Just arrived back from Delivering the New PR in London today – an excellent conference on using social media tools in public relations.
The impressive speaker line-up meant delegates got a really great insight into social media from some of the UK and Ireland’s leading professionals in this area. The conference was useful for me as an active blogger, but was also attended by PR and marketing professionals with widely differing experience levels of social media.
The first part of the morning session comprised excellent scene-setting presentations from Philip Young and Tom Murphy about what social media is and means for the public relations profession.
That was a really good way to kick off the day as it made sure everyone understood the strategic context for the more practical presentations that followed on blogging (Stuart Bruce) and podcasting (Neville Hobson).
The afternoon featured an interesting presentation from Chris Rushton (University of Sunderland) about some research he’d undertaken into how media organisations in the north-east receive and use media releases. Many of his findings backed up my own experience and provide some insight into what PRs see happening with releases sent to regional media.
The session from Chris was extremely useful, but did seem a bit out of scope for the general theme of the day – that being social media and how PR professionals can use it as a communications tool.
The day closed with an overview of networking and a short but debate-provoking foray into Second Life and how it could be used for communications.
Part of the value of going to conferences is meeting new people and networking. In particular it was great to meet people who I’ve got to know online through reading their blogs (Stuart Bruce and David Phillips) and listening to their podcasts (Neville Hobson). Initially it’s slightly unnerving to meet people face to face who you know online through social media, but it was great to be able to share experiences today with these guys.
It was also interesting to meet other delegates over coffees and lunch, including Richard Millington and Andrew Lacey (APT Marketing and PR), Rob Skinner (First Direct), Emily Lacey (Media Strategy), Rachel Bhageerutty (Notting Hill Housing), Rachel Bannister (Red Door Communications) and Victoria Newlands (PR student and social media enthusiast). I found it interesting to find out different experiences to applying social media in PR, and found while the organisations differed widely, many of the barriers and challenges were similar.
I wouldn’t normally mention the sponsors when I blog about an event or conference, but I really should mention the event’s headline sponsors Indigo Red. Director Lydia Mallison-Jones opened the conference with an enthusiastic endorsement of social media that set the tone well for the rest of the day. Lydia attended an earlier Delivering the New PR conference as a delegate, and was so taken with what she heard has since launched a blog of her own (and I won’t mention the “quaking with excitement” comment again I promise).
Today’s event was the last in a series of five, but there are likely to be more next year. Speaking to the team I know they’re looking at what next year’s events should include. I think there’s still value in running a similar introductory event next year, but it would also be good to run events that look at the next stage for integrating social media into the communications mix.
For me this could mean covering things like using social media in integrated communications campaigns, more detailed case studies of integrated social media and possibly running clinic sessions. This last idea would help people see how they could use these exciting new social media tools in their own organisation.
I came away from today with renewed enthusiasm for using social media in public relations, and I know many other delegates did too.
I’d thoroughly recommend this conference to any marketing or PR professionals wanting to know more about social media. Social media doesn’t change the basic professional skills of PR, but it is another influential set of tools that we can use to reach people and engage in conversations with them that have never been possible before.
As marketing and PR people we should never underestimate the impact this can have and is already having on reputation and engagement.
UPDATED: Pictures with many thanks to Andy Wake from Don’t Panic.