SXSW 2017: Our Agile Boot Camp

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Kate Urbach and Team

This week, Kate Urbach, Caroline Harrington and Taylor Jeffrey traveled to South by Southwest in Austin to represent Havas PR and help host a panel on pop-up activism. Here is what they learned.

It’s March 16, and the Havas PR SXSW crew is exhausted but happy. Though a little slowed down by the weather (thanks, Winter Storm Stella), we are all back safely from Austin. Our adventures at SXSW were rewarding.

We attended events with Pinterest, Mashable and Splash, to name a few, networked at interactive sessions and hosted our own panel discussion on pop-up movements. These are our top five takeaways from this unforgettable week.

  1. There’s no right way to be an activist

On Saturday, Havas PR hosted a panel with some of the best and most inspiring minds in activism, “How to Build a Pop-Up Movement with Purpose.” Our panelists stressed that there’s no right way to be an activist—activism is powerful because it is built when people with shared beliefs come together and collaborate. Taking this into consideration, we can keep open minds and decide on new and agile forms of activism that may not be traditional. The new age of activism calls for agile innovation, and we are confident that we are, and will continue to be, at the forefront of this space.

  1. Change doesn’t happen overnight

It can be incredibly exciting to start a new venture and stop everything to try to save the world. But from an amazing panel called “Shut Up and Do Something,” we learned that not all activism has to be grand. It can be as simple as speaking up, sharing your story and impacting someone, creating a ripple and eventually a wave. Large-scale activism is important, but everything starts from that first impression of a wave and that first decision to act. It takes time and passion to build a movement, but every movement starts with a first step.

  1. Bring me problems and solutions

We saw Wharton professor Adam Grant give a keynote address about creativity and originality in successful people. Of all the tips Adam shared, what resonated most was the idea that it can be detrimental for a company to tell its employees, “Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions.” Of course, solutions to problems are integral to success, but when employees are discouraged from being transparent, the leadership is often unaware of systemic issues present in the company. Addressing and discussing both solutions and problems help agile companies improve.

  1. When companies come to life, stay true to brand

It’s exciting to see how brands, specifically digital/online brands, come to life by showcasing their ideas and collaborative partners to reach the SXSW audience. For example, the way Pinterest presented its story about visual search and branding stuck in many minds. To showcase its recently launched Lens, Pinterest made its pinning grid come alive with physical objects that users can snap photos of and search for on Pinterest. This unique, creative activation felt very true to the brand.

  1. Making connections: the power of networking

As junior-level employees, we often forget how new to the workforce we are and how small our networks can be. Being in an environment surrounded by people with common interests gave us an opportunity to expand our network and build new connections. It can be intimidating to interact with people who are successful and are many years our senior, but the rewards outweigh the risk of rejection (and everyone experiences rejection, so we might as well get some good practice!). Forging new connections can lead to valuable experiences, fresh insights and even new business opportunities, all born from thinking with agility. At the minimum, we get a shiny new business card for our collection.

Each lesson learned from SXSW reinforced to us the importance of continuing to charge ahead and working to be more agile and more successful. We can’t wait to get back to Austin to learn more and interact with some of the best and most creative across multiple industries. Hope to see you all next year!

[photo:creativecommons.org/SXSW]

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