Have you ever talked about the importance of professional development at work, then become so busy that six months and then a year go by without any of that development actually happening?
You're not alone. Between writing press releases and media pitches, it isn't easy to make time for professional development.
However, public relations (PR) is a constantly evolving industry. That's why attending conferences and events should be a priority for all PR professionals. You can improve your strategy and tactics by hearing from industry leaders and professionals, networking, and brainstorming new and innovative ideas.
When you begin looking for PR conferences to attend, keep in mind that they don't need to have a public relations focus. Conferences in any communications field can be helpful to your overall growth.
Below you'll find the top 20 PR conferences to attend in 2020 and learn how they can help you as a PR professional.
PRSA North Pacific District Conference
Crisis Communications Conference
Social Media Strategies Conference
B2B Marketing Exchange
PR News Crisis and Measurement Summit
Content Marketing Conference
Confab, The Content Strategy Conference
International Association of Business Communicators World Conference
Social Media Week Los Angeles
Arthur Page Society Annual Conference
Annual Conference for Media Relations Professionals
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) holds a biannual North Pacific District Conference. They cover a variety of topics for PR professionals, from the future of AI or automation in public relations, the role of public relations in civil discourse, journalism and public relations, branding, and social media and public relations.
The main goals of the conference, and the PRSA North Pacific District, are developing leadership, sharing knowledge and information, and providing networking opportunities. Uniquely, this conference is also available via live streaming if you can't travel to the event — this is the perfect conference to fit into your busy schedule.
Best for: Public sector, senior public relations professionals
Crisis communication is an important PR tactic. At the Crisis Communication Conference, PR professionals discuss how your organization is prepared for a crisis, building confidence in your crisis communication plan, short term versus long term consequences, and working with journalists during a crisis. This conference is specifically catered to senior public relations professionals in the public sector.
Social media is another vital public relations tactic that's always changing. At the Social Media Strategies conference, PR professionals learn in-depth how social media strategy can position your brand for success. Distinctively, at this conference there is real-life feedback, discussions, and peer-to-peer learning. This is a great opportunity for young PR professionals to learn from senior-level, cross-industry professionals.
Below is an example of a session by Ryan Pena of MentorMate, who speaks on B2B paid optimization with LinkedIn.
Although this is a marketing conference, the B2B Marketing Exchange gives PR professionals the chance to learn more about strategic messaging for B2B companies. This event focuses on real-world case studies and bringing actionable takeaways from every session. There are over 100 sessions, workshops, and keynotes to attend during the weekend.
Best for: Crisis management and senior level PR professionals
PR News gathers annually for the Crisis and Measurement Summit. Crisis management and measuring analytics are two important elements of public relations. Strategizing a crisis communication plan and measuring ROI for your goals will sharpen your skills as a PR professional. This conference also covers KPIs in-depth and tying measurement to your overall public relations goals.
Below is an example of a case study breakout session. This session, “B2B agency—How We Did It with Kevin Elliott,” features Crisis Communications Director Kevin Elliott speaking about crisis communication in-depth.
A popular conference, South by Southwest celebrates many industries — film, music, media, and more. The event features sessions, screenings, and exhibits, covering a wide range of topics. This is a good conference for PR professionals because it discusses key elements of a public relations campaign — creative, storytelling, branding, and professional development. The main goal of SXSW is help creative people achieve their goals.
Best for: Enterprise senior public relations professionals
ContentTECH Summit discusses content and technology — both widely relevant to a career in public relations. A noteworthy element of this conference is that it's geared toward senior-level professionals in enterprise companies. Attendees are typically CMOs, CTOs, and enterprise leaders. Workshops discuss strategic messaging for content and making the digital experience of media consumption easier.
Public relations professionals write strategic content for their campaigns. That's why content marketing and public relations often coincide. At the Content Marketing Conference, PR professionals learn about brand reputation and how to humanize their brand. Ultimately, making an emotional connection with the public is the key to success for public relations. This conference features over 70 speakers, 50 sessions, 10 workshops, keynotes, and tracks.
PRSA's Counselors Academy focuses on helping public relations agency owners grow and retain clients. It is designed for agency leaders by agency leaders. This is a great conference for seasoned professionals who are ready to start their own PR agencies, drive growth, network with fellow agency owners, and learn from their successes and struggles.
