General Session A: Forks in the Road

By Josh Hallett

Renee Wilson

Renee Wilson, Chief Client Officer of MSLGroup, kicked off the sessions for the Florida Public Relations Association’s 76th Annual Conference with ‘#ForksInTheRoad’ – a discussion about career paths and changing creative trends in public relations.

Renee opened her talk with a question to set the topic, “When is the last time you faced a fork in the road?”

We all work in a challenging field.  We’re professionals, and every day we’re facing challenging decisions. A lot has changed in the past few years, what used to work three years ago does not work today.  The one consistent thing is change.

Stepping back, Renee quickly recapped some highlights of her career.  She has worked in communications for 24 years, always with a global focus.  One of the things that Renee is most proud of is that she has always focused on helping young women in the industry.

Renee highlighted some key career ‘forks’ in the road. In work and life it’s all about choices.

1. Every interaction is an opportunity:

In your career you will come into contact with lots of interesting people.  In today’s digital environment connections are being made every day. Make the most of those interactions.

2. Networking is Invaluable:

Networking is now inter-dimensional.  Think about connections with former college friends, colleagues, journalists and many others.  You need to be networking, get active online.

3. Take the Calculated Risks:

She believes that it’s important to take calculated risks.  When Renee was 30 she took the opportunity to move to Europe.  The next four years were the most humbling, and the most rewarding of her life.  She is who she is today because of taking that risk.  If you stay in your comfort zone you will not grow.

4. Be Open to Possibilities:  

You may be on the path you want, but be open to other opportunities.  When we get caught in our day-to-day routines we sometimes miss those hidden possibilities.

5. You Don’t Learn When Times Are Easy:

She had a mentor tell her, “Solve the problem, you’ll learn.”  This is now something she tells younger members in the profession. When things are going well you don’t get stretched.  You learn in challenging situations.

In the end “You may go up, you may go down, you may go sideways,” but PR is an amazing profession.

Renee then moved on to forks in the road with regard to creative trends in the industry.   In short, be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

1. The Line is Gone:

The divide between public relations and advertising is blurring.  There are different disciplines that are laying claim to the company narrative.  Renee thinks that now is the time for public relations practitioners to lead this.  We’re living in the age where content is king.  Public relations professionals are the ones that can do this!

Renee shared the Cannes award-winning integrated campaign from Volvo Trucks.  Even though the format was video, normally the work of ad agencies, it was a PR firm that led the program.

2. Storytelling is Real-Time:

First off, we in public relations are the master storytellers. Renee noted that she used to know every reporter deadline; today there are deadlines happening all the time.  There is an incredible amount of real-time news creation. Organizations, now more than ever need to respond quickly.

The skill sets that public relations practitioners have honed over the years focus on reacting and communicating quickly.  This is more important than ever in the age of real-time storytelling.

3. Innovation More Important than Ever:

When Renee brainstorms concepts for clients she often brings in individuals outside the traditional public relations space. They need new, creative ideas.  Renee said they do this because, “What is successful, is what has not been invented yet.”  Some of their best ideas are coming from the most amazing sources.

4. Talent, Talent, Talent:

Everybody is looking for quality talent.  The core skills such as writing are still important, but there are different types of talent.  Planning, analytics, and data analysts are becoming more important in PR.

5. Only Consistency is Contagious:

You need to adapt and embrace the notion of lifelong learning.  Things are never going back.

Photos from this session

Renee WilsonABOUT RENEE WILSON

As global chief client officer, and a member of the global management board, Renee Wilson is responsible for the MSLGROUP Client Engagement Program and ensuring excellent client service, development and management across the four regions.

Wilson is the global executive sponsor for MSLGROUP’s P&G account and is responsible for providing counsel on a diverse portfolio of brands, including the Cannes Lion award-winning program for the Always and Tampax brands.

With 24 years of award-winning experience in the area of marketing communication and
four years experience living in London and working across EMEA (Europe, the Middle
East and Africa), Wilson specializes in global brand marketing, influencer marketing,
marketing to women and product launches. A strong advocate of influencer strategy and
real-time engagement, Wilson has helped further MSLGROUP’s specialty in this area.

Other senior executive roles Wilson held at MSLGROUP include president of the NA
(North America) region, managing director of the NY office for three years and director
of the consumer marketing practice.

She has spoken at conferences on international communication and marketing to women
and has published on the subjects of international marketing, WOM (Word of Mouth)
marketing, marketing to women and food/beverage.

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