What does the future of comms look like?

The future of communication is bright. PR is not dead and internal communication isn’t either. Oh and comedian David Schneider has the ability to make me laugh so hard my tummy hurts.

These are some of my thoughts from the Futurecomms15 #FC15 conference in London I attended on Thursday.

It was hosted by Mynewsdesk and confirmed what I knew already – I’m doing a job I love, in an industry I feel passionately about to help organisations achieve communication excellence.

It’s taken me a few days to formulate my thinking from the conference as it all felt so muddled last week.

I have never attended an event that’s caused such an emotional reaction from delegates, myself included.

I went from feeling incredulous, to rattled. Humbled, to humoured. And a whole lot in between, as my Tweets @AllthingsIC show.

PR and comms is not dead, but they are certainly changing, as I’ve written about numerous times on my blog over the years.


I was riled by the first two sessions. Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer of the Content Marketing Institute opened the conference. He said:

“We (marketers) are not in the business of truth; we deliver what ought to be the truth.”

Oh boy. That’s a whole other blog post. It ignited the room and the comments via Twitter:

What do you think? You’re welcome to comment below with your views. 

For me, it felt like a dated view of the world. Effective communication is all about transparency, truth and trust.

The idea of what should be the truth doesn’t resonate with employees. It never has and they see through corporate nonsense and spin. 

Trust me, PR is dead

Next up was Robert Phillips, author of the provocatively titled book Trust Me, PR is Dead.  

Writing on his blog, Paul Sutton @thepaulsutton said: “By the time ex-Edelman President Robert Phillips took to the stage to explain/defend (delete as applicable) the assertion in his book that “‘PR is Dead”the room was already bristling. Phillips’ somewhat arrogant delivery did little to quell the rising tide of vitriol.

“This was perhaps illustrated no better than during the Q&A session at the end of a well-conducted interview by MyNewsDesk CMO Jonathan Bean, during which Rachel Miller passionately criticised Phillips for the tone of the book, calling it the most frustrating and irritating book she’d ever read.”

I did. I helped to fund it, and over the past few weeks have been dipping in and out of the book.

It’s been impossible to read for lots of reasons, but what irked me the most was the lack of recognition of effective internal communication and the role of employee engagement.

However, I do agree with this extract: “A fundamental rethink of communications – and more importantly relationships – with our employees is needed. Relationship building is very much alive.”

I did not receive the book looking for a “how-to guide to IC” (which Robert Phillips suggested in his reply to me as perhaps a reason why I didn’t like it. Wrong).

I read the book with the hope of understanding a perception of PR and a glimpse to the future. 

But the internal communication content frustrated me because it felt outdated and not reflective of the world I consult on, read, speak and blog about.

Life would be boring if we all agreed with each other constantly. But I was disappointed the whole area of employee engagement was not given the attention I believe it deserves.

What did emerge from the day was a future baked in PESO – Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media.

Want to know more? I recommend reading Gini Dietrich’s excellent article on her blog about this topic.

The power of effective communication

The presentation by Chris Webb,ex-Head of News and Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the Met Police silenced everybody. He talked us through the London bombings in 2005.

On the morning of 7/7 he was appointed the Strategic Communication Lead for all the blue light services to direct and coordinate the media and communication response to the bombings.

I had goosebumps while listening to Chris and it made for a sobering presentation, which focused our minds to what’s important and the importance of effective communication.

davidschneiderThe final presentation of the day was comedian David Schneider @davidschneider. He took us on a romp through “Is the Internet making us stupider?” In short, yes, it certainly looks that way.

Oh my. I laughed so much it hurt. He was an engaging and enthusiastic speaker who helped the day end well.

I also liked listening to Stephen Follows of Catsnake films and Zoe Clapp of UKTV.

Plus a big hat tip to CIPR President Sarah Pinch who performed a #panelhack on the all-male panel she was chairing.

Sarah offered a free seat on the panel to women in the audience, and it was a delight to hear the insights shared by willing volunteer Stella Bayles @stellabayles, well done Stella for stepping up, and Sarah for providing the opportunity.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Why don’t women speak at conferences?

Plus see the rallying cry from CommsCamp (which All Things IC is sponsoring) appealing for women to speak.

Attending comms conferences is always worthwhile and I got as much value out of the networking as I did listening to the speakers. I particularly enjoyed meeting Bromford’s Jarrod Williams @jarrodwilliams, in person after his numerous guest posts for the All Things IC blog over the years.

Well done Mynewsdesk for an event that got people talking, Tweeting and debating.

Did you attend? What did you make of the conference?

Further reading: See my Comms calendar to discover what’s on for comms pros to attend.


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on 22 June 2015.


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