis preparedness plans remain valid in that they provide a tactical roadmap for who to engage at the outset, freeing up management to focus on strategic considerations. I suggested that perhaps there’s a potential boon for agencies in helping clients update their likely outmoded plans.

Barrett, Nadal, Sodera and Yakob (l. to r.)

Finally, I caught Mr. Barrett moderate a most eclectic panel featuring Miles Nadal, founder, chairman, CEO, MDC Partners, Vivek Sodera, co-founder, Rapleaf, and Faris Yakob, chief innovation officer, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners. I was glad to hear Mr. Nadal say:

PR is the new new thing. We have invested over $100M in last 10 months. Plan to double it.

His firm now owns some of the more buzzed about brands in the biz, not the least of which is Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which first made its name with a “subservient chicken.” I was hoping that someone would question RapLeaf’s Sodera about that recent Wall Street Journal piece, which definitely raised some eyebrows among the privacy protection set.

On my way out, I did get a chance to say hello to my old (but never too old) boss and mentor Harold Burson, as well as former Edelman colleagues Derek Creevy and company COO Nancy Ruscheinski. All in all, it was a most worthwhile event. I wish I could have caught more.

Photos: Peter Himler (Canon Powershot SX20IS)


Comments are closed.