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PR in Cannes

Cannes Lions

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), which brings together over 30 national PR associations including the Czech APRA, has been the voice of the PR industry at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for over ten years. ICCO supports and promotes PR agency entries and provides a meeting place for PR consultants during the festival.

This year, ICCO, together with its main partner Worldcom PR Group, presented the “PR in Cannes” conference on Wednesday 19 June at the Little Black Book Beach on the Croisette, which brought the audience panel discussions and many interesting talks that addressed new trends in the PR industry and interesting campaigns. And we wouldn’t be in Cannes if there wasn’t a beach party after the content sessions, in this case “PR Networking Drinks”.

The first discussion focused on how to ensure and what success looks like in earned media and how the role of creativity is changing within earned media. The panel, moderated by Rhodri Harries, CEO of Kaizo, featured Bill Imada, Chairman and Chief Connectivity Officer of IW Group; Patrik Schober, Managing Partner of PRAM Consulting; and Steph Macleod, Principal of Kaizo.


The role and value of earned media from a corporate perspective

All speakers agreed that earned media still plays a key role in companies’ communications strategy. They provide significant value in several dimensions. Both in internal communications, where they reinforce employee alignment with the brand mission, and in external communications, where they reinforce brand reputation among consumers. From an institutional perspective, it enhances credibility with stakeholders and investors. Smart brands increase the value of earned media by integrating it into their broader marketing and communications strategies and ensuring consistent messaging across all communication channels.


The Disappearing Line Between Paid and Earned Media

Imada focused on explaining the blurring of the distinction between paid and earned media. He explained that the advertising industry is now realizing the value of public relations and strategic communications and is beginning to be more intentional in its efforts. Thus, one content is distributed through all channels included in the PESO (Paid, Shared and Owned media) communication model. Bill Imada pointed out that the focus of earned media has evolved from simply getting story placement to engaging and converting audiences, and as a result of these changes, the entire PR industry has shifted from storytelling to storydoing.


The role of artificial intelligence in creativity and content

Schober then described the process of media relations using artificial intelligence, i.e. from content creation, insights gathering, distribution to communication measurement. He argues that AI plays a crucial role in modern creativity and content creation because it streamlines the process and therefore gives more room for creative activity, or the foundation of media relations, which is building relationships with media that are interested in the content and targeting the chosen audience. However, according to Schober, the author of the book “From Leadship to Public Relations”, this requires an existential turn, i.e. a change in the mindset of PR managers when evaluating campaigns, which is still largely done using the now obsolete AVE model, which is still used by more than 50% of PR managers. The goal, according to AMEC (Association for the Evaluation of Communication), is the impact of communication on the functioning of the entire organisation. AI tools can help to do much of this.


The importance of acquired media

Rhodri Harris believes that audiences in the B2B space place a high value on earned media because of its credibility. Earned media is perceived as more objective and trustworthy, which is key in the B2B decision-making process. These media reinforce perceptions of authority and expertise and foster authentic relationships. Creativity is important for B2B brands to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Steph McLeod then concludes the panel by reflecting on creative content, which she believes increases engagement and builds emotional connections with audiences. In today’s environment, rebuilding trust is key and requires a combination of creativity, authenticity and transparency. Success in earned media through creativity requires a strategic approach and effective use of artificial intelligence. In most cases, the most creative ideas are simple, and careful planning is key to sustained brand growth.


Don’t go to Cannes without sustainability

The second part of PR in Cannes was predominantly devoted to sustainability. A panel discussion entitled “The New Playbook for International Sustainability Comms”, moderated by Arun Sudhaman, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PRovokeMedia, featured here: Corinna Voss, Executive Director, HBI; Anita Nahal, Director, Kaizo; and Tomas Jørgensen, Senior Advisor, Radius CPH. The discussion focused on how brands, organisations and governments can effectively communicate their sustainability messages to different audiences against the backdrop of pressing global issues.

Most award-winning campaigns at international competitions, including Cannes Lions, have an integrated sustainability component. Despite its existential importance, climate change competes with other pressing global issues such as geopolitical conflicts, economic instability and major political events. Brands must ensure that their sustainability messages are perceived as relevant and meaningful to their audiences. Tomas Jørgensen highlighted this challenge by discussing how different cultural and regional perceptions influence the relevance of sustainability messages. He stressed that companies need to create awareness and prioritise climate issues in their messaging to keep sustainability at the forefront of the public’s mind.


Simplify complex messages

One of the main challenges in communicating sustainable development is making complex scientific data understandable to a wide audience. While stakeholders have a growing awareness of climate issues, they often lack the detailed knowledge needed to understand the scientific solutions. Corinna Voss shared insights from her work with the European Climate Monitoring Agency’s Copernicus campaign, which involves translating complex atmospheric and climate data into digestible graphics and easy-to-understand visual comparisons. For example, representing the volume of water from a melted glacier with an ice cube the size of the Eiffel Tower helps the public to immediately understand the scale of the impacts of climate change. This approach not only informs but also engages people emotionally and intellectually.


Even the UN can be creative

The panel, led by Chris Pratt, Executive Director, Burson focused on a presentation on the Weather Kids campaign. This was carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in March this year. More than 70 broadcast stations from around the world carried weather forecasts from the children and many more reported on the news of these forecasts. Children from around the world aired cautionary and hopeful messages about the impacts of climate change on their future and a call for people to pledge their support for climate action. It was a story that really dominated news coverage around the world and across the political spectrum. The campaign has already won several international PR awards.


Public relations campaigns have been awarded at the Cannes Lions since 2009, and most of the PR categories are won by campaigns primarily created by advertising agencies, with PR playing only a complementary role. Even so, the importance of PR within the festival has increased every year, as evidenced by the number of PR categories, the number of entries from communications professionals, and the number of beach seats taken by global PR agencies.

About the author

Patrik Schober | Asociace Public Relations, z. s.

Patrik Schober

Managing Partner at PRAM Consulting and Worldcom Partner

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