Lessons learned from the 2020 Modern Communicators Conference by Katherine Keber

It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to attend a professional development conference in pajama pants, but this year’s Central Ohio PRSA Conference via Zoom made that dream a reality. As an attendee, I joined seven topic-specific sessions, a keynote address presented by Christine King, and a plenary address presented by Hinda Mitchell. Through these sessions, I learned many tips and tricks for effective communication that will certainly aide me throughout my career.

Here are three of my key takeaways from the conference:

Don’t be afraid to update an industry mainstay’s brand.
Rebranding in a Millennial Kind of World (Christine King, Tealbook, CASK Communications)

In the conference’s keynote address, speaker Christine King focused on several popular brands that have rebranded themselves to appeal to a changing consumer base. Wendy’s and Coca-Cola, two examples presented by King, have each approached rebranding differently. Wendy’s reconceptualized by adopting a uniquely informal voice, especially on social media, and has shifted focus away from its history. Wendy’s frequently engages directly with consumers and competitors on social media, often employing millennial humor and wit. However, Coca-Cola has remained committed to its story through initiatives like the Coca-Cola Journey, which aimed to share Coca-Cola’s connection to communities across the world. Coca-Cola has chosen to appeal to younger consumers by updating their visual brand and product offerings, while still creating content that interests an older consumer base.


Develop a clear plan and communicate about it.
Truths and Myths of Multi-Channel Marketing (Samantha Parsons and Leah Franklin, Cardinal Health)

When developing campaigns, it’s important to have a game plan. In this session, speakers Samantha Parsons and Leah Franklin presented a six-step process designed to help communicators develop successful nurture campaigns. Successful nurture campaigns rely on strategy at all levels, including consistent coordinated efforts across departments. An integral part of the process is determining which digital channels should be used to disseminate your message. Many professionals believe that only trendy channels can reach your audience, but it’s important to identify which channels work based on who you’re targeting, what their need is, and what you are choosing to measure.


Tell a damn good story.

Strategic Storytelling: Maximizing Your Impact (Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville, FrazierHeiby)

Speaker Ann Mulvany nailed it when she said, “If 2020 has taught us anything so far, it’s that we have to be agile.” In an ever-changing world, communicators must be able to embrace shifts in modes of communication while continuing to produce great stories. Cost-effectiveness and efficiency are important to keep in mind; communicators can create content to utilize in multiple ways across different channels. Communicators can also use existing content to engage with new audiences on emerging platforms, leading to efficient, impactful storytelling. Centering communication strategies around the client’s core values can aid communicators in developing stories that are more genuine and well-received.

I’m so grateful I had the chance to attend the 2020 Central Ohio PRSA Conference. Each conference session contributed to knowledge that will transfer to my studies and future career. Thank you to the conference organizers, presenters, and scholarship committee for providing professional development experiences like this to PR students and professionals across Central Ohio!

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