We presented the fifth and final University of Sunderland Delivering the New PR conference in London on Friday and if these posts are anything to go by - thanks Simon, Rob, Richard, Sarah, Lydia, Steve - I think we can say it was a success.
I am usually the warm-up man, setting the scene for Tom, Neville, Stuart, Chris and Elizabeth, but this time Elizabeth wasn't able to come, so I had two spots, the second of which built on Elizabeth's ideas on networking to look forward to what might be just over the horizon - or, to put it another way, we watched avatars dancing to Thriller and heard Neville talking about launching crayon in Second Life. It certainly got the audience talking...
Getting things under way, I looked back at what he had been saying when this series began, in Sunderland, just a year ago, when most delegates hadn't much idea about podcasting, when the ideal of YouTube being bought for extraordinary sums was fanciful, when most people were only vaguely aware of blogs as geeky 'online diaries'. The difference in engagement was dramatic, with quite a number of the audience very familiar with the emerging social media. Happily, Neville, Tom and Stuart are just a couple of strides ahead of the curve so the debate was stimulating, but it was also clear that there has been a sea change in attitudes to social media.
But what struck me, quite forcibly, was that although PR practitioners have a good grasp of what is happening, some are still struggling not only to convince clients and managers about the changes but also to really grasp what social media means to them.
The key moment was when Stuart asked who maintained a convenional 'clippings service' - hands flew up across the room. But when he asked who monitors blogs and other social medias, there was a sharp fall off. People who are employed not only to shape the reputation of organisations but also to act as its eyes and ears were apparently unaware of the need to track what people are saying about their clients or employers.
My belief us that this where PR is happening today; the axis of communication has swung through 90 degrees - it is not what we say about ourselves that matters but how good we are at influencing the conversation that swirls around us, our products and our services.
We are already planning the next wave of Delivering the New PR and is quite certain that the challenges of engaging with the conversations around organisations will feature every bit as strongly, indeed more strongly, than anything PR can attempt in its increasingly futile bid to command and control the messages that (aim to) influence reputation.
Anyway, thanks to the speakers, the excellent Don't Panic team who made everything happen, our sponsors, Indigo Red and Media Measurement, and most of all to the delegates - the best thing about Delievring the New PR are the after-match comments and this time especially they have been hugely encouraging.
See you next year for Round 2!