I recently had the privilege of attending the 2022 PRSA International Conference in Dallas. Not only was this the 75th Anniversary of PRSA ICON, but it was the first in-person conference in three years! The event schedule was packed with inspirational speakers, in-depth breakout sessions and guests from around the world, like Ukraine and the United Kingdom!

Here are five learnings I took away from the conference to help us continue working responsibly, ethically and efficiently.

  1. Lead with confidence. MSNBC’s Katty Kay spoke about the importance of building confidence for becoming a stronger leader and developing a professional voice and presence. She explained how the more you practice it and take action, the more confident you’ll become. The more you speak up during meetings, the easier it will get. I’m looking forward to reading her new book on this topic, “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance -- What Women Should Know.”
  2. The importance of empathy. To inspire others with our ideas, it’s essential we remain empathetic. Mark Mohammadpour, APR, owner and chief well-being officer at Chasing the Sun, an employee well-being consultancy designed to help companies and employees prioritize their well-being so they can shine in their professional and work lives, shared a few tips on how to increase empathy in the workplace. For example, he shared that one way to practice empathy is to read fiction, which helps with understanding various characters and their emotions. To lead with empathy in the workplace, he suggested thinking about the experiences and backgrounds of the entire company or group and considering the impact your communication style and words could have on each of them. By doing so, you’ll gain more respect from your colleagues and peers.
  3. Write messy, then fix it. Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications Inc., shared three simple tips for writing better, easier and faster. First, think of what to write; second, write it down; and third, fix it (e.g., fixing grammatical errors, making it more concise and applying AP Style). That's it! Ann believes this method is the key to preventing writer's block. If you let your ideas flow onto the page first, you can avoid getting bogged down in mechanics. Substance matters most and the polish can always come last! Don’t scrimp on the polish step, though. Error-free work that flows smoothly and clearly is vital for credibility. The best ideas and thoughts would be lost without it!
  4. Partner with your audience. We know that for brand messaging to resonate, you must connect with your audience – but how about working with them and using their content (with permission, of course) to help elevate your brand? Evan Atkinson and Steve Norris from Georgia Tech shared how brands can unlock the power of user-generated content (UGC), like using content or photos from customers, brand loyalists/fans, staff, online reviews, and partners to promote their goods and services in an ethical, authentic and responsible way. One way to solicit and gather UGC is to create opportunities for people to make branded content, like initiating a hashtag campaign or contest. Starbucks and Taco Bell are examples of companies that do this successfully. In fact, 60-80% of the photos they use on their Instagram channels are user-generated.
  5. Be authentic. One theme that kept popping up throughout the conference was being authentic. Above all, we need to stay true to ourselves, our values and our personal brands. Not only is being authentic part of gaining confidence and being an empathetic person, but it also helps you relate to your audience, maintain positive sentiment and achieve the fullest potential for your company or brand!