“What People Don’t Know, They Make Up”: Takeaways from the 2019 PR Summit DC


As PR professionals, we are faced with the unique challenge of keeping up to date on both the Public Relations (PR) industry as well as the specific industries in which our clients are focused. In July, I had the opportunity to concentrate on the PR side of my job by representing LaunchTech at the 2019 PR Summit DC. Attending conferences in any industry is a great way to pick up new tricks and best practices, hear about the latest trends, and if you’re onto something good, come away feeling validated that your team is doing right by your clients.

This was all true for me after a day at the PR Summit DC, which was filled with engaging industry speakers from both the PR profession as well as members of the media. One of the most memorable speakers was the morning keynote, Sara Fischer from Axios (if you’re not subscribed to her weekly media trends newsletter, do it!). Sara presented some fascinating stats from across the industry that highlighted facts like “the desktop dies on weekends”; that “everyone is moving to mobile” is a misconception; only 5% of readers make it to the bottom of 1,000 words; how privacy power looks different in the UK vs. US vs China; and a reminder that the rise of Google, influencers and other media channels means people hardly ever go direct to brands anymore.

The summit’s sessions ranged from best practices I was already comfortable with, to new and interesting perspectives on PR in today’s technological and political climate. Here is something old, something new, and something true I took away from this year’s PR Summit DC.

Something Old: There is no “one size fits all” solution to media relations

It was clear from the media relations panel that tensions between PR folks and reporters are as high as ever. Both parties have had positive/helpful and negative/flat out unhelpful experiences in working with each other. The more PR events I attend, the more this point is reinforced: every reporter has their own preferences for communication and it’s up to us PR professionals to forge individual relationships with all of them to know what works best. 

Something New: We used to yell at the TV, now we yell on Twitter

Lexi Neaman, who works for Twitter, made a great point during the social media trends and outlook panel that I had not considered before: Everyone used to yell at the TV and now we yell via Twitter. Consuming media like television is no longer just an experience you share with a roommate or family members who happen to be sitting around the TV with you or even the next day around your office water cooler. Today, television is dissected LIVE by millions of people on every social platform imaginable. The opportunities for brands, celebrities and the average person to engage and influence an audience during a TV show are endless.

Something True: What people don’t know, they make up

We’ve all seen apology statements put out by big and small brands after a blunder. During his fireside chat, IR+Media president, Jarvis Stewart, shared some insightful lessons on crisis communication. First, we must always assume someone has been offended, and strike “if we” from any apology statement – you definitely did, just own it! Second, not only is “no comment” the last response a company should provide to a media request in the face of a crisis, but it also opens doors for the media and outsiders to fill in the gaps on their own. Stewart said it best when he shared with the group, “what people don’t know, they make up”. Even if it’s just “on background” it’s always better to be as open with the media as you can than to have to combat rumors that are generated by lack of information from the source.

When recapping the event to LaunchTech Communications Managing Director, Wayne Schepens, he perfectly summarized the state of public relations today as, “a dynamic field that requires an exceptional breadth of knowledge of diverse industries and intuitive interpersonal skills to foster long-lasting media relationships.”

All in all, I look forward to attending PR Summit DC in 2020! And bringing a co-worker… they asked me to choose between a session on podcasts and a session on videos this year that were happening at the same time. Not again!


Author : Kate D. Shapiro