ICCO Summit: ‘Agencies Must Expand Swim Lanes’ Says Ketchum’s Barri Rafferty

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, The Holmes Report

For the original article on The Holmes Report, click here.

Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty told delegates that PR agencies have a golden opportunity to reinvent themselves.

DUBLIN — Agencies have a golden opportunity to “expand our swim lane”, according to Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty, speaking at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Global Summit.

She told delegates: “Sometimes we’ve narrowly defined our discipline and thus the world around us has too. We need to really think about what we want to stand for as PR agencies, how we want to redefine what a communications consultancy is, and how we become a bigger part of the business model to drive brand awareness, reputation and sales.”

One key way in which agencies could reinvent themselves was through better business acumen, she said: “We not only want to help clients through organisational change, we also want to create opportunities to grow our own business.”

Creative diversity was also another area that Rafferty mooted as being ripe for improvement: “We surround ourselves with too many people who think alike, and it creates a creative echo chamber. Are we bringing enough different types of people, from different backgrounds, around the table to create different types of creativity?”

A third way in which agencies could seize the advantage was through understanding brands’ shifts from “marketing to sell, to marketing to serve.” Commenting on Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad – the most referenced image of the entire conference – Rafferty said: “Nike actually took no risk with the ad: they totally understand their target audience. They played to their young core, to black Americans, who they know will support their brand, and sales went up 31% in week one.

“Brands like Nike have been authentic in how they serve and stand up for their core market. More and more brands are taking a stance on political and social issues, so we need to do the research and analytics to make sure we really understand that brand’s consumer.”

Finally, Rafferty said PR professionals could expand their remit by acting as clients’ conscience: “Leaders today have more visible personas than ever before and our expectation of them is higher than before. We’ve seen CEOs hurt their reputation. We have to help guide and fix, but a lot of CEOs are role models for change and use their positions for the greater good. We can be their conscience.”

PR Is Where It Was Always Meant To Be

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, Holmes Report

For the Original article on The Holmes Report, click here.

DUBLIN — The public relations industry has never been closer to being what it was always meant to be, according to Fleishman Hillard global CEO John Saunders.

Speaking at the International Communications Consultancies Organisations (ICCO) Global Summit in Dublin this week, Saunders said he is now frequently told by clients that PR has never been more important than it is today, and impacts on every decision they make: “Time and again I hear that the work we do for our clients is essential. In my opinion our profession is in a very good place.”

In a bullish speech, Saunders said the shift in consumer expectations of business, in particular the requirement for businesses to take a stand on social and political issues, was a major driver of PR’s strong position: “It’s harder and harder to remain neutral. Even if a company wants to stay neutral they should at least be prepared if they are forced to take a stand, and helping them is squarely in PR’s wheelhouse.

“There’s a terrific opportunity to elevate our role: we’re now brand navigators. It’s what PR was always meant to be: we’re guiding companies through how they are going to act, not just messaging and channels.”

Saunders referenced P&G chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard speaking to the Holmes Report in August, when Pritchard said: “There used to be a lot of discussion about having a seat at the table. But I hear that less, because more PR pros are grabbing the wheel and showing their creative brilliance.”

And he said there was no “silver bullet” for public relations: “Advertising is fundamentally changing and the advertising world is in turmoil trying to come to grips with everything from how to price media buying to how the ad world deals with Google and Facebook. All over the place I see people looking for a silver bullet for PR too. There is no silver bullet. Whether you are independent or part of a holding company, the firms that win are the ones with the best talent.”

On the ongoing debate of whether the PR industry needs to find another way of describing itself, Saunders said: “I’m OK with being called a PR guy. It will be very difficult to come up with something that sticks better with clients and the public.”

ICCO Summit: ‘PR Will Get Its Swagger Back’

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, The Holmes Report

For the original article in The Holmes Report, click here.

Demand for credible, verifiable branded content will rocket; pressure on holding groups will continue, says WE international president Alan VanderMolen.

DUBLIN — Public relations will “get its swagger back” in 2019, according to WE Communications president, international Alan VanderMolen.

Outlining his predictions for the industry in the year ahead at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Global Summit in Dublin, VanderMolen said: ““PR will get its swagger back as demand for engagement, and credible, verifiable branded content sky rockets. It’s been a tough few years but if we focus on demand for engagement over earned media, we have an issues-rich and opportunity-rich environment.”

