Raise Your Hand! PR at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity

Written by Renee Wilson, President, PR Council


The marketplace is quickly transforming. That is evident. The older, more traditional forms of communications are no longer moving the needle as they once did. However, one thing is clear:  the methods, strategies and activity that have PR-thinking at the core are where the action is. It is my prediction that this year at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, we will see the majority of winners from a host of categories have PR-thinking at the core of the idea. And when attendees ask why the program was so successful, raise your hand and proudly say it was “PR-thinking that powered the strategy and the creative idea.”

This will be my sixth year going to the Festival, and I’m just as excited as ever. Nowhere else in the world can you have a professional experience that is so awe-inspiring, educational and enjoyable all in one place. I’ve had the good fortune of serving on two PR juries, once as the PR jury chair, and this year, along with two of my PR Council Members, I’ll be serving as a PR Mentor in the Cannes Young Lions Marketers Academy, along with A.G. Bevilaqua of M Booth and Ron D’Innocenzo of Golin. It’s a great opportunity to help teach and inspire about the power of PR-thinking as it’s important to help marketers of all ages understand more about the types of work we do. It’s not PR versus advertising. It’s PR and advertising, and media, and in-store, online etc.

What do I mean when I say PR-thinking? It’s strategies and ideas that involve working with influencers, third parties, experiential, content and stakeholder relationships for starters. You will find it in the winning Cannes entries.

However, if you are still on the fence as to whether or not to attend the Festival, or more importantly to care, here are three reasons:

1. Cannes Festival showcases creativity at its best. There is no other festival that brings together the greatest creative minds in the global marketing communications industry and gives you access to the best and brightest in integrated communications. Think of it like the Olympics of Marketing. We can all learn from the powerful work.

2. Young Lions Competition. For only the third time, PR is included as a category in this competition. We are proudly sending Team USA and I’m sure other regions are putting forth their bright young talent too. These future leaders definitely have a thing or two to teach us about the industry.

3. ICCO House of PR. For the second year in a row, ICCO will be hosting the House of PR. This is a great meeting place for PR professionals to gather to glean insights from the juries, points of view from thought leaders, and network with colleagues from different agencies and companies from around the world. It can’t be missed!

I hope to see you at the Cannes festival, where we can push forward the power of PR-thinking from around the world, inspire others, and be inspired!


For more information about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity visit:

Public Relations Lacks Confidence

By Stephen Waddington 





Public relations has a confidence issue and yet our value to organisations has never been clearer.

Comedy and satire are characteristics of a healthy democratic society. The same applies to an industry.

We have some way to go in public relations.

Satire in public relations is this article How kids ruin your PR career in PRMomentor Move over Edwina Monsoon:meet today’s six mighty beasts of PR in The Guardian.

Both columns are anonymous. Very few people have the nerve to call out our profession and when they do they often get it wrong.

Critical analysis, another lifeblood of a healthy society, is confused with personal criticism in the public relations business. It is holding back our development.

It is very different to satire and critical analysis in accountancy, HR, marketing, design, or mainstream business media.

It belies a much bigger issue. The simple fact is that public relations lacks confidence.


Markets are conversations

The public relations industry must cease being introspective and define its value to organisations as the reputational and relationship adviser.

It must confidently assert its contribution to the broader economy if it is to consolidate the place that it is securing as a management discipline.

Markets are conversations. They are created and nurtured through dialogue. The Cluetrain Manifesto taught us this in 1999.

Modern organisations recognise the opportunity that new forms of media provide to engage directly with publics. And they recognise the potential reputational hit if they don’t.

The public relations industry has the opportunity to take the lead role in the communication between an organisation and its audiences.

Dynamic and forward thinking communication teams, and agencies, such as my own are firmly grasping the opportunity.


“Unassuming and self-effacing”

Public relations practitioners need to be braver and modernise more swiftly if they want to grasp this opportunity.

My fear is that the public relations isn’t moving fast enough and is unassuming and self-effacing. These are admirable characteristics in a human being but not in a boardroom.

There’s a turf war taking place between advertising, public relations and digital.

I don’t use that term lightly; it is a war. The battles are taking place in pitches and the reorganisation of communication and marketing departments day-in day-out.

The battle lines are being drawn by media change and audience consumption and the positions that advertising, public relations and digital professionals assume.


Customers don’t care

In many instances the lines between the disciplines are blurring to the extent that it not possible to tell one from the other.

If a County Council posts an editorial news update in its Facebook newsfeed and then pays to promote it to ensure that all its follower see the message, is that advertising?

