One of Australia's biggest conferences for Corporate Affairs leaders is just around the corner. Joseph McKenzie of Connect Events talks about what we can expect at CAS2015.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s start with the nuts and bolts. When and where are you holding this year's Corporate Affairs Summit? How many international and local speakers will you be having? How many attendees are you expecting?
This year's Corporate Affairs Summit is being held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney on 26 and 27 May. This will certainly be the biggest CAS yet. We are expecting over 350 attendees and a packed program of over 40 speakers – including six major international presenters, two former politicians and many of Australia's most prominent communications practitioners. It should be an interesting few days.
What are you looking forward to most about this year’s CAS? Are there any particular speakers you can’t wait to see?
Two words: Zenia Mucha. She’s the Executive Vice-President and Chief Communications Officer of the Walt Disney Company and one of the most respected corporate communicators in the world. Disney’s communications policy and strategic positioning is fascinating – especially when considering the dramatic shifts in the media industry landscape in the past. It is a huge, complex and global company that is also the world’s most recognisable media brand.
As a world class event, it is a real feather in our cap that we can put someone of Zenia Mucha’s calibre on the program. I am very excited to hear what she has to say.
Mario Andrada of the Rio 2016 will be interesting too. After Sochi and the controversies over Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, there are now huge reputational issues around mega-events. Managing those with the eyes of the world watching is a huge task and I think that it will be interesting to hear how he is approaching it.
What are the big corporate affairs trends you think will get most attention this year?
I think a theme running through this conference will be narrative – specifically how narrative is shaped in a rapidly changing media and political environment. Corporate Affairs is at the frontlines of these changes and to be able to deliver value to business we need to be able to adapt very quickly.
There is a lot of innovation in this space and we will have some great case studies. My personal favourite is Ben & Jerry’s. Their Fight for the Reef campaign was hugely successful in raising the ice-cream brand’s profile and made reef conservation a national issue. We’re excited to have their Global Director of Social Mission, Rob Michalak, join us this year.
One of the advantages of being a conference for high-level corporate affairs practitioners is that we can bring together the entire professional spectrum to examine narrative on a number of levels – public relations, media relations, internal communications, political advocacy, everything.
The Corporate Affairs Summit has become one of the most well-known communications forums in Australia. How long have you been running it and where did the idea come from?
This year will be the fifth Corporate Affairs Summit and it is on track to be the biggest one yet. We’re pleased that we’ve been able to grow the event while, at the same time, maintaining a reputation for being a powerful and high quality event.
The idea came out of a lack of opportunities for executive-level Corporate Affairs practitioners to openly discuss the challenges they face. Corporate Affairs is a unique profession and one that is often subject to a great deal of media scrutiny, so in fostering an intimate, peer-learning environment we found that executives were able to really explore the key issues. We’ve been using the same formula ever since.
We’d love to see a similar event in Melbourne. Any plans (hint hint)?
Hahaha, well we are proud Sydneysiders so there is always an element of inter-city rivalry. We are proud to have not only a large proportion of interstate delegates but increasingly we are attracting international ones, which is to say that, at least for the moment, people are happy to travel to Sydney to attend.
Having multiple events in this space would probably detract from the singular nature of CAS – but moving CAS to Melbourne for one year would be something that we would potentially consider. That said, we have no immediate plans to do so.