Inside PR 2.01 – introducing your new hosts

This post was originally published on the Inside PR blog.

Well, the torch has been passed and Inside PR’s two creators, Terry Fallis and Dave Jones have decided to hang up their Zoom recorders (well for this podcast, anyway).  I think that for all the listeners of Inside PR (including me), this signaled the end of an era.

When Terry and Dave started in 2006, social media (and podcasting) was still quite new and many PR folks had yet to embrace it.  Their chemistry, wit, caustic humour and insights helped guide us along the way.

Fast forward. Episode 101 featured three new co-hosts, Julie Rusciolelli, Keith McArthur and me.

Fast forward again.  It’s episode 2.01 and now it’s time to introduce our new helmers:  Joe Thornley and Gini Dietrich. Welcome!

I’m sure many of you already know Joe, he’s the founder of Thornley Fallis, the agency that created and produces the podcast. Joe is one of Canada’s social media pioneers and leading practitioners. He blogs at ProPR.

Gini is the CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago PR and social media agency.  She’s a smart, outspoken strategist who blogs at Fight Against Destructive Spin blog (aka Spin Sucks) and never minces words.

We’re still looking at PR and social media from an agency perspective, and adding a tri-city POV.

What’s next?  A lot of that is up to you. I hope you’ll listen to Episode 2.01 to get a preview (and our new voices).

Apologies if it sounds a bit disjointed – we had to record in two tries due to a glitch with one of the tracks.

We’d love to hear your ideas and hope you’ll continue to listen, find value in our discussions and share your thoughts. Thank you again for taking part!

And now: on with the show…


Is speed slowing down original thought?

I was recently thinking about some of the great 20th century authors and the volumes they created using a typewriter to bang out their prose (or maybe a pen…). Starting with a finite blank page, typing, x-ing things out, reading it over, scribbling edits by hand, retyping and repeating till they felt their stories were complete. It was a long, solitary and arduous journey. And it produced works of genius.

And I wonder if the passion for immediacy in our web 2.0 world is running counter to that process.  I’m not saying we should hang onto the past. I am saying it sometimes feels like we’re trading speed for reflection.

Yes, we can spew out words and ideas on a keyboard (much like this), quickly read it over, spell check (hopefully), link and publish.  But how much time are we spending rewriting? Looking at our ideas from a different angle, a fresh perspective, the benefit of time; and then revising or maybe starting anew.

These days, I’m getting a lot of  mini aha moments; that is idea-bursts from blogs, tweets, articles and observations online.  And while these are energizing kernels of thought, sometimes they’re not enough. And I crave the brilliance I still get from certain authors or a great, sprawling conversation.

Perhaps we need the equivalent of writerly speed limits, i.e. slow down our prose, choose words more selectively, be a bit less prolific and take that extra time to consider before we hit publish or press send.

Sure we can all be writers. Maybe we need to become reflectors too.

There’s no business like PR business

OK, there is… there is…

But the business part of running an agency is often considered second to the practice of PR.   It’s been said that communicators don’t understand the intricacies of business goals and this lack of knowledge has been one of the things that’s relegated the industry to a seat at the kid’s table (as opposed to the grown up table in the C-suite).  And perhaps this is reinforced in PR schools,  where the emphasis is on communications (of course) but few, if any, classes cover business.

So where can we find the expertise we need to successfully understand our client’s businesses and run our own?

I get it from PRSA’s Counselors Academy’s annual spring conference, happening May 21 to 23.   I’ve blogged about the organization before and am the Canadian rep on the executive committee.  Counselors is my annual PR agency business summit – three days of learning, sharing and socializing that provides me with the tools I need to improve my firm.

This year’s theme, ‘Looking Up: Lessons and Conversations to Move Your Business Forward’ explores strategies we need to do to emerge from the recession and once again build businesses focused on innovation and growth.  And it fits in well with the locale – the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina.

Here’s a link to the program.  There will be keynotes by PR 2.0 author and thought-leader Brian Solis and leadership expert Randy Hall; a pre-con session geared to creating a smashing social media plan by Jay Baer; and many first-class sessions and roundtables including how to grow leaders within an organization, a panel on the new listening and monitoring, strategies to successfully add social media and digital capabilities to your agency mix, Darryl Salerno’s fourth annual English as a Second Language (you really aren’t smarter than a fifth grader) and much more superb content.   It’s also a wonderful time to network, get answers to tough questions, and meet and become friends with an incredibly sharp, insightful, friendly and open group of people.  I’ve said this before but it’s the highlight of my PR year and I come back energized and excited to be in the profession.

Here’s where you go to register.  Hope to see you there.

Note: My Ex-Comm buddies Abbie Fink and Roger Friedensen suggested I also include Counselors’ Facebook and Linkedin pages to give you a bit more flavour.  (Thanks.)

What’s next: J-schools offering a master’s degree in blogging?

That might be a good idea. According to a new study conducted by PR Newswire/Canada Newswire and PRWeek, 52 per cent of bloggers now view themselves as journalists. This is up from about 33 per cent in 2009.

Another shift in the PR/media landscape.  And it opens the door to many questions.

Consider the definition of journalism from The Free Dictionary:

‘1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.

2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.

3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.

4. Newspapers and magazines.

5. An academic course training students in journalism.’

There’s no allusion to blogs or bloggers anywhere. Beyond that, a profession (i.e. journalism) has traditionally referred to a job that required training and provided remuneration. Or to put it another way, it’s something many parents want their kids to do. And you don’t hear too many moms and dads extolling the virtues of blogging as a career choice (at least not yet).

Then there’s the matter of education. If bloggers are to become the next generation of journalists – and I think there’s great potential in that – we need to develop programs that help provide some academic training; perhaps offering a combination of courses in writing, editing, publishing, research and ethics. Some institutions are starting to do this. But most bloggers learn their craft on the job.

From a PR perspective, we seem to be relying on media relations tactics to set the framework for interactions with bloggers. But is this the best way to go about it? Or do we need to re-think the way we identify and engage them?

I think we do. For one thing, the days of the canned pitch are thankfully almost behind us. But is ‘pitching’ even the best way to reach bloggers? How can we help ensure their stories are balanced/credible and not just cut and paste versions of our news releases?  Will PR need to focus more on the public good and, if so, how will that affect our compensation model?

There’s much to consider. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

My.sxsw – a recap

Now that the tweets have settled and FourSquare’s down to a dull roar (i.e. most days you’ll find me checked into my office), I thought I’d recap my experiences at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

First the highlights:

I guess I’m a Panel Nerd at heart. I go to conferences to listen to people I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to hear, learn things and hopefully open my mind.

Among the sessions that stood out for me were Christie Nicholson’s overview of the interface between human brains and computers. I wanted to try the EEG shower cap that non-invasively reads impulses outside the brain, especially when I saw the video of a journalist who thought of letters and saw them materialize on a screen in front of him.

Danah Boyd offered a challenging keynote on privacy and publicity in a world where we have become our own big brothers: ‘Now social media makes conversations public by default, private through effort. This is a complete shift in the way we used to act.’

Clay Shirky is as engaging and intellectually challenging in person as he is in his book. Here are two nuggets he shared: ‘Abundance is a bigger challenge to society than scarcity’ and ