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SFHA Communications Conference discusses how we can make our voices heard

Current communications issues discussed at conference

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Blog by Kirsten Walker, SFHA Media Adviser

Yesterday, the SFHA held its Communications Conference. The title of our event was ‘Making Our Voices Heard’, which reflected the challenging climate which communications professionals find themselves working in. With the news agenda dominated by Brexit and the prospect of another independence referendum,  we discussed how our organisations can make their voices heard above all of this noise and the best methods of achieving this.

Our first plenary session was with Stephen McCranor, Co-Founder of Frame PR, and PR consultant John Brown on current challenges and opportunities. Communications staff can often feel pressured to move on from traditional print methods of communication to just digital, so it was good to hear from both speakers that there is still a need for both, and the press release and media relations are far from dead!

Stephen explained that we should be using a range of communications methods depending on what we’re trying to achieve and who the audience is. He said:

“Sometimes what’s good is what’s ‘old fashioned’ but that’s ok as long as it’s good, as long as it’s better.”

John stated that while we must not ignore traditional media, we must embrace digital, despite its pitfalls, as it creates a dialogue. However, John emphasised that it’s now more important than ever that communications professionals do not take a “confetti like approach” to sending out press releases and must ensure they are targeting key journalists and media outlets.

The conference workshops perfectly complemented the plenary sessions and covered building, promoting and protecting your brand; online versus paper; data protection; and measurement and evaluation of communications.

Our final plenary session featured Paula McNulty, Group Associate Director Consumer Marketing, Weber Shandwick, and Bryan Garvie, Director, Big Partnership, on the future of communications.

Paula predicted that social media will face a “crisis” this year and continued fragmentation.

Bryan detailed six questions that communications professionals must ask themselves to get to know their key audiences:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who/what influences them?
  • What do they worry about?
  • What do you want them to do?

So what were the big issues to come out of the event? With more and more methods of communication emerging, we need to take a more targeted approach. We need to embrace digital methods such as video and social media but only if they’re appropriate for our target audience and what we are trying to achieve. There is still a role for print methods and for traditional news outlets such as local radio and newspapers. As Derek Bryce, Senior Designer at SNS Group, said while chairing the ‘online or paper’ workshop:

“Print will never die. We still need that information. We still use that information.”

We hope to hold the communications conference annually but, in the meantime, SFHA members can join the Communications Network and attend our regular events, which cover current issues and best practice. If you’re interested in joining, please email me for further details kwalker@sfha.co.uk

Thanks again to all of our speakers, chairs, those who attended the conference planning group, and the Communications Network Committee for helping us put on such a successful event.

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