“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
I hope you’ll forgive me for quoting Charles Dickens in an editorial setting and using his most memorable novel opening (from A Tale of Two Cities) to promote the cause of public relations. But, it seems appropriate for the year of 2020, not for the “worst of times”, but rather for “the superlative degree of comparison”.
For during the difficult times of the COVID-drenched summer of 2020, last week’s Virtual MEPRA Majlis provided some of the public relations industry’s best moments of the new decade (which I think I can say – as we’re not even a year in, and it’s not been a very good year in many ways).
But the MEPRA Majlis was a very good thing. The “bad times” of COVID were very much a friend to us as virtual conference hosts. As we have come to discover this year, technology provides us with infinitely more possibilities to bring people together from all over the place without the strictures of calendar commitments and executive travel schedules.
Consequently, we were able to welcome communications leaders from the Governments of the UAE, UK, New Zealand, Japan and Thailand who were joined by agencies and corporate communications leaders from around the region and across a range of sectors and communications disciplines for a programme that, spread over a week, was more than twice the size of ‘normal years’ and was attended by twice the number of guests.
The theme – “Beyond the Curve” – gave panellists an opportunity both to reflect on the events of recent months as well as look forward to what’s next. As many of you have observed over the past few months there is no playbook for business as usual anymore and disruptive and creative thinking were very much a feature of discussions.
MEPRA exists to provide a platform where ideas can be shared and interesting concepts can be explored (and seven panels with more than two dozen speakers more than accomplished this). It also seeks to promote good practice in communications – through learning and development (and workshops with the UK Government Communications Office, Twitter and crisis communications technology firm, Social Simulator, provided professional development opportunities that are not available in any other setting in this region). The result: against the odds of 2020, a week of engagement offering only “superlative degrees of comparison” (as Dickens would say).