If a retail brand works with a network analysis tool to identify the key influencers in its niche and then pays the company to manage an influencer campaign on its behalf, is that public relations?

If a mobile phone company alerts customers and prospects to a new service offer via email and a paid campaign via Facebook advertising is that customer relationship marketing, direct marketing or public relations?

One thing is for sure. The customer doesn’t care and the C-suite is following her lead.


Missed opportunities

The threat to public relations taking the lead or even having a role in either the reputational or marketing mix is its previous failure to adapt to new forms of media as quickly as other disciplines.

We’ve been here before.

In 1998 a company called Google launched with the purpose of enabling Internet users to find the most relevant content online.

Its vision of organising the world’s information and making it universally accessibly and useful has remained consistent for more than 17 years.

The rest as they say is history.

Google created an opportunity for a new industry to help organisations create content and build relationships online.

In 2011 that industry was worth $3billion in the UK (econsultancy, 2011) and $16 billion in the US (econsultancy, 2010).

It’s called search engine optimisation and is a growing segment of the burgeoning digital industry. Public relation has the opportunity to take back some of this market as Google tweaks its algorithms.


Potent proposition

The marketing industry isn’t waiting for permission to become the adviser to brands as its experts seek to start and engage in conversations with their audiences.

Advertisers have been quick to recognise how their discipline’s strengths in planning, creativity and production can be used in the new media environment.

The public relations industry for its part has the most potent proposition for organisations.

Public relations has always worked in the editorial environment, listening and crafting a narrative to enable organisations to build their reputation by earning attention and integrating paid wherever appropriate.

The industry needs to be brave enough to align its business model from the hierarchical structures of old to the new challenges that organisations face.


New public relations

An army of agencies and communication teams are adopting agile techniques and adding new skills.

They are rooting campaigns in objectives aligned to the organisation. They are using data and analytics to plan and evaluate, in real time.

They aren’t scared of integrating earned, paid and social media.

They are addressing professionalism through qualifications, standards and continuous professional development.

They are working collectively to tackle the issues that our business such as gender equality, diversity and workflow.

We must drive home our value through action. We also need to get a genuine sense of humour.

These characteristics will be a sure sign of a confident profession and one that is fit for the future.


This post was originally published on Stephen’s personal blog.


About Stephen Waddington

 Stephen is Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice at the University of Newcastle. He’s Past President, CIPR and the author of #BrandVandals, Brand Anarchy, Chartered Public Relations, Share This and Share This Too.

Getting ready for your first Cannes Lions?

by Gabriela Lungu, integrated creative director & Cannes Lions veteran

gabriela lungu




Congratulations! Your firm is sending you to Cannes Lions!  It’s the most important International Festival of Creativity for the Marcom industry, so you should be very proud that you were chosen (the pass for the festival, plus the transport, the accommodation and other expenses, are quite a significant investment for any company; and yours is investing in you!).

The best thing to do now is to make the most out of this awesome experience. But the truth is that going to Cannes Lions for the first time can be quite intimidating.

This is no small event. It’s one who practically takes over an entire city for a full week. Huge main venue, and many other smaller ones. 12,000 people attending. Lots of things, all very interesting, happening in parallel. Amazing superstars, from the industry and beyond, to see and meet at the different gatherings – some official and some not so official. And all the temptations of the French Riviera at walking distance. What to choose? How to make sure you’re not missing out?

As a Cannes Lions veteran, I’m asked lots of questions every year.

Here are my top 7 tips:

  1. Download the official Cannes Lions App. This app is your best friend. Read what’s happening at this year’s edition and start planning. Decide who you want to see, where you want to go and put together a personalized agenda. Make a plan A, but also a plan B. You’ll have to be flexible to fully enjoy the week
  2. When you get there, take the official “HOW TO CANNES DAILY TOUR” to find your way around the Festival’s main venue, Le Palais des Festivals. After you know your Grand Audi from your Debussy, you’ll instantly feel more confident.
  3. From the Palais, take a walk on the Croisette and maybe even a little sightseeing tour around Cannes. Remember where the biggest hotels (especially Majestic, Carlton and Martinez) and the beaches are. Many events, especially the evening ones, are happening outside the Palais, in one of these locations.
  4. Keep in mind that you’ll be one of the 12,000 people who come to be inspired at Cannes Lions. If a seminar sounds very interesting to you, chances are the other 11,999 people will think the same. If you really want to be in the same room with an inspiring speaker, make sure you are in that room really early (with 2-3 hours in advance) and you don’t leave it. Not even for bathroom breaks.
  5. If you can’t get in for one of the big seminars, don’t be disappointed. Go to a workshop instead. Many times, the most valuable and practical information are shared in the smaller sessions.
  6. Go to the parties you’re invited to. There are amazing networking opportunities. Go to the after-parties too; there are many planned and unplanned ones all over the city. Enjoy the rosé (they call it ‘the Festival’s water’). But make sure you’re up and running again early in the morning. There must be parties all the time where you’re coming from; but there’s only one Cannes Lions Festival every year.
  7. Go to The House of PR (Grand Palais Beach, Cabana 11), a fun and comfortable meeting space for the PR community. Get involved with the scheduled activities from Monday 22nd June to Wednesday 24th June, from 9am till 6pm. Throughout the festival the House of PR will play host to interviews, live streaming and much more. Look out for the live updates – twitter: @ICCOpr, #WELOVEPR.

