Counting Down to San Diego

September 2019
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As of this writing, the PRSA 2019 International Conference in San Diego on Oct. 20-22 is only two months away.

I’ve said this before: The Conference is one of the highlights of the year for me. I look forward to networking with members and taking part in our annual signature event.

This will mark my 24th year in attendance in 25 years at PRSA. (Hurricane Wilma’s arrival in South Florida in 2005 prompted the cancellation of the event that year in Miami.)

I’m happy to be returning to San Diego, one of my favorite cities, and the site of our 2009 International Conference. That year we heard from Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, Bob Garfield, the AdAge columnist, and Todd Buchholz, former White House director of economic policy, among others.

This year’s slate is stacked with keynote speakers and panelists. Our International Conference team created the supplement that you will find inside this issue, offering highlights of what’s to come in San Diego, from the 140-plus breakout sessions to the Diversity & Inclusion Celebration.

Meanwhile, in this issue, you can read interviews with three of the keynote speakers: legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward, intrepid journalist Laura Ling and leading Microsoft communications executive Frank X. Shaw.

I especially enjoyed the Q-and-A between Woodward and our Managing Editor Amy Jacques. (loved his anecdote about his daily early-morning reflection!)

I’ve followed Woodward’s career since my journalism school days at Ohio State. I had more of an appreciation of what he and Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein had done when I was in college than when the film “All the President’s Men” first hit theaters as I turned 11 years old. (I was likely more excited that Robert Redford starred in the movie!)

Meeting us in St. Louis

Woodward, always an in-demand thought leader, was a keynote speaker at the PRSA 1996 International Conference in St. Louis. I uncovered the issue with our recap, dramatically headlined: “Tell the Truth — or Else.”

The theme that year was “Telling the Truth,” and Woodward’s talk fit that framework. “The truth tends to come out,” he said. “Concealments and cover-ups just don’t work.”

Woodward also stuck to topical 1996 themes, and addressed Whitewater, President Clinton’s simmering real-estate investment scandal. “The President should understand what [President] Nixon did not understand. When people don’t answer questions, journalists start to wonder what they’re hiding.”

Our recap, written by Editor-in-Chief Adam Shell, also noted a technological advancement for the times: The keynote address was “beamed via satellite” to 27 Chapters courtesy of broadcast PR company Medialink.

Speaking of technology, an ad that shares the page with the Woodward summary is for Netcentric, a company that specialized in “Internet-powered fax broadcasts,” where you “get your message out in a matter of minutes — not days.” Netcentric is still in business today, having evolved to provide “scalable Adobe Experience Cloud technologies.”

On Oct. 20, I’m sure that Woodward, who has covered nine U.S. presidents, will provide more timeless advice for communicators as well as insights into the current political climate. You can find our coverage from San Diego on our blog, PRsay, during the Conference, and afterward in our December issue. 

Return to Current Issue The Culture Issue | September 2019
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