VanderMolen quoted some of the findings from WE’s recent Brands In Motion research, showing that while consumers expect and demand technological innovation, they are also increasingly fearful of the potential for technology to have a negative impact, from data security to driverless cars.

He said: “Consumers are now holding brands responsible for ethical use of technology, and it’s a brilliant opportunity for PR to get back in the boardroom.”

Outlining the challenge for PR professionals, VanderMolen said: “We must understand the technologies and platforms that are shaping our business environment. We must re-emerge as the moral and ethical voice guiding brands on what they should do rather than what they can do. We must regain the ground in the c-suite that has been ceded to CMOs, CTOs, and legal counsel. And we must master insights and analytics to maintain credibility.”

Another prediction for 2019 was more consolidation within the marketing holding groups: “With the exception of Publicis, which has Sapient, holding companies aren’t equipped to have management and performance consultancy conversations.

“Budgets are being slashed, outpacing holding companies’ ability to invest in technology like the management consultancies have, and the management consultancies are back-integrating by buying creative shops. Consolidation is real and it’s creating real pressure for the holding companies, but it will also create an opportunity for mid-size agencies to get hold of talent.”

It’s all about talent and purpose. Takeaways from the ICCO Global Summit 2018

Originally written by Lindsay Paterson, Leadership coach, mentor, consultant, CoachingConsultants

To read the original article posted on Linday’s LinkedIn, click here.

Loved this great global event this year. Here are my main takeaways in no particular order:-

  1. Ad agencies are winning Cannes PR Lions for what are effectively public affairs campaigns. We talk about convergence and overlap between the comms disciplines a lot, but this, to me, is a biggie. The ad agencies win budgets which are many times that which a public affairs agency could expect. Why? Because they are aligning with the marketing function where the money is and focusing advice and spend on issues which are of strategic importance to the business and which matter to their clients and customers. This example of the Trash Isles campaign blew me away – getting the UN to recognise the Pacific trash patch as a country triggers all sorts of legal responsibilities and is public affairs campaigning at its best – even if it did come from an ad agency. The example shared by Aedhmar Hynes of Text100 of this film made by a Danish Financial Services Union about gender equality viewed through the eyes of children is equally powerful (and makes me cry every time…). Unions, businesses and associations making the case to change policy, through advertising techniques – that’s the future, particularly when trust in the political process is particularly low. Does the public affairs industry step up to deliver the same impact? Not always in my view….
  2. Nike was the star of the show at this Summit with speaker after speaker apologising for showing the Kaepernik ad again. Stand for something and get a boost on the stockmarket. That was the message loud and clear from agency leaders last week.
  3. Lil Micheala – I didn’t know about this AI Instagram star. Apparently now that she has a million followers, this bot has moved on to social issues and is raising awareness about kids held in detention camps for example. She’s tapping into what her followers care about and businesses should be doing the same, not only for consumers, but because increasingly, our employees expect us to stand up for what we believe in too.
  4. Talent and diversity were high on the agenda for many – with consensus being that clients benefit most when the message taps into the audience we are trying to reach. If we are one-dimensional in our hires, we’ll never be able to get the message right in this world where people are kicking back against the establishment.
  5. SOS: Stop sending out stuff, said Alex Aitken of the Government Communication Service. Music to my ears. I spend a lot of time talking to people about the simple act of asking why before you send anything or even begin work on it. Doing it the same way is doing it the stale way.
  6. Make yourself uncomfortable. Chimes with the above. Applies to hires, messaging, diversity, consultation. If we can adopt a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, our businesses are more likely to be able to accept, and adapt to the challenges facing them.
  7. One P and L. Another one which was music to my ears. Barbara Bates, Global CEO of Hotwire swears by it. Stops the squabbling and does away with a mindset of protecting and enhancing offices or teams. Builds collaboration.
  8. Purpose. Purpose was everywhere. Quote of the day for me: If employees are so important to purpose, why aren’t we asking them what it is?

Thank you to the whole ICCO and PRCA teams and particularly to Elise Mitchell, the President, for a fabulous conference. See you all next year.


