Social Media is infiltrating many industries, but I think Public Relations, more than any other, is beginning to focus on what Social Media can offer them and their clients. Public Relations is an industry built on extending the story of a brand to more people — Putting more eyes on what sets a specific company apart from their competitors, makes them unique.
Yesterday in Charlotte, NC our local PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) brought in their first “Social Media Expert”, Ed Schipul (@eschipul), to speak. For anyone immersed in Social Media, there was not a lot to learn, but that is not what the event was for. Ed presented the public relations/social media relationship well for the audience. While many of the tips were simple, introductory steps into the Social Media world, he matched it well the the needs of the PR world. And the steps were quality advice. Among them, start reading RSS now, start tracking social media, learn from and recruit the young and savvy that already get it, blog, train those in your company that do not get it.
Personally, I still got value out of the event. I gained a better insight for the PR perspective – and how old PR concepts from 50 or 100 years ago (like a soap carving competition for a Ivory Soap) are pretty much identical to current UGC social media campaigns (like the Red Bull Art of Can contest). It turns out user generated content has been going on for some time.
The event packed in 160 of Charlotte’s media and communication professionals. Of the Twitteratti in Charlotte, I did not see many familiar faces. Which is great. I am happy to see our local Social Media savvy population growing. When the audience was asked how many people were on Twitter, I think I saw about 30 hands raise, 15 to 20% maybe. In a field where access is one of the most important tools, I expect this percentage will at least double in 2009.
Before the speaker started, it was mentioned that this was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) meetings PRSA Charlotte had ever had. And that over 90 of the 160 attendees were not members (including me). I don’t think they were entirely sure why the event was so successful. It is simple really 1) Everyone, including PR pros, is hungry to figure out this Social Media thing. Charlotte has had few events attempting to explain social media to people. 2) the new president of PRSA Charlotte, Brandon Uttley (@brandonuttley) is waist deep in Social Media himself. I would wager that he was a big part of those 90+ non members showing up.
Ed did a great job focusing the conversation on Public Relations and the history of the industry. Bringing old PR case studies to light and how they compare to recent social media successes did wonders for the audience’s understanding (cue heads nodding). Complimenting the audience repeatedly did not hurt either, as he pointed to their strengths in story telling and brainstorming. More or less telling the PR pros in the crowd exactly what they wanted to hear and coincidentally the truth – that Social Media is not a new concept, it is old ideas within new technologies.
PRSA Charlotte will also be hosting Peter Shankman (@skydiver) of HelpAReporter.com next month. Peter should garner even more interest than yesterday’s event. No offense to Ed, but I had not heard of him before this event. I think the main draw was the subject matter. HelpAReporter.com is a very big deal in the world of Public Relations. I was surprised that when I mentioned it to a few PR pros at the event, that they had not heard of it. The type of connections, access, and speed that HelpAReporter.com and Twitter are creating is a huge paradigm shift for Public Relations as a whole. This is ultimately a great change for the sake of the consumer. Quality and transparency will rise to the top.
Quotes from the Ed (w/ paraphrasing):
- “You will be on Facebook”
- “The downfall of some public relations companies will be the 30-50 year old middle management that cannot grasp social media.”
- “The opportunity to listen (candidly) is one of the most valuable aspects of social media”
- “Don’t get involved in social media through you company first — focus on your passions and personal interests”
Check one of Ed’s Slideshows here: