My First Cannes: PR Belongs at the Creative Table

It was gorgeous and hot, just as you’d imagine the French Riviera to be in June, helped somewhat by the wretched weather back home.

The Mediterranean mercilessly calling you to ignore the sessions you said you would attend, the Croisette packed with the bold and the beautiful⁠—this is where the Maxi dress takes on an entire life form of it’s own. And the rosé really does flow all day. Locating drinking water was something akin to finding Wally in a sea of bubbles and straws.

And yet, I’ve returned underwhelmed and perhaps a little embarrassed.

I didn’t go because we’d been shortlisted for an award – that’s a BHAG for the next 5 years!

The Culture Curse Panelists: Mia Pawinska Sims, Rohan Shah, Adam Clyne, Ruth Allchurch and me

I went out because I was asked to speak on a panel about culture and values, hosted by Reuben Sinclair at The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) House of PR, which was sponsored by The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) for the third year. It was a great excuse to network with interesting people. And if I’m completely honest, I jumped at the chance to check out an event because I’d thought, up to this point, I had no discerning right to be at. Like a PR dinghy in a sea of advertising, media and creative network superyachts.

I was wrong. Michelle Hutton, the President of the PR Jury Panel, gave a passionate talk about what makes a winning award entry and her belief that it’s never been a better time for PR to take it’s place amongst the good and the great of the creative world. Size, as we all know, isn’t a measure of success. Having an insight, a laser strategy and results that deliver impact, that’s what the jury is looking for.

We do that. All day, everyday. We’re good at corporate consultancy, at crisis management, at employee and internal comms. We’ve been delivering integrated campaigns for our clients for years, and PR has been at the heart of so many successful campaigns. And yet, we weren’t there. Not really. Not in anyway that would make you feel you worked in an industry that rocked it with the good and the great. You could have scraped the independent and smaller networked PR bods together and you’d still have struggled to fill a table of 30!

So, I’m wondering. Next year, couldn’t we pool our industry smarts and resources and go out in force, making Cannes 2020 the celebration of creativity across every channel?  If we don’t take a seat at the table, which, by the way, has always been on offer (albeit more lacklustre than we would have liked), then we can’t complain about not enjoying the spoils. We say we struggle to have our craft respected, and we’re the poor relation. Much of that has been true, but we’re not going to make a difference unless we’re right in the thick of it.

Is it expensive? It is if you buy a ticket to the Palais. But stats that came out mid week suggested only 41% of attendees bought those tickets. Much of the business goes on at the fringe events, in the beach bars, the pop ups and the Cabanas.

Next year, we need our Cabana on the beach. We need a venue where we celebrate the PR awards shortlisted and won and where we network with clients who know that comms is crucial to delivering business value. We’ll meet up with agencies that want to collaborate with us because they know they can’t bring to the table what we will, and we’ll pull in favours from our influencers and celeb and comedy friends to come and entertain, because if there is one thing comms people know how to do, it’s throw a party.

And remember, we’re not gatecrashing their party because it’s our party too; we just conveniently made out we’d lost our invitation and then got slightly sneery at the injustice of it all.

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