The Confab Content Strategy Conference can help public relations professionals learn how to plan, design, and create better content for their campaigns. Workshops focus on measuring performance, creating content for AI, hiring and managing staff at your PR agency, and more. This is a great conference for young professionals to learn more about content creation for their PR role.
The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference is a global conference focusing on professional development for communication professionals. Public relations professionals can network with practitioners from around the world, listen to keynote speeches, and sit in on panel discussions. The 2020 theme is “Shift #AreYouReady” ultimately turning an eye toward the latest trends, exploring new challenges, and solutions.
DigMarCon, short for Digital Marketing Conference, is an opportunity for PR practitioners to learn more about creating brand awareness and using digital tools to drive more productivity in business. As many of the tactics for digital marketing and public relations overlap, the workshops on content strategy, social media, and analytics and data can help PR professionals grow
Below is a keynote master class from the 2019 DigMarCon. Here, Ruben Dua of Dubb discusses best practices on leveraging video to grow your business.
Social media is an important element to a public relations campaign. The Social Media Week conference in Los Angeles brings together professionals in marketing, media, technology, and public relations to discuss new ideas, innovations, and social media trends. Different tracks have included The Future of Brands, The Influencer Equation, Paid Media Models, Social Content, and Social Media and Society. The goals of the conference are to give cross-industry professionals insights, ideas, and opportunities for success and professional growth.
Best for: Cross-industry communications professionals
INBOUND is an annual event for cross-industry professionals in communications, including marketing, public relations, customer service, and sales. INBOUND brings out big-name and break-out industry thinkers. With over 250 speakers and 24,000 attendees, there are workshops covering cross-industry topics including video marketing, building client relationships, social selling, Facebook ad hacks, and content strategy. Attendees can expect to learn from, connect with, and inspire one another.
Below is an example of a breakout session on brand-building. Bridgit Evans speaks about storytelling, narratives, and consumer perception.
Best for: Senior public relations and corporate communications executives
The Arthur Page Society annual conference is ideal for senior public relations and corporate communications executives. You'll learn to strengthen the enterprise leadership role of Chief Communications Officer (CCO). The 2019 theme was how CCOs are transforming their companies and careers. This conference brings expert speakers and practical resources together to help practitioners become better leaders, learn from their peers, and develop their teams. The 2020 theme is yet to be announced.
Best for: Mid-level to senior public relations professionals
For public relations practitioners focusing on media relations, the Annual Conference for Media Relations Professionals focuses on the ever-changing media landscape. It discusses building a solid and successful media relations program. The event will highlight how to work with reporters, sharpen storytelling, and interact with editors and media professionals. This is the perfect conference for those at a mid-level or senior position.
Best for: Mid-level to senior public relations professionals
PubCon is an educational conference where public relations professionals can learn about digital marketing, content strategies, paid advertising, and SEO. These tactics often overlap and coincide with public relations.
With over 30,000 attendees, PubCon is ideal for seasoned professionals. Public relations practitioners can network with cross-industry professionals and focus on professional development during this conference.
The World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) is an annual experience focusing on global communication trends. With inspiring speakers, networking, and social events, WPRF brings international leaders together to discuss relevant trends in public relations. Topics have included building authentic relationships, ethics and public interest, communicating across cultures, and more.
Content Marketing World is a great conference for public relations professionals to learn more about creating content for their campaigns. PR professionals build content on a daily basis. There are over 120 sessions and workshops on strategy, storytelling, ROI, artificial intelligence, and more. This conference is ideal for young public relations practitioners early in their career.
Below is an example of a keynote session from 2017. In this keynote, Kate Santore, creative content and excellence at Coca-Cola, discusses brand identity, awareness, and storytelling.
The MarketingProf B2B Marketing Forum is a conference for industry leaders ready to share and learn about secrets to success. Public relations professionals have the opportunity to learn more about B2B clientele and how they brand their companies. There will also be creative networking and fun opportunities for attendees.
Professional development is important in any industry. Conferences give professionals a way to continue learning and developing new ideas for success. Even though some conferences aren't specifically geared toward public relations, any communication conference is helpful for PR practitioners. There are also plenty of other conferences that aren't on this list, however, many of them don't have their 2020 dates released yet.