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Paul Holmes on Global PR Summit

He is used to telling the truth right to your face and is never loath to call a spade a spade. Chairpersons of boards, presidents and CEO of the leading global PR networks are trembling at him.

Mainstream had a possibility to interview the well-known PR guru Paul Holmes, publisher of The Holmes Report and organizer of SABRE Awards, who shared his impressions about the first and the largest PR event of this year — Global PR Summit.

Now that the first Global PR Summit is over, how do you evaluate its success? Has it achieved all the goals?

The one thing we could not control was the weather, which obviously had an impact — the storm that hit New York meant that about 100 registered attendees could not make it — but we were very pleased with all the things we could control. I think the quality of the content was extremely high, challenging and thought provoking; and the venue was spectacular.

When and where are you planning to hold the next PR Summit?

It is our intention to return to Miami next year. I believe there is a great value in «branding» the event location. In the same way that Davos has become synonymous with the World Economic Forum or Cannes with the advertising industry, I would like Miami to become a fixture in the public relations calendar.

What was the biggest challenge about holding the Summit?

The biggest challenge was probably convincing people that the public relations industry had grown to such a point that there would be sufficient interest in a global event. When we started this process, a lot of people felt the industry needed to attach itself to the ad industry event in Cannes. And we had to convince people that we could bring together a truly global lineup: global in the sense that all continents and regions were represented, but also in the sense that it brought together senior agency and client executives, journalists and academics. And then, of course, the Hurricane Sandy presented a different challenge, because a lot of attendees — and about 25 or 30 speakers — could not make it to Miami, and so we had to improvise a lot in the last few days.

How many people worked on the event? Was it done by the Holmes Group team or did you hire a professional event agency for that?

We have a very small in-house team: me and three other full-time employees. So we rely very heavily on outside help, particularly from our event management company. We first worked with them in Berlin seven years ago and have used them for every SABRE Awards dinner since, in places such as Barcelona, Stockholm, London, Prague, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Your event-schedule must be very tight. How many PR events do you hold per year? Do you have local partners (media partners, digital support, etc.) in the countries where you hold SABRE Awards and other events?

We now have four major events a year: a North American SABRE Awards dinner in New York; an EMEA region dinner that moves around; and an Asia-Pacific dinner; as well as the global Summit. But we also hold some smaller events, often «roundtable» discussions around specific topics, often sponsored by PR agencies or service companies. We do seek local partners, usually working with the leading international or local agencies.

During the Summit, you mentioned that «one day marketing will come to PR begging for budgets». Can you comment why you think so?

I believe that PR and marketing are converging. I think there is a growing recognition that corporate reputation and brand marketing have to be managed in a holistic manner. And I believe that when you bring marketing and PR together, the resulting function is PR in its broadest sense — a function that manages the relationship between an organization and all of its publics. The marketing function — which manages the consumer aspect of that relationship — will need to compete for its share of the overall budget with investor relations, employee communications, public affairs, etc.

What would be your forecast on the development and transformation of Public Relations in the next 5 years?

As I said, I think we will see a convergence of marketing and PR, and that the resulting function — responsible for all of an organization’s relationships — will become a C-suite function, alongside finance, legal and operations. I believe that when organizations set policy, they need to consider those four things equally: the financial implications, the operational implications, the legal implications, and the reputational implications.

About SABRE Awards

Tell us please how you came up with SABRE Awards concept in the first place. What prompted you to start the contest?

We have been running an awards competition in the US for 20 years, and we started it primarily as a way of generating content: the case studies were published in a magazine. But at the time, there were very few awards competitions, and we found that the SABREs could help to set standards, that by recognizing creativity, and strategic thinking and business results we could encourage that kind of public relations programming.

When the entry for SABRE Awards 2013 will be announced? How long does it take the juries to evaluate the campaigns?

The new entry forms are now online and can be found on our website. The juries generally have about three or four weeks to read the case studies, and then meet over a few hours to select the winners.

How would you describe the perfect entry (what key features must it have to become a winner)?

I’m not sure there’s a «perfect» entry, but there are several key things we look for. We like campaigns that are based on a real understanding of the stakeholder audience (typically that means good, solid research); strategic insight; a big, bold creative idea; thorough execution across all the relevant channels (usually integrating mainstream media with digital and social); and above all, evidence that the campaign achieved a business result for the client.

Also, read this interview at MMR website.