A global pandemic? That wasn’t on our conference checklist!

When we volunteered as co-organisers of this year’s Best PRactice Conference, which was due to take place this month, we did it a little apprehensively. Would we get a line up of speakers people wanted to hear from? Would we secure a great venue? Would we sell enough tickets? One thing we didn’t factor into those concerns was a global pandemic!

As we started to plan the event, our initial fears quickly dissipated; we immediately fell in love with the stunning, award-winning venue Storey’s Field Centre, and tickets started to sell like proverbial hot cakes as we brought together a diverse range of speakers to cover a diverse range of (what we thought at the time) hot topics, from fake news to personal brand, the latest in digital communications to change communications. Of course, these are still hot topics, but not necessarily in the way we viewed them back then.

When Covid-19 obliged us to postpone the conference, we kept in touch with our speakers and knew we’d made great choices when we saw the contribution they were making to Covid-19 communications. For example, monitoring and evaluation expert Jennifer Sanchis quickly showed her expertise in this area through her advice on  how communications experts might go about monitoring and evaluating crisis comms plans for Covid-19, while CIPR board member Trudy Lewis , who is lined up to talk about managing change communications,  couldn’t have been more spot on! It’s no surprise that Trudy is now calling for comms people to start looking forward and focus on what’s to come.  CIPR President Elect Mandy Pearse, who is due to open the conference, has written about how the need for professional PR has never been greater and Barney Brown, Head of Digital Communications at the University of Cambridge, has written a blog on how the need for a new digital strategy for the university is more critical than ever in these unusual times.

While some of our speakers can look at how communications professionals are meeting the challenges of Covid-19 and how they will be at the forefront of leading us out of it, others are already very much on the front line. Just think of the experiences that Alex Aiken, Head of Government Communications, and Lorna Mackinnon of Essex Police will be able to bring to our conference when it finally happens!

Even our venue has been doing us proud, putting itself in the ‘blue’ spotlight recently when it joined the #makeitblue campaign in support of key workers.  

So our Best Practice conference may have joined us in lockdown for now but, when the time comes, we remain confident that it will be more relevant than ever. A big thank you to the vast majority of  ticket-holders who have been happy to wait for it to be rescheduled and, to the rest of the East Anglia comms folk out there, get ready to join us for what promises to be a valuable opportunity to ensure you’re equipped to meet the challenges of a post-lockdown world.

Ruth Jackson and Judith Gaskell, CIPR East Anglia committee members

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