Like so many other conferences this year, CONVERGENCE Summit 2020, went virtual. More than 150 summit attendees tuned in between August 12 and August 13 for inspiring speakers, informational sessions and networking via Zoom. IABC Minnesota and the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota presented this fifth annual event for PR, communications and marketing leaders. Here are some highlights of the keynote presentations.

In Search of Trust: How Authentic Content Drives Customer Experience
Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing discussed the current state of marketing during this turbulent time and how brands are winning over the hearts and minds of consumers through authenticity.

Research shows that 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support, while 67 percent of respondents said they rely even more on content than they did in 2019 to research and inform purchase decisions.

“It’s hard to create a great experience if customers don’t trust brand communications,” Odden said. “We have to think about what kind of experiences we are creating, think about who we are creating them with.”

According to Odden, marketers should consider:
Purpose: Ask yourself how the world will be different after your successful efforts and how that narrative will translate into your marketing.
Relevance: Use data to understand and create authentic content experiences.
Resonance: Understand audience motivations through the buyer’s journey to inform messaging that inspires “clicks” and action, producing real, measurable business impact.
Reach: Become the “best answer” to your customers with content that is easy to find and exists in context wherever buyers engage.


“Given the environment, you did a great job adapting and offering a

successful conference! For being entirely virtual, it was still engaging

and I walked away with a sense of reassurance (that my firm is doing

the right things) and new ideas, which I believe I would have received

in-person or virtually! So, thank you!”

~CONVERGENCE Summit 2020 Attendee

The Power of Storytelling
Boyd Huppert, KARE 11 Producer/Host of KARE 11’s weekly “Land of 10,000 Stories” segment and general assignment reporter, opened the Summit on Thursday morning with his insights on how to find the story behind the assignment. According to Huppert, good storytellers allow audiences to make their own discoveries by involving them in the storytelling process, not as observers but as participants.

In storytelling the focus of the narration should be rooted in the character, emotions and concept. For example, Huppert cited a story about a large tree by the side of I-35 decorated with lights at the holidays. He revealed that it wasn’t a story about a tree. The real story was about a man with a home on the banks of the highway, frustrated with the increasing traffic noise, who decided to decorate a tree for the holidays. He lit it with 45,000 thousand lights for Christmas, which gave joy to holiday travelers driving by the highway. As a result of his actions, he received numerous thank you cards. A couple from England even returned to see the tree again!

Huppert shared another story about an award ceremony honoring a WWII veteran. While the honoree was too humble to mention his war contributions and bravery, Huppert found the real story through the honoree’s great grandchildren. They were excited to talk about why they were so proud of their great-grandfather and his feats during the war. Huppert’s advice for journalists included: write to the edge of the screen, or know what visual elements can speak for themselves and write to set them up.

Beyond Grit: Powerful Practices to Gain the High-Performing Edge
Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D. and executive coach, Mentally Strong Consulting, described how communications, marketing and PR leaders can reach peak performance by training their mind:

G. Grow your grit
R. Remember to choose empowering emotions
I. Initiate your courage zone
T. Talk to yourself positively

“Grit means having passion, purpose and perseverance towards your long-term goals,” she said, citing Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Grit can help you face adversity, focus on the present moment and challenge your thinking. She encouraged participants to say to themselves, “My focus determines my feelings.” Focus on what you can control — attitude, preparation, effort, energy and self-care.

“I can act independently from how I feel,” she said. “Emotions are information for us, but they are not our directors.” According to Kamphoff, we need to train our brains every day to reach our peak performance. To meet that goal, we need to reach our rational brain, since our brain wants to keep us safe. We can learn from the world’s best how to retrain your mindset to gain peak performance.

She advises everyone to:

Thank you to the CONVERGENCE Summit committee, our speakers, and our sponsors for creating a powerful educational event. Attendees will have access to recordings of the Summit sessions via YouTube until the end of the year. Please mark your calendars for the sixth annual CONVERGENCE Summit scheduled for Thursday, March 18, 2021

CONVERGENCE Summit 2020 sponsors provided goodies that were shipped to attendees in advance of the Summit.