ICCO announces newest member and reveals location for 2019 Global Summit

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) recently unveiled the location for its 2019 Summit at the 2018 ICCO Global Summit in Dublin.

Taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, on 10th – 11th October, the 2019 ICCO Global Summit will once again bring together CEOs, Directors, business leaders, and agency owners from over 50 different countries to share insights.

Teresea Figueira, Partner, Lift Consulting and Vice President, The Portuguese Association of Business Council in Communication and Public Relations (APECOM), said: “Thank you so much for giving APECOM and Lisbon the opportunity to host such an event. We will work with ICCO to put together a programme as great as the one we have enjoyed here in Dublin.”

The theme for this year’s Summit was ‘shaping the future of public relations’, and featured presentations from global PR and communications leaders such as Alan VanderMolen, President International, WE Communications; Barri Rafferty, Global CEO, Ketchum; John Saunders, Global CEO, FleishmanHillard; and Sinead McSweeney, VP EMEA Communications, Twitter.

The event encompassed discussions around advocacy, combating mistrust and fake news, data science, measurement, creativity and rethinking how to make businesses as well as campaigns more human.

ICCO also took this opportunity to announce CICOM in Mexico as the latest Member, joining 40 other member associations collectively covering 55 countries.

“CICOM is delighted to join ICCO and bring over 1,600 Mexican communications firms into ICCO membership. It is an important time for the industry to be collaborating more and more across borders and we look forward to exchanging our own knowledge and expertise with that of communicators around the world” said CICOM President, Lorena Carreño

CICOM is the Confederation of the Marketing Communication Industry in Mexico, a leading body that integrates commercial communication across the country. CICOM represents more than 1,200 companies in Mexico.

Elise Mitchell, President, ICCO, said: “After gathering together some of the industry’s greatest leaders for an incredibly insightful and successful Summit in Ireland this year, I’m delighted to announce Lisbon as next year’s location. 2018’s theme was all about looking ahead to the future, and I welcome the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how the industry has made good on its statements, at the 2019 Summit.

“I also am delighted to welcome Mexico as the latest ICCO member. They join 55 countries across the globe, that collectively represent over 4,000 PR firms.”

Welcome to Innovative Ireland

Rhona Blake,  Managing Director, FleishmanHillard Ireland and Chairman, Public Relations Consultants Association (Ireland) welcomes PR leaders to the ICCO Summit in Dublin, Ireland, a country punching above its weight and playing its part in shaping the future of PR.

It is my pleasure to welcome our colleagues from across the world to Dublin for the ICCO Global Summit 2018. In our native language, Gaeilge, we say céad míle fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes.

This Summit takes place within days of the tenth anniversary of what, for many, was the beginning of public awareness of a recession that would leave few, if any, of our nations untouched – the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Ireland was more deeply impacted than many economies, however, ten years on, it is very much back and open for business. The Global Innovation Index, co-published by Cornell University, ranks this small nation fourth in the world in infrastructure, knowledge, and technology outputs, and tenth for market sophistication. We also score highly in areas such as tech exports and foreign direct investment. The number of people at work is now higher than before the crash and our Central Statistics Office recently announced that the number of Irish emigrants moving back to the country has overtaken the numbers leaving, for the first time since 2008.

So, these are times of optimism for our small island. And in our role as advisors to local and global brands and organisations we have a responsibility to avoid complacency and to look ahead to the next decade.

Certainly, we are living in interesting, disrupted and disruptive times. On this island, Brexit is a game-changer, whatever shape it takes. World trade wars reach into our businesses and those of our clients. Shifts in climate, technology, and political ideologies alter the contexts in which we work. There are inter-generational divides in western economies of a nature we have not seen before. We focus a lot on the so-called ‘millennial’ generation but in this country, for example, the over 50s are the fastest growing segment of the population and the most affluent. Indeed, young people in many developed economies no longer expect to be better off than their parents.

These are some of the reasons why the theme of ICCO 2018, Shaping the Future, is so apt. I look forward to sharing and learning from our peers across the world as to how best we can prepare ourselves to help and counsel our clients and to do what we do best, take care of business. As Abraham Lincoln said: ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it’.

I hope you enjoy the 2018 ICCO Global Summit and your visit to Ireland.


Rhona Blake, Chairman of PRCA Ireland