#PRovoke18: IPRFF Review & Day One Preview, presented by SPRG

Welcome to… PRovoke18: Independent PR Firm Forum Roundup & Day One Preview

The Holmes Report’s seventh Global PR Summit opened today at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC with the half-day Independent PR Firm Forum.

Headline session of the day was a fireside chat between Richard Edelman and Arun Sudhamen, covering the reality of life as the world’s biggest PR agency and the opportunities for independents who embrace complex problems, can compete against other disciplines, and are “bringing their best game.”

The Forum started with a lively panel session on the industry’s latest buzzword – purpose – chaired by The One Network’s Julian Boulding, featuring On Purpose managing partner Girish Balachandran, Victoria Page, founder of her eponymous agency, Sandrine Raffin president of Link-Up Factory and Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton.

Prosper Group managing partner Alex Halbur then led a fascinating session on how to sell your PR firm, with Finn Partners’ Peter Finn, Padilla CEO Matt Kucharski, Hanover CEO Charles Lewington and Dix & Eaton president Lisa Rose, which included Halbur’s reality check for independents dreaming of a third-party sale: “Beware of putting all your eggs in the M&A basket: 90% of firms are not sellable assets to premium, strategic buyers.”

Michael Murphy, just announced as Prosper Group’s first international affiliate, talked to Brands2Life co-founder Giles Fraser, co-founder of Strategic Partners Group Aman Gupta, JPA Health Communications principal Carrie Jones and Rockland Dutton Research partner Dr. David Rockland about the industry’s “Moneyball moment” in measurement and evaluation, in “Demonstrating Value to Clients in an Integrated World.”

The day finished with a session on Enhancing Profitability and Growth, where Davis & Gilbert’s Michael Lasky and Brad Schwartzberg revealed the results of their research with the Holmes Report that found attracting and retaining talent is the biggest challenge facing PR firms around the world. G&S Business Communications COO Jeff Altheide, Adfactors MD Madan Bahal, W2O president Jennifer Gottlieb and Highwire’s Kathleen Gratehouse discussed the findings.

The Independent PR Firm Forum brought together leaders from the global independent agency world to discuss some of the most critical issues for growth and competitiveness, against a backdrop of continued disruption.

The two main Summit conference days on Tuesday and Wednesday feature perhaps our best-ever lineup of more than 80 top tier speakers from across the globe, including CEOs, political leaders, marketers, media influencers, activists, communicators and agency heads. It promises to be an exceptionally eclectic exploration of the pivotal issues that are transforming public relations, at a time of unprecedented volatility, risk and uncertainty.

The Summit will also feature the Global SABRE Awards on Wednesday evening, where we will count down the world’s 40 best PR programs as selected by SABRE Awards judges, and reveal our Global Agencies of the Year.

As usual, you can follow all of the #PRovoke18 coverage on Twitter and Facebook, or via our website. And, as always, we will be handing out special prizes for Best Post and Best Photo at the Global SABRE Awards ceremony.

On Day One (Tuesday), highlights include:

  • P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, widely viewed as the world’s most influential brand leader, will deliver the opening keynote on brand building transformation with influence at the core, before being joined onstage by beauty/grooming chief communications officer Kelly Vanasse
  • Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the leaders of the Senate’s investigation into fake news, on the topic of ‘defending democracy’
  • Truth Initiative’s Eric Asche and Nestle’s Lisa Gibby on why brands must provoke to assert their purpose
  • Why all PR must be local, with the World Bank’s Christine Montgomery, IHG’s Kelley Baron and Pfizer’s Lisa Lieberman
  • Fighting disinformation in the deep web era with Quartz’s Heather Timmons and Storyful’s Sharb Farjami
  • Goldman Sachs digital VP Kaydee Bridges on digital reputation in the algorithm era
  • Reputation hacking in the age of AI with Kleiner Perkins’ Amanda Duckworth and Neste’s Mika Hyotylainen
  • Mark Penn on what the latest microtrends mean for public relations
  • Levi’s Elizabeth Owen on being a ‘brand in motion’
  • Driving business impact in an earned first world with Ogilvy CEO John Seifert and Sara Fischer from Axios.

Day Two (Wednesday) sees no let-up in quality. Highlights include:

  • A conversation with Sir Martin Sorrell to open the day
  • Washington Post chief executive Frederick Ryan and executive editor Martin Baron together for the first time on stage, to discuss media transformation
  • Aflac’s Catherine Hernandez-Blades, PayPal’s Amanda Miller and HP’s Vanessa Yanez exploring how belief-driven buying is changing business
  • Indian transgender activist Shree Gauri Sawant, discussing her pivotal role in the Vicks’ #TouchOfCare campaign
  • The role of communications as a change agent, with AB InBev’s David Kamenetzky and Exelon’s Maggie FitzPatrick
  • An interactive session that will apply behavioural science to human communication with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Jenny Isaacson
  • An exploration of the ‘purpose bandwagon’ with Mubadala’s Brian Lott, Hogan Lovells’ Mark Irion, PMI’s Aaron Sherinian and the IPR’s Tina McCorkindale

Full agenda here. The lineup also features such agency leaders as:

  • Ketchum’s Barri Rafferty
  • Margery Kraus from APCO
  • Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s Don Baer
  • Melissa Waggener Zorkin from WE
  • Harris Poll’s John Gerzema
  • Jim Joseph from Burson Cohn & Wolfe
  • Daryl McCullough from Citizen Relations
  • FTI Consulting’s Elliot Sloane
  • Edelman’s Lisa Ross
  • MSL’s Rema Vasan
  • Thea Knight from H+K Strategies
  • PublicRelay’s Eric Koefoot
  • Howard Opinsky from Five Blocks

Backed by more than 30 of the world’s leading PR firms, research agencies and communications trade groups, PRovoke18 promises to be a remarkable exploration of the critical issues that define the growth of the public relations industry, at a time of unprecedented change. PRovoke18 will take place for the first time at the famous Watergate Hotel.


#PRovoke18: IPRFF Review & Day One Preview, presented by SPRG
Sunday to Wednesday
December 23 to 26, 2022
467 Davidson ave
Los Angeles CA 95716