Just as summer is winding down, every September more than 24,000 people flood Boston for Hubspot’s annual marketing conference – INBOUND. Touting the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama, Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, and founder of the “me too” movement Tarana Burke, Hubspot furnishes a star-studded lineup of speakers eager to share their personal experiences, successes, failures and learnings with marketing and PR professionals from all corners of the world.
I had the pleasure of attending the conference for three days earlier this month on behalf of Highwire PR. In those three days I heard from over 16 passionate, tack-sharp business executives, entrepreneurs, celebrities and other well-respected leaders from a cornucopia of industries.
Amidst all of this excitement and a sea of Insta-worthy swingy chairs (one of which I absolutely took for a spin) here are a few takeaways that I gleaned from high-powered leaders at the conference.
The Importance of Analog
As our world becomes increasingly more connected and rooted in technologies, many of the speakers at INBOUND stressed the importance of preserving non-digital experiences. For marketing and PR professionals, technology provides an unprecedented level and frequency of communication that opens doors and enhances our efforts. However, the enthusiastic adoption of technology has created a sense of social anxiety — constantly checking email, posting on Instagram, tweeting about an experience — that directly impacts our ability to “stay in the moment.”
Joanna Coles, former chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice both offered a solution to combat this lack of human connection by finding some sense of community around us. Whether it’s at your local spin studio, book club, community chorus — wherever — it’s critical that we carve out a niche to forge these connections sans smartphones.
Similarly, former vice chair of GE Beth Comstock and Troy Carter, Spotify global head of creator services, cautioned against replacing our human instinct with data. While measurement is key to benchmarking success in business, it’s critical that we don’t “rely on the crutch of data,” warned Troy. Our gut instinct is invaluable and uniquely human, leading us to free thinking and possibility in a way that data does not.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
In almost every single session, there was a clear throughline: effective prioritization and success go hand in hand. Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said it best when she shared that “the ability to ruthlessly prioritize” was vital when she joined the Vimeo team. For most of us, there will never be a shortage of work. It’s easy to get distracted and suffer from “shiny object syndrome,” bouncing from task to task without much thought. However, in doing so we often spend time on things that don’t necessarily require our attention, spurring stress and burnout. Where we can reclaim our power is realizing we can’t do it all. It’s OK to push back or save a task for another time; as Anjali stated, “If you have a day where you try to do everything, you’ll do nothing well.”
Seek Out Creativity
Creativity is the lifeblood of PR — it’s what we use to help our clients stand out and share their stories. Therefore, it’s critical that we make time for creativity. How do we do this? INBOUND speakers had plenty to share on the topic.
- Nourish our curiosities: We musn’t shy away from hard questions, but rather follow them and see where they lead.
- Challenge gatekeepers: Beth Comstock implored us to reevaluate what we hold to be true. She urged us to invite people in whose judgement and perspectives make for “agitated inquiry” that produces sturdy, well-fleshed-out ideas.
- Actively carve out space for creativity: Be sure to set aside designated time to flex these creative muscles and imagine new possibilities.
It’s difficult to lift your head above the PR noise, but attending INBOUND this year helped me realize just how valuable time, balance and creativity truly are. These three elements are also integral parts of the culture and vision here at Highwire. I love working for a company that encourages its employees to continuously identify creative outlets — whether that’s attending industry events like INBOUND or in my day-to-day work. Until next year, INBOUND, and thanks so much Highwire!