The last time I attended PRSA International Conference in 2010, I was convinced that I needed (and wanted) to join Twitter after sitting in on so many compelling social media sessions. Joining Twitter when I did was one of the best decisions I made in my early career. On my way to San Francisco last month, I couldn’t wait to see what the 2012 conference would have in store for me.
In a three-day whirlwind, I furiously monitored Twitter feeds, filled numerous pages with notes (am I the only one who still takes handwritten notes?) and even had time to kick back and socialize with industry peers. The conference flew by, and my brain was on overload on my flight back to Chicago. I was excited about all the new tips and tricks I was going to implement right after conference, but once the overflowing inboxes and pressing deadlines kicked into my routine again, it would be easy to forget everything I learned and go back to doing things the way they’ve always been done.
Even though a month has passed since conference, a few key takeaways made a lasting impression on me. Here’s what I’m still thinking about four weeks later:
Content is king: One of the themes across many sessions and keynotes was that traditional sales-y press releases and marketing speak are no longer tolerated, by either the media or consumers. The key to achieving great results for PR campaigns is developing and sharing relevant content targeted to your audience. The question “So what?” has never been more important.
When the spreading of information is placed in the hands of the public—not just the media—content can cause your communications to sink or swim. Newsletters, images, tweets, blog posts and videos should all be developed with the audience in mind, making sure to show what’s in it for the consumer when spending their precious time on your communications. Provide interesting content and both consumers and the media will keep coming back to your brand for more.
Social media should supplement, not replace: Tim Westergren, keynote speaker and founder/chief strategy officer of Pandora, mentioned in his general session that social media would never replace his town hall meetings or personalized emails to Pandora users. Other presenters echoed his sentiments that social media is a great tool, but it’s not a strategy and should not be the lone tool in your toolbox.
Even the Conference committee realized that social media is no substitute for in-person networking and relationship-building and hosted a tweetup (my first!) for attendees, allowing us to meet face-to-face with other PR professionals we follow on Twitter, as well as make new connections. Being able to speak with other professionals in sound bites longer than 140 characters was an irreplaceable opportunity to make more meaningful impressions.
Don’t rest on social media alone to converse with your audience and provide relevant content for their use. You might be missing out on great chances to connect.
Passion drives success: Both Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and keynote speaker at Conference, and Westergren made one point clear—passion and belief in their business was the driving force behind their success.
As new professionals, we may not always have the privilege of working in an industry for which we have a specific passion. The truth is, because of the economy many of us are either still looking for positions or are working in positions that might not get us jazzed every morning. Maybe you love sports, but you’re interning at a local hospital, or you’re working for a corporation and long to be involved with political campaigns.
However, if we can learn anything from Stone and Westergren, it’s that the passion for what we do will determine our success. If you focus on your dedication to pitching reporters, keeping up with social media trends and providing the best results for your organization or client, you will succeed in your career. If you have a great idea, don’t give up on it. Dedicate yourself to PR and your goals.
I know I really do love PR, I love learning and I love when I achieve top-tier media coverage for a client. It’s all interconnected.
Who else attended PRSA International Conference? What else would you add? What did you learn?
Heather Sliwinski is an account executive at KemperLesnik, a Chicago-based public relations agency, providing media relations and social media services to a variety of B2B clients. She has held positions in marketing and event planning for corporations, nonprofits and higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications with an emphasis in strategic communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sliwinski is the blog co-chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.