ICCO Summit: It’s ‘game on’!

Written by: Nicola Nel, Managing Direct, Atmosphere


I have just returned from the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Global Summit in Milan, Italy. What an experience! As an agency owner, I’m rejuvenated and inspired after sharing the stage with industry leaders from large networks such as Hill+Knowlton, Ketchum, Ogilvy and Burson Marsteller, to feisty independents such as fischerAppelt from Germany, Shine Communications in the UK, Levanter Africa from Kenya and Cannes award-winning Swedish PR agency Cohn and Wolfe.

By Nicola Nel, founder and MD of Atmosphere Communications

All over the world it is the same. To quote the inspiring David Gallagher, outgoing ICCO president: “Clients want more for less. Good people are hard to find and harder to keep. Competition is relentless and from unexpected quarters. And technology continues to disrupt business models.” So it is ‘game on’, whether you operate in Moscow, Seattle or Cape Town.

These are my top eight take-outs:

  • The wonderful world of PR is changing, rapidly. A few years ago our worlds were divided into advertising or third-party endorsement via editorial ink. But now the web has changed the rules. Companies and brands who develop relationships directly with consumers are the ones who are winning.
  • There is global optimism about opportunities in the PR industry. Agencies are tapping into marketing budgets with digital and tech driving the growth. Good PR companies are re-inventing as communications players using measurement and analytics to drive change.
  • If you can’t measure it, don’t do it. Every campaign can be measured and should. The new Barcelona Principles provide guidance on measuring integrated campaigns.
  • Interconnected strategies rule. Great campaigns that lead to business results for clients all have the following in common: they balance insights, creativity and engagement, and use at least two or more channels.
  • Hire for attitude, train for skills. Agencies – and companies all over the world – all sing the same refrain. Talented professionals are hard to find and we keep on fishing in the same pond. Look for people who think differently, as diversity creates creativity.
  • Solving a human problem creates meaning. Marketers are learning from PR people that brands that apply their expertise to solve a human problem – and therefore don’t only push their product – create a connection and meaning in a noisy market.
  • Reputation advisers are growing in importance globally. The 24/7-connected consumer demands immediate responses when things go wrong. The need to protect a brand – corporate, personal or political – means public relations experts are in high demand.
  • Media relations are waning in certain markets. Paid and owned channels dominate. There is an ethical debate emerging, however – are consumers being made aware that the content in their favourite ‘independent’ publication or broadcast outlet has been paid for by the brand?

It is a very exciting time to be in our industry. My team and I are looking forward to making the necessary changes to ensure that Atmosphere, and our clients, remain focused on the future.