The stories told: A review of our Unconference

Most PR conferences celebrate the pinnacle of academic and practitioner achievement – the case studies of great campaigns, the peer-reviewed and the soon-to-be published research.

But behind this achievement are thousands of unfinished or failed projects and many ideas which simply never got off the ground.

Telling Stories in Public Relations was different, It celebrated and explored undeveloped and unfinished ideas. It was set up as an opportunity for experienced researchers, research curious practitioners, and those in the early days of their academic careers to gain valuable feedback on embryonic idea, meet likeminded people and feel motivated to start (or abandon) unfinished projects

Musical theatre lecturer Sarah Whitfield addressed the paralysis that can grip us when we start writing, or go back to an unfinished project by changing the mindset that we have when we look at our ideas.  As Sarah explained, we need to learn to let go of some projects, however wonderful they might be by celebrating them.  Drawing on the work of Benjamin (who wrote down fragments of ideas on bookmarks, in notebooks and on any scrap he could find) Sarah explained how we should see these scraps of ideas as part of the journey and not something that we should always try to develop.

No delegate was expected to present their unfinished work but those who did had their names and topics scribbled on the whiteboard.  The list was eclectic and varied with Deborah Wise discussing her research on positioning theory, while Aimee Postle talked about her MBA research on SME attitudes to flexible working; Hajrija Dergic, from the University of Wolverhampton, discussed internal communications; and Liz Bridgen and Sarah Williams focused on getting to grips with their unfinished pole dancing and PR paper. Sarah and Liz also presented a proposal for an edited book that they are developing for female academics and female voices in the PR industry.

The discussions continued into the afternoon with ideas and knowledge exchanged and alliances and new friendships made

The day closed with a call to arms from animation expert, Emily Mantell, who discussed her unfinished ideas and the strategies she was using to restart her animation projects.  Like Sarah Whitfield, she brought reality and clarity to the lived experiences of researchers – that it’s OK to take your time developing your ideas and equally, that it’s OK that some ideas never see the light of day.

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