Commitment to professional development evident at #PRFest

Posted by Sara Hawthorn
image shows a powerpoint slide saying welcome to PR Fest 2018

I’ve always struggled with the elitism of PR, the feeling that I don’t quite fit into the right mould for this image conscious profession.

But, after two days of #PRFest, I have finally found my people.

I’ve been in PR for 12 years and this was my first ever industry conference. I left elated, inspired and more at home in my chosen career than I think I’ve ever felt. Themed around ‘putting the human back into public relations’, the Festival of PR is pieced together with a series of short, powerful presentations. It’s food for thought, a chance to ask questions, and have insightful and respectful discussion.

Across the two days, there wasn’t a single presentation I felt I could miss or that didn’t apply to me and the InFusion team. Padraig McKeon’s deck on the 50 skills PR pros actually use and how to stop ourselves (and clients) from being seen and used as just writers of press releases, was a necessary wake-up call that hit home for the audience.

Ethics and honesty featured heavily in the opening presentation from Matt Cartmell of the PRCA (a headline sponsor) and from day two speaker, John Brown of Don’t Cry Wolf consultancy. The room was in complete agreement on both subjects, but John Brown’s call for an end to the bullshit to reach a new level of honesty in comms resonated with everyone in the room – fyi, keep your eyes open for more B Corp certified companies appearing in the ranks.

The venue for #PRFest was the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation which for me had top marks for its loop system, acoustics and ease of use. Whilst I can’t comment on the accessibility from a mobility point of view – the loop system was fantastic and I could hear each speaker clearly. For me, it was a significant benefit. It’s rare I’m able to follow everything at a conference but, again, PRFest delivered. For those who read my events checklist on Influence Online, that feeling of inclusivity in our events cannot be underestimated.

I spoke to founder and organiser, Laura Sutherland, of Aura PR, at the end of the festival who said she felt PRFest contained a lot of her personality and, having now met ‘irl’ from chatting on Twitter, I tend to agree. It was warm, accessible, without ego and extremely helpful. With PRFest, Laura has created a valuable, not-to-be-missed event for the PR industry. Next year’s event is sure to be another sell-out, so be prepared to book early.

Other highlights, special hellos and thanks go to:

  • Jenni Green, Head of Comms at Manchester Council for a profound and powerful story of recovery after the Manchester Arena bomb
  • Ella Minty, for finally getting to meet after our many Twitter conversations
  • Emma Leech for chats about tattoos and exciting post anticipated!
  • Andy Barr – For rosé top-ups and excellent link-building tips
  • Nigel Sarbutts  of the PRCavalry for excellent non-work related discussions
  • Charlotte Dimond – Yorkshire agency shout out and for a nice evening jaunt back around Edinburgh!