Of course, the most important thing is to… relax. If you ever feel confused, remember that even the smug veterans had their first Cannes Lions once. Enjoy it to the maximum, let yourself be inspired, and then share this inspiration with your colleagues back home.

See you there!

Lobbying Regulation: An Update on Developments in Ireland

On March 11th, Ireland became the 15th country with statutory regulations covering lobbying activities when the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed into law. This law will take effect on September 1st 2015 and from that point onward, lobbying activities in Ireland will need to be reported every four months. Given that such regulation is a common issue for ICCO members there are some features of the Irish legislation, and the process surrounding it, that will be of interest. Separately, there are aspects of the Irish legislation that will have implications for consultancies based elsewhere, in particular those that engage with Irish ministers and MEPs on European policy matters.

Firstly, there was the approach taken to the legislation by the Irish Government. In 2011, a new government came into office and promised to “introduce a statutory register of lobbyists”. While there had been a number of initiatives in this area in the past, the relevant Minister and public officials came to addressing this challenge with a fairly open mind. At all stages of the legislative process, there were opportunities for stakeholders (including ourselves) to input. That whole process, including all the discussion papers and stakeholder submissions, is documented on the relevant Department’s website.

As the representative body for PR consultancies, our key concern was to ensure that there was a level playing field among all those who engage in lobbying activities: irrespective of whether they worked in-house or in a consultancy, or for NGOs, businesses, etc. The final legislation clearly applies to all those who engage in lobbying activities. We were also concerned that other professionals who engage in lobbying activities would not be captured by the legislation, but this is not the case and they are equally covered.

The other major concern was to ensure that compliance does not pose a major administrative burden on our members. We won’t know the final answer to that until the system is up and running. The Register will be entirely online, which should aid compliance and we are actively engaged in the user testing of that system.

In terms of the legislation itself, the Act can be accessed here. To briefly summarise, lobbying is defined as communication (in any form) made personally (directly or indirectly) to a designated public official in return for payment or as part of their work, relating to:

  1. “the initiation, development or modification of any public policy or of any public programme
  2. the preparation of an enactment, or
  3. the award of any grant, loan or other financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds

apart from matters relating only to the implementation of any such policy, programme, enactment or award of a technical nature.”

Obviously, there may be challenges of interpretation i.e. what is a technical matter, and where is the boundary between lobbying on the modification of a policy and lobbying on its implementation.

The communication is not all communication with government, rather it has to be with senior public officials for it to be registerable. These officials are defined as government ministers, any elected member of the parliament or local government, MEPs and senior civil servants. When reporting their lobbying activities, consultants will be required to provide:

  • the details of the client (i.e. the company name and address, their website and other contact details);
  • the details of the officials to whom the activities were directed;
  • the subject matter of those activities;
  • the type and extent of those activities (i.e. whether the contact was through meetings, phone calls, emails, grassroots campaigns, etc.); and
  • the name of the person who had primary responsibility for carrying out the lobbying activities.

This data will then be published every four months. It is important to note that this legislation will apply as equally to firms engaged in lobbying based outside of Ireland, as those inside. So, for example, in the case of a consultancy elsewhere in Europe that contacts an Irish Minister or an Irish MEP about a policy change at European level, they will have to be report to the Irish authorities or an offence will have been committed.

The real challenge is the implementation of the legislation and we will keep ICCO members abreast of how things develop. In the interim, as this is the newest piece of legislation on lobbying out there, and borrows heavily from international experience, it is likely to be drawn upon by legislators in other countries – especially those from common law jurisdictions. We are more than happy to share the experience we have gained during this process with any fellow ICCO members: just ask!

John Carroll is CEO of the Public Relations Consultants Association (Ireland). He can be contacted at