Today’s  blog is a report of the annual Women in PR lunch hosted by PRIA at Crown‘s River Room. Ruby Assembly attended with the lovely Kyra Pybus of Pybus PR, and we had a jolly old time. Here’s the buzz on an always-interesting event.

Arriving at 12:00pm promptly, an elegantly buzzing group of stylishly attired women (and some hopeful looking fellows) eagerly awaited entrance to Crown’s River Room. Today’s keynote speech was to be given by PR luminary Samantha Allen of Ogilvy New York, the topic being ‘Brands That Kicked the Hornets Nest and Survived’. Prior to settling ourselves down, we were encouraged by hostess with the mostest ( I truly haven’t ever heard such mellifluous and beguiling tones in my life) Ann Peacock to get involved in the silent Auction – proceed of the day going to Collingwood initiative The Social Studio.

The photo’s not great, but I had to show MC extraordinaire Ann Peacock’s perfect pink outfit with Hermes bangle.

Kyra and myself were seated with a range of interesting PR professionals including Sofie Camili of Fame PR, Jacqueline Cherry of Jayco, Melanie Saliba from City West Water communications department and Jeremy Wrench of Capstone. Proceedings kicked off with a brief introduction by Jack Walden, President of PRIA’s Victorian Branch as well as Director of The C Word Agency. The annual Merle Howard Prize was announced (Merle was an active PRIA member and first full-time co-ordinator of the PR course at RMIT as well as a prominent female journalist), its recipient for 2011 being Zoe Allardice. Zoe wrote ‘An examination of the perception of key publics towards blog being published in the humanitarian sector’ as her entry to the Merle Howard Prize.

L-R: Jeremy, Sofie and Kyra

L-R: Kyra and Iolanthe 

So – to the speech of the day. Samantha Allen took to the stage and spoke for around 20 minutes about ‘Brands In Crisis’, starting off with an example of a ‘client no PR manager wants to represent’ – Charlie Sheen. Samantha spoke mostly about automotive and petroleum clients, exploring the brands of Toyota and BP respectively. She named Rolls Royce and Ford as brands who also experienced a difficult 2010. Samantha noted that two thirds of the world’s most costly catastrophes have occurred in the past decade – costing the economy around $220 billion. Her question to the audience was ‘How do we counsel our clients and help them to learn from crises so they grow through their traumas?’ Samantha took a case study of Toyota’s extensive recalls, showing us a video of the Managing Director’s official apology.  She made the point that clients who had already bought into the Toyota brand were more likely to find the apology sincere, as opposed to those who had no investment in the product.


Samantha then discussed how parody was almost always an element of the public and media’s castigation of brands in crisis, quoting ‘The destruction of a for-profit enterprise is always noble; its defense always carries the whiff of mendacity’. Samantha produced some BP logo and motif parodies, noting that ‘parody’s real enemy is self absorption’.  

Samantha said that despite Toyota and BP having crisis which impacted on their share market price, ultimately they have both come through these crises and their stocks have almost doubled. An open response style to a crisis from an organisation is more likely to lead to a swift recovery. Some final words of advice:

  • If the brand is at fault and the crisis severe, come clean immediately.
  • If the brand is not at fault and the crisis severe, defend the client’s position.
  • If the accusation is untrue and crisis is not severe, denial is the position to take.

In amongst all this advice we enjoyed a delicious meal of :

Seared salmon on lemon herb crushed potatoes with red wine pomegranate glaze, and

…salty peanut butter bavarois layered with banana brulee and fudge sauce.

The last speech of the day was from Trudy Hairs, General Manager of The Social Studio. The Social Studio is based in Collingwood and provides the education for refugees to make their way into the fashion and retail industries. Since 2009, 20 graduates of The Social Studio are now working full time in the fashion industry. Trudy’s belief is that students from diverse backgrounds create innovative and diverse products. Recycled fabrics and manufacturing materials are utilised in the design and creation of The Social Studio designs, resulting in an ecologically and socially responsible product. The Social Studio is the recipient of 2011’s Women in PR fundraising.

In all, it was a wonderful and interesting day. After this in-depth review (including delicious Crown lunch images), i’m sure you’ll feel as if you were there. Make sure to visit the PRIA site to RSVP to upcoming interesting events in our industry.

Your own hostess with the mostest, Iolanthe Gabrie – Director of Ruby Assembly Consultants.