As Tom Murphy pointed out, one of the remarkable things about Delivering the New PR is that they are social networking conferences that sprang from social networking. It is almost two years since I had the idea of holding a conference to show PR practitioners in the North East what was happening at the University of Sunderland. We have close links with practice, not least though CIPR accreditation, but it is important to showcase how academic research can benefit real world businesses and organisations.
Through events like Global PR Blog Week (remember that!) I had started to try and apply PR theory to the emerging 'blogosphere', and, through Mediations had got to know people like Trevor Cook and Constantin Basturea. For me, the best 'read' was an avuncular Irishman, Tom Murphy, who wrote PR Opinions, which was not only full of insights but also made me laugh. It occured to me that if Tom could write well, he could probably speak well (although years of meeting authors an working with journalists should have told me the opposite).
Rather hesitantly, I fired off an email. Tom said yes, and we had a conference. We decided to call the event Making the News - no mention of social media at that point. Head of PR and Journalism, Chris Rushton and I thought we had enough to say, but as planning went on, it became clear that blogs and podcasts were beginning to make an impact. I watched a scratchy video of someone called Neville Hobson talking about podcasting, and decided to introduce myself. I had read Elizabeth Albrycht for a while, again, initially, through Global PR Blog Week, so she was invited. And it was clear that (despite calling his blog A PR Guru's Musings!!!), Stuart Bruce knew more about business blogging in the UK than anyone else I knew.
All accepted. The event was arranged for November, and CIPR president Tony Bradley agreed to open proceedings.
But it was the night before that made the biggest impression. Getting on for a hundred people would be at the University next morning expecting something special; if we didn't deliver, it would reflect badly on the PR team, and especially me.
None of us had met before, and it was well before Neville and Stuart had become established conference names. Indeed, I think Sunderland was the first social media conference to be held in the UK.
The group gelled immediately. Tom, Stuart, Elizabeth and Neville all turned out to be almost exactly as I had expected them to be. We had fun.