There are some tactics that, as a PR person, sometimes slip out of your mouth when you least want them to. For me, it’s always in a client meeting, where you’ve been listening, making notes, and things won’t stop connecting in your head. You can see common themes! Opposing points of view! Engaging debate! Controversial sound bites! You see a pattern emerging, a shape forming. And, good Lord, it’s round! It’s a round table! And before you know it, you’ve said it out loud.
And then you actually have to make it happen. You have to deliver more guests than client representatives, including journalists, feisty conversationalists, issues-mad and screamingly relevant industry sages. You need a venue that’s appearance and brand values match your subject matter, and you need to be able to know, in advance, that this tactic is going to have a positive effect on your client’s stakeholder profile and that of course, everyone will show up, stay put and absolutely love it.
So what’s so scary about that then? Well, I used to worry a lot about it, hence my regret about not being able to control my in-meeting ideas blurts. But, lately, I’ve realized that creating this sort of conversation doesn’t have to fill you with dread. It’s about trusting those initial crazy connections you made in your head between those ideas at that meeting, and making them happen in real life.
I was reading the story of the Pre-War New York Algonquin Roundtable for inspiration for this post – I like the effortless growth of the discussion and the natural end to their meetings. I was also trying to find out if the table actually HAS to be round to guarantee success, and as that link shows, size and shape have no bearing on success!
Mantis roundtable debates this year have been a perfect mixture of clients, customers, partners, competitors, contacts and advisors. Conversations have flowed freely and new relationships forged – we’ve had new business leads for us and our clients, partnership approaches and research project discussions afterwards. I believe in our network and by keeping the formula simple, we’re really pleased with what we’ve been achieving. It feels natural and we are getting coverage and increased profile from these events for clients.
We’re no New York social mavens, but at least I’ve put the myth to bed for myself that PR round tables are too hard. People will talk. I promise.