PRSA International Conference, San Francisco (October 14 to 16) – The largest gathering of PR professionals in the world and a first class line-up of speakers including a keynote by Twitter founder, Biz Stone. This is the second year Inside PR has partnered with PRSA and we’ll be there to interview some of the presenters and reconnect with old friends. Also, I’ll be presenting my Social Media Barometer on Sunday. Hope to see you there. You can follow the conversation at #PRSAIcon. (more…)
Too often the PR profession is defined by what it’s not: as in …not advertising …not marketing …not (just) publicity.
But it doesn’t address the most important issue: WHO WE ARE.
We’ve all experienced it; many people don’t understand what PR does. To some, we’re shadowy figures, pulling strings, spinmeistering, whispering – the darkest side of our industry and the one most often represented in movies because it makes for good drama. And while those things do happen – probably more than they should – it’s a representation of a small part of the profession.
On March 5, about 75 leaders from the Canadian communications industry, representing CPRS, CCPRF, IABC, Global Alliance, College of Fellows, the HCPRA (and yes, Counselors Academy, too) gathered at the Old Mill Inn in Toronto to look at PR today and imagine our future.
The event was the brainchild of Terry Flynn, director of McMaster University’s Masters of Communication Management program and national president of CPRS.
For me, one of the best parts of the session was working in small groups on a ‘Force Field’ analysis of our industry. Essentially, this is a decision-making exercise that helps analyse the forces for and against change in a core proposal.
Ours was: ‘To advance the PR/communications management profession in Canada to a reputable and requisite professional discipline in the eyes of organizational/business leaders, managers and scholars.’
As you can imagine, there was much debate – the noise level in the room hit 11 more than a few times. After we were done, some common themes emerged that will no doubt form a blueprint for the way ahead.
Here are a few highlights.
Forces for change:
Social media/technology/evolving media landscape. This is, of course, one of the strongest (and most obvious) reasons for us to evolve in a way that will enhance the profession and its reputation. We need to embrace social media, continue to educate ourselves in best practices and add case studies across all sectors that demonstrate measurable results.
Trust, credibility and ethics. The ever-transparent world provides a great opportunity for our industry to take a leadership role and, through our deeds, show unequivocally that we’re no longer spinmeisters. There was talk of a need for a single accreditation designation, as well as the development of a body of knowledge, one of the hallmarks of any profession.
Business savvy. We must become more knowledgeable about business goals, strategy and operations and align our PR recommendations to that. We should master ways to clearly articulate the value we add to an organization. One group suggested that we reposition the profession from being PR managers to chief communications officers in order to get a seat at the ‘grownup’ table.
Forces against change:
Fear. It’s too easy to sit back and rely on the same tools that always worked in the past. Tried and true doesn’t cut it. We need to become strategic risk takers.
Education. What are our programs and institutions teaching young people? Is the curriculum focusing on relevant topics? Are we teaching about the newest tools and where they fit into an overall strategy? What about adding an understanding of business to the mix?
Developing an inter-generational understanding of relationships. For some senior PR folks, phone contact may be key. The younger generation is embracing online as much as IRL. There’s merit to both positions and the industry needs to come up with an understanding of what constitutes a relationship and what makes it lasting and strong.
There was a great energy to the Summit; the kind of intensity you get when you bring a group of smart people together and challenge them to look ahead and share insights. Toward the end, it was suggested that we should consider meeting on a yearly basis to discuss the state of the industry. And I’m all for that.
Maybe in the meantime, as the organizers pore over the responses and craft recommendations, they could keep us informed and involved by setting up a Wiki and open it up to the greater community to maintain the flow of ideas.
If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed my recent propensity to live-tweet at events. I’ve tried to take my cue from Joe Thornley, who sets the bar high. And while I do like being an ersatz ‘reporter’, I know there’s a trade off between filing stories in 140 and full concentration. (I’m sure some psychologist will conduct a study to measure it.)
Here are some of my Twitter highlights from the CPRS national conference in Vancouver (or search the hashtag #CPRS2009):
@thornley Old PR is dying, our eyeballs are moving over to social media; the world is changing, media is evolving
@julieszabo: Social media sin 6 abandon not thy blog (try not to lose steam-that is easier said than done)
@terryflynn: 74 pct of Canadians felt Maple Leaf CEO had credibility during crisis; higher than Obama had on inauguration day
@maggiefox: In Social Media it’s important to focus on relentless innovation; the internet never sleeps
@martin waxman: How much to we miss by live tweeting? I like doing it, but have to admit some trains of thought do leave the station without me. Just asking
Special thanks to the On The Edge organizers and to the student bloggers, @LesleyChang, @apparently_so, @mikedefault, @ashletts, and @stephleung who really added a lot of content and energy as they chronicled the event.
I don’t usually attend two conferences in two weeks – much less two PR conferences. However, that’s what happened early in June when I twice ventured west: first for Counselors Academy in Palm Springs and then for the Canadian Public Relations Society in Vancouver.
And I thought it’s worth noting some of the similarities and differences.
Both conferences focused on social media and its application to PR; both had knowledgeable presenters and tier one keynote speakers (including Robert Stephens, Steve McKee, Brian Solis and David Suzuki – to name a few); and both had PR students live-blogging/tweeting about the events.
I personally thought having the students actively involved added a fresh energy to the events.
However, and I don’t know if this is a U.S./Canada or an agency/client thing, but the general knowledge of and enthusiasm for social media seemed less prevalent at the CPRS event. Certainly there was interest, but not the same kind of passion I witnessed from agency heads (mostly from the U.S.). Or maybe Canadians are just a bit more resistant to change.
Now, there’s no doubt Counselors is all about the agency business and, if you’re an agency principal, there’s nothing that compares to it. And, as counselors, it’s incumbent on us to be up to be on top of trends in order to offer more intelligent counsel to our clients.
I don’t have the answer to this.
I did notice that there was a lot less live tweeting at the CPRS conference; a few people were active.
But maybe it’s the small number of agencies represented (from out East, I mean). And that could be due to the economy, but I think it’s a shame that there isn’t a bigger agency president at CPRS national and Toronto.
Which begs the question: why aren’t Canadian agencies more actively engaged in CPRS? I asked my friend Scott Farrell, president of PRSA Chicago and he said they were trying to get more clients to participate; they had lots of active agency members.
And, as the president of CPRS Toronto, I throw this question out to PR folks. What would it take to make agency people want to get more involved?