PRDecoded Conference: Focus on Relationships in the Digital PR Age

In an ever-evolving digital world, it can be difficult to identify the newest and most effective public relations tools to keep your business relevant and your ideas fresh. Last month, Greentarget attended PRWeek’s PRDecoded conference in Chicago, which focused on how communicators can use these tools to thrive in a digital world. Marketers from technology, consumer goods, travel and hospitality brands presented alongside agency leaders to discuss the latest PR and digital trends.

What our team learned at the conference is that when it comes to navigating this fast-paced environment and staying relevant, it really comes back to one thing: cultivating relationships. To understand the newest digital platforms, what they measure and how they can impact business, it is crucial to remember that the end user of all these platforms is a person. PR professionals have a natural edge here. We talk a lot at Greentarget about how PR professionals are the “keepers of the lost art of media relations.” Public relations professionals are by definition relationship people. Here are some ways that focusing on relationships gives us an edge in the digital landscape and equips us to keep up.


In the conference’s opening session, “The Leading Disruptor,” Matt Maloney, founder and CEO of GrubHub, stressed the importance of being open to change, revisiting your business plans at least every six months and encouraging your team to keep up with new tools and trends. Accurately defining your company narrative and remaining aligned with your vision will give your team the room they need to push the envelope and grow with the business.


It’s no surprise that the words “content” and “narrative” were thrown around repeatedly across all sessions. The problem has become that there is so much content to consume and even more ways to consume it. We ourselves took aim squarely at the problem in Greentarget’s annual State of Digital and Content Survey, highlighting the issue of information overload. DeLu Jackson of Conagra challenged us to spend more time listening to, monitoring and engaging customers and clients to craft more meaningful content to answer the question “What are we solving for?” in his session titled “Producing for Your Customers.”


How do you attract someone’s attention and get them to “lean in” to your narrative?

“When content is abundant, attention is finite,” Charlie Hart of RXBar said in his session titled “The Price of Attention in a Digital Age.” Hart showed how the mechanics of the human brain discern what information is worth our attention: be clever, mysterious and seductive. Challenging your audience to think is the best way to earn, and keep, their attention.

Sandra Stahl of Jacobstahl Marketing Communications used the example of Wendy’s in her session, “Relationships Remain the Center of Digital Communications.” She offered one of the company’s most recent campaigns, creating a menu item from a fan’s tweet, to show how the company has succeeded by noticing—and monetizing—their users’ attention.


At the core of any digital strategy is understanding and building a relationship with your target audience. While one of the biggest challenges that marketers face is keeping up with the rate of evolution and change in technology, no matter the new digital platform, people remain the constant in this changing landscape, Stahl said. People are looking for the same thing from digital marketing and communications that they want from any other interaction: a relationship.

The PRDecoded conference validated the notion that building and maintaining relationships remains the most important component of our job as communications professionals, while providing an exciting, fresh look at how PR is evolving in the digital age. Building trust across multiple platforms and adapting to change daily is no small feat. But it’s also what we do best. Being in the center of the digital age allows us even more opportunity to showcase those skills.