Reflections on the PRSA International Conference
Another great PRSA International Conference is behind us and San Francisco sure didn’t disappoint. Power to the people in hippie town USA! And yes it’s the inter-networking of the attendees that made this conference so valuable.
The Power of Social, With or Without Media
I heard a number of people wondering when social media will lose the “media” title and just become “social networking” (Biz Stone comes to mind). Social media has had a dramatic influence on public relations. Transparency, trust, crowdsourcing, and storytelling are just a few of the hot new themes in our profession. In fact, we now see the practices uncovered by social media utilized far beyond online communications. They’ve literally changed the way we practice public relations.
Of the 91 workshops, 21 had social media as part of their title or description. When I made the count, that number felt so small because it felt like the topic arose in most of the sessions I heard. What an enormous jump it’s been over the last few of years since it was barely on the radar. We had nearly 11,500 tweets during the three-day conference about PRSA! #PRSAICon was a Twitter trending topic on Sunday.
Integration of PR and Marketing
Another popular theme was the blurring line between public relations and marketing. I think one could always debate the proper roles for each discipline, but it’s become more clear than ever that we’re frequently at the same operational table. Lee Odden’s session on content marketing and PR was highly attended and one of the most discussed and shared sessions of the conference. I guess it struck a nerve. We also had sessions on branding, departmental integrations, digital convergence, integrated communications and inbound marketing. Again as compared to past conferences, we’re seeing a significant trend in a new, cooperative environment with marketing.
Every year there seems to be a new term that’s springing from everyone’s lips. You know a word has reached buzzword status when someone utters it and eyes roll around the room. While we all know that storytelling has always been part of the public relations tool kit, social media has crystallized its importance for communicating effectively in our brave new world. Storytelling, one could say, has become the alchemist that transforms corporate speak into interesting, value-adding reading material.
However, while we can all discuss the merits of storytelling and marketing integration on social media channels, it’s the personal conversations and connections that happen during the conference that add the true value of PRSA. Perhaps it helped that my smartphone sat on the other side of the country (not so smartly in its charging station) that made me fully appreciate conversations. It refreshed me on the importance of personal relationships, often one at a time. Rich conversations are a unique source of knowledge, where one can learn from others viewpoints to grow skills and expand one’s network. So while technology surges forward I reflect that our primary role still is to relate to the public, to network, and to build relationships that will in turn help promote the value of our brands. I worry that with all these innovations we forget about the fundamentals of what we really do. Now if implementation were only so simple…