Three Voices from PRSA ICON 2019

Earlier this fall, PR Talk Podcast host Amy Rosenberg attended the PRSA International Conference (ICON) in San Diego, California. In addition to learning new tips and techniques her team is already putting into practice for Veracity’s clients, Amy had the opportunity to sit down with three conference presenters to hear their perspective on the PR profession. 

We’re releasing this episode now, because, on March 1st, there will be a $300 price increase for tickets to the next ICON event in Nashville, Tennessee on October 25th-27th. So, you should grab your tickets soon!

Every Campaign is an Opportunity to Write a New Book

First up, you’ll hear Adam Ritchie, owner of Adam Ritchie Brand Direction in Boston, Massachusetts. He essentially reverse-engineers PR to create new products and services. As Adam sees it,

“PR owes it to itself to be more than just a storyteller. PR can also be a creator and an author.”

One of the examples of Adam’s approach that he’s most proud of is The Mom Squad, which he describes as the first team of all-pregnant comic book superheroes. Adam and his team created the campaign to help sell the baby gear brand Summer. 

This interview was short, but Adam’s agreed to come back on the podcast for a more extended discussion about his work — so stay tuned. You may also run into him at ICON 2020 in Nashville.


PRs Need to Reclaim their Slice of the Pie

The next interview you’ll hear is with Elizabeth Edwards, founder and president of both 11th Octave and Volume Public Relations in Denver, Colorado. Because clients pay her to deliver effective messaging, Elizabeth spends lots of time researching the science behind how our brains are hard-wired to respond to things. According to Elizabeth, researchers working in neuroscience, behavioral science and cognitive science are making a lot of conclusions about what keeps our attention and what doesn’t. Elizabeth’s team uses these findings

“to focus on learning as much as we can about what translates into high-conversion communication actions.”

In addition to her expertise in behavioral science, Elizabeth also uses technology to improve workflow efficiency and maximize engagement for her final products. Her Tech in PR talk during PRSA ICON was packed, which is strong evidence that most PRs need a lot of help in this area.

Elizabeth notes that in many organizations, PR’s slice of the pie is getting smaller and smaller, and we need to do everything we can to reclaim more of that work. Part of that approach comes through using tools that make PR’s work more impactful. Elizabeth used the example of, which is an online production tool she uses to turn ordinary press releases into more engaging and shareable videos. In her view, “PR people need to own these interactive engagements.”

During her presentation, Elizabeth also talked extensively about workflow shortcuts that can automate tasks that might ordinarily be done by an assistant or junior-level associate. If you didn’t make it to her talk, you can text volume to 31996 to get her complete Tech Tools eBook. We hope to have Elizabeth back on the podcast to talk more about these topics soon.


PR is All About a Good Narrative and the Right People

Amy ends this episode with an interview she conducted over lunch with Marvin Stockwell, director of media relations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis Tennessee. He participated in the Pitch Tank — similar to the TV show Shark Tank — where participants pitch their media idea to a panel of judges in competition with their peers. 

During the event, Marvin pitched three ideas in ninety seconds to the panel, who then provided their feedback. His pitches included St. Jude’s use of therapy dogs to comfort patients undergoing treatment. The hospital’s international work, which includes curing cancer in Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon. And St. Jude’s recent acquisition of the world’s most powerful nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, which will give researchers the tools they need to cure the diseases of tomorrow.

The panelist agreed that while all these pitches are compelling, the new scientific tool offered a unique hook for journalists. One moderator suggested that while the whiz-bang science angle is excellent, audiences (especially in TV) want to see a human-interest element. With that feedback in hand, Marvin is now looking for ways he can tether this story with the good work St. Jude’s is doing every day. 

After participating in Pitch Tank, Marvin believes it’s a fresh take on the usual media panel that provided plenty of useful takeaways for the session’s 150 attendees. 


We’ll See You Next Year in Nashville

These brief interviews are just a sample of the expertise on display during these annual PRSA ICON events. If you’d like to attend next year’s conference in Nashville, purchase your tickets before March 1st and save $300. 

As always, you can keep up with the latest in PR by subscribing to the PR Talk Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.

About the guest: Adam Ritchie

Adam Ritchie is the owner of Adam Ritchie Brand Direction in Boston, Massachusetts. An award-winning marketer and PR professional, Adam uses PR as an unstoppable source of invention and transformation. He’s also a musician, coast-to-coast walker, downhill skier and craft beer lover.

Connect and follow Adam on social media:

About the guest: Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards is President of Volume PR, a firm with an 18-year, award-winning track record, and 11th Octave, the first integrated communication agency in the U.S. to develop a modern-day communication model based on behavioral science and the psychology of the human mind.

Connect and follow Elizabeth on social media:

About the guest: Marvin Stockwell

As the director of media relations at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, Marvin Stockwell is at his best when making a case for causes he believes in and collaborating with others in his beloved hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Connect and follow Marvin on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Josh Friesen
I'm a writer and content marketer at Veracity, telling client stories one post at a time.