Recently the VPR team attended the PRSA’s annual Tristate Conference. We listened to talks given by people we’ve long admired and were introduced to others who we hadn’t heard of, but who are now some of our PR crushes.

The topic was What Now? Maintaining your PR Integrity in the Post-Truth Era. Although that sounds scary (we were scared!), the conversation was largely a hopeful, “let’s get us all on track here” one. There were so many great moments - too many to mention in one post - but we’re highlighting a few standout points that were particularly impactful.

The keynote was delivered by Melissa Ben-Ishay who founded Baked By Melissa after being unceremoniously fired. Her talk was just what a roomful of publicists needed. Some standouts:

  • She spoke at length about how an unlikely endorsement from power publicist Alison Brod played a significant role in Baked By Melissa’s success.

  • She discussed how she actively participates in her PR campaign - by working with her publicist to time launches, come up with newsworthy actions, and doing as much as she can to market her brand. She also said, “PR and marketing is everything.” Music to this publicists ears!

  • At one point she pointed to her sneaks and said, “I wear sneakers because you gotta get shit done!” Spoken like our boss babe hero.

We could go on about Melissa and if you wish we would, check out this episode of #Girlboss Radio. Fast forward about 15 minutes through the host chat to get right to Melissa Ben Ishay’s interview.

Alexandra Valasek from Uber was interviewed by Bob Knorpp on the topic of “Building a Household Name for Millennials” and gave a very frank and open interview.

  • Alexandra acknowledged that the nuances of doing PR for a yet unknown brand or expert is different than when your job is to promote a well recognized brand like Uber, but spoke frankly about the way in which her team dealt with the many challenges they faced since she took the job a year ago.

  • She also shared that she’s always trying to create a sense of FOMO in her audience.

One of the more cynical moments of the day - though no less educational or important - was during the discussion on “Alternative Facts: Seeking Truth in a World of Spin.”

  • Lindsay Kaplan, VP of Communications for Caplan, at one point deadpanned that we publicists have gone from “Spin doctors to truth morticians.”

  • Moderator Chris Riotta, a Newsweek reporter, reminded us all of the famous Churchill quote: “A lie gets halfway around the world in the time it takes the truth to put on its pants.”

Another panel covered the topic of “Crisis Communications in the 24-hour News Cycle” which gave rise to some of the best quotes of the day. At Victory Public Relations we work often with independent experts looking to raise their profile in order to build their business (very often, a medical practice) and it was eye opening to hear these publicists at huge brands reinforce some of the messages that we hold so close.

  • Rich Silverman, Corporate Communications Director, MUFG delivered one of the best quotes of the day, “Communications people have to have a seat at the table.” Thank you.

  • Tony Loke, VP at Weber Shandwick quoted a report his company issued in which it was learned that the CEO’s reputation really matters to the overall brand’s reputation.

  • It was moderated by Steve Barret, EIC at PRWeek U.S., and he gave the talk some interesting context by remarking that the last talk he hosted included Harvey Weinstein as a panelist.

It was a beautiful day in downtown NYC - a picture perfect opportunity to listen to what some of the industry leaders have to say about PR.