Global PR leads for Airbnb and among first speakers announced for CommsCon 2018

The global PR head for one of the most talked about brands in the world, Airbnb, will keynote Mumbrella’s CommsCon conference, which returns in March 2018.

Dylan Smith, an Australian who previously led Airbnb’s public affairs team for APAC, will be joined by’s global head of PR Michelle Hutchison and sessions looking at China, crisis comms, culture and politics and the trends shaping the industry next year, on the program which launches today.


CommsCon will take place on March 22 at The Westin in Sydney, with the full-day conference followed by the CommsCon Awards in the evening. Entries for the awards are now open.

As one of Australia’s most prominent public relations professionals, Airbnb’s Smith is charged with leading the communications strategy of one of the fastest growing accommodation and activities brands in the world.

Airbnb launched in 2008 in the US and now has over 3 million listings in more than 65,000 cities worldwide, with much of that expansion coming through clever awareness building.

This type of rapid expansion across regions combined with the fact that the company doesn’t directly own the accommodation or experiences listed on the site means that Smith and his team have to be prepared for anything as governments globally adapt for the sharing economy, and scare stories emerge.

Smith will explain how Airbnb approaches PR and communications, how it brings to life its mission and how the brand strikes a balance between proactive and reactive communications.

Mumbrella’s CommsCon 2018: Featuring (top left – bottom right) Doris Li, Robyn Sefiani, Dylan Smith, James Wright, Roberto Pace, Michelle Hutchison

Hutchison, global head of PR for, will outline how one of the big success stories of the Australian startup scene which now has more than 100 employees and operations in 10 countries, used PR as one of the main pillars for business growth.

She will explain the vision, how she convinced management to trust and invest heavily in PR and communications, the strategies used to help boost the growth of and the results that have followed.

In another session, Bastion S&GO’s digital and PR director of the China Advisory, Doris Li, will take to the stage with Tom Parker, partner in the China Advisory, to outline the challenges and opportunities of marketing to Chinese travellers and Chinese Australians.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, China is now the third largest group of overseas-born Australian residents, making communicating strategically with them a priority for many businesses. Li and Parker will outline the tools Chinese-Australians use to communicate with each other, what the market opportunity is and how WeChat plays into all of it.

Meanwhile a panel led by Sefiani’s group managing director, Robyn Sefiani, will explore the impact of crisis on culture and how a crisis can be used to positively change brands.

And managing director of Eleven and Fleishman Hillard, Roberto Pace, will be joined by Russ Tucker, creative director of Eleven and TBWA Sydney, to explain how cultural changes and political shifts in Australian society have presented brands with an opportunity to become social leaders. It’s brand, culture, marketing and politics rolled into one with Pace and Tucker explaining how to do it right.

Jackie Crossman, Red Agency’s principal of Sydney, will join James Wright on stage

After a stirring session at this year’s conference on technology and PR, Red Agency CEO James Wright returns. He will be joined by the principal of the Sydney office, Jackie Crossman, to exclusively reveal the Red Agency PR Predictions for the year ahead, an annual report conducted by the agency covering trends and technologies changing media, marketing and corporate reputation.

Tickets for Mumbrella’s CommsCon 2018 are on sale now and can be purchased at earlybird discount here. Entries for Mumbrella’s CommsCon Awards are also now open, with 28 categories across a range of areas. The entry portal can be found here.


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