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Business Wire: How CEOs Define The Future of PR

Early this month, Business Wire CEO and Chairman, Cathy Baron Tamraz asked seven leading female CEOs to discuss the role of collaboration, creativity and leadership within their organization.

Earlier this week Business Wire and hosted a discussion featuring seven  PR and communication industry CEOs on the topic of innovation in the communication industry.  Lead by Cathy Baron Tamraz and co-hosted by Fay Shapiro, each CEO provided their insights on the role of collaboration, creativity and leadership within their organization.

Participants of this discussion included:

Tamraz kicked off the conversation by asking each CEO how they defined innovation both within their organization and within the overall PR industry in general.

Every Monday morning, members of The Horn Group participate in a standing meeting to allow the team to share new ideas, from the logical to the unorthodox.  The only rule for these meetings is that all ideas must be new, not previously presented.  In other words, the team is challenged to always be thinking.  Innovation is ongoing and thought-provoking, and as Sabrina Horn and the other CEOs noted, there is no such thing as a stupid question. After all, no one has the foresight to know what question might lead to an innovative concept – unrestrained creativity is unlimited potential.

For Barri Rafferty, of Ketchum, North America, embracing innovation means readying for failure. It is important to “allow failure and to talk about failure” she said. Patrice Tanaka suggested that the term failure has taken an unfortunate negative connotation.  Failure must be embraced by innovative leaders in order for true innovation to emerge.

Patrice shared a valuable lesson learned from James Dyson, of the famed vacuum company. Dyson made over 5000 attempts at designing a vacuum cleaner before succeeding with the model that set his path in the industry as a super star. Those thousands of prototypes could be seen as either a negative or a positive, the difference lay in his will to succeed and continue trying even when facing adversity.

Innovation Leadership Participants, from left to right: Sabrina Horn, The Horn Group, CEO Jennefer Witter, The Boreland Group, CEO Patrice Tanaka, PadillaCRT, Co-founder, Chief Counselor and Creative Strategist Stacey Cohen, Co-Communications, CEO, Cathy Baron Tamraz, Business Wire, CEO/Chairwoman Barri Rafferty, Ketchum, North America, CEO, Sandra Fathi, Affect, Pres/Founder Fay Shapiro, CommPro, CEO

As each speaker discussed the importance of innovation, the topic turned towards the role of mentoring in the growth of their employees, companies and the overall industry. Barri Rafferty explained that while mentoring is key to nurturing tomorrow’s leaders, today’s senior professionals must not forget that “reverse mentoring in this day and age is very important.” The process of learning is never complete and it is important to utilize the mentoring process as one in which both parties can walk away enlightened. A CEO has a wisdom that can only be developed by years of productive experience, however, the industry is always changing and it is important to identify trends from the very people who make them. Rafferty added that she often approaches employees and asks “where are you getting information?” as a way to continue her learning curve. The best way to learn about a new source of inspiration is from the people who consume it. By asking where her employees receive their news Rafferty stays plugged directly into the evolving communication landscape. Cathy next asked each speaker to share the skills necessary to be a successful and innovative communicator. The CEOs noted many of the same traits including the power of persuasion in promoting a program, and the ability to understand analytics so one could truly track its impact. Today’s measurement tools are used to not only track awareness, engagement, conversion and coverage, but to listen and make changes, in real-time, to create even stronger impact.

Moving past the tactical skill set needed to be successful in communications, the speakers also discussed emotional traits such as passion for the industry and the courage to try and try again, even in times of doubt. With great risk comes the chance for great rewards.  While many skills can be learned, courage and passion can only be developed.

As the conversation continued, each of the CEOs discussed their experience as women leaders in the communication industry. There are many obstacles for women and even though great strides have been made, it is important to continue to change the attitude within the corporate world. A company should be judged on the merit of its success and not the gender of its leadership. There should be no separate designation for women-owned businesses. To accomplish these necessary goals women must not only be ambitious but be supportive of each other. Jennefer Witter from  described her varied experiences since first entering the field, in 1982, and found that women in leadership positions were more supportive. It was said that “being a woman leader, you climb up the ladder with one hand and pull up the next generation of women with the other.”

The starting point for creating a more female friendly environment is first creating a culture of confidence. It is impossible to innovate the communication industry before giving 50% of the population a stronger voice. Most women don’t interview for jobs if they don’t think they have the skill set and this must change.  The panel called for women to adopt swagger in order to succeed.

Barri Rafferty elaborated on the idea of mentoring by specifying that people should have both male and female mentors. It is very important for “looking at things from a different perspective.” Every person is a valuable source of ideas and tastes and unique experiences. There should be no restrictions on where you go for information because every source has the potential to be different in a way that can shed new light on an ever evolving industry.

As the panel came to a close, Cathy asked each CEO to provide their insights on the future of PR and communications.  spoke for all of the panelists when she said the lines are more blurred than ever between marketing, communications and public relations. The PR role specifically has changed greatly in the last 5 years as a result of the digital age. It has become more and more important to get closer to the target audience. Sabrina Horn added that there is a growing friction between the CCO and CMO roles because in the future the two can be merged, “it’s all communication.”

By the time the conversation concluded many great issues had been touched upon. The basics of strategic communications never change but advancements in technology will always shape how an audience is reached and how that reach is measured. When asked what’s on the wish list of innovations, Barri Rafferty wished for an innovation within measurement as it is within the advertising field.  A centralized, standard way to measure the impact of a campaign is at the top of every PR pro’s list and while some might consider it wishful thinking, innovative thinkers such as NUVI and other measurement groups are making it a reality.

The faces of the PR industry are changing, as is the technology and the skill sets needed to succeed. As long as one generation continues to mentor, and learn from the next, the leaders of tomorrow are already charting the course for innovation.

The basics of strategic communications never change but advancements in technology will always shape how an audience is reached and how that reach is measured.
Tags: Barri Rafferty, Pr Leadership, Womens Empowerment, Women In Leadership, Glass Ceiling, International Womens Day, Cathy Baron Tamraz, Ketchum, Sabrina Horn, Padillacrt, Commpro, Female Ceos, Stacey Cohen, Sandra Fathi, Patrice Tanaka, Business Wire, Fay Shapiro, Affect, Horn Group, Boreland Group