ASHEVILLE, N.C. — I just returned from the annual PRSA Counselors Academy conference, held this year at the Grove Park Inn (left), where President Obama and the First Lady spent a get-away weekend in April (in the Vanderbilt Wing, I might add, not too far from the “Cyd Charisse Room,” where I had the pleasure of staying).
But enough about me, what about social media, the topic of that kept everyone buzzing and tweeting?
Several esteemed counselors have offered their blog summaries, here and here (and search #CAPRSA on Twitter), so rather than duplicate their commentary, I’ll weigh in with a few thoughts and key quotes that, at least for me, summarized what I heard:
Amber Naslund of Radian6 had a great quote one morning, summarizing the unnecessary obsession with all the new social media tools: “Dudes, it’s only communications.” So why so much obsession with the “tubes,” or tools for communications, she asked. Were we like this when the fax machine was unveiled? Not long ago Yahoo and MySpace were “it,” so stay focused on the principles of PR and communications and not so much on the “tubes.”
Also from Amber, a good definition of social media: “Social media is the new phone, so listening is the new way of answering the phone.” It’s not a new communications channel, as some communicators are hoping for; it’s more of a customer service function.
Brian Solis, just in from Cannes and who was kind enough to sign my copy of his new book, Engage, talked about the inevitability of change that is sweeping the PR industry. Those in PR who live exclusively for the next press release are simply not going to last!
I also liked one of Brian’s quotes: “In brevity, there is clarity, and in clarity there is opportunity…better yet, offer it in 120 characters to leave room for a re-tweet.”
There were more than a few “you-had-to-be-there moments,” but I’ll still mention my favorites: Elise Mitchell’s riveting presentation on her Arkansas agency’s – and her personal – success story; Darryl Salerno’s fourth annual “English as a First Language” presentation/quiz; the presence of College of Charleston PR students with executive in residence Tom Martin (brilliant move to have the students there); and a memorable presentation on adding social media to the agency services mix by Jay Baer of Convince & Convert with client Indra Gardiner, founder and COO of Bailey Gardiner in San Diego. I guarantee Sawmill clients will benefit from what they said.
I missed last year’s conference in California, but attended the previous (2008) one in Naples, just a few months after I had discovered Twitter and recall demonstrating this new-fangled tool for anyone who asked. What a change when, in Asheville, it almost looked like a bloggers conference with laptops open and live-tweeting going on at every presentation! Thanks, PRSA, for another practical and useful conference, and I hope to see you next year in Las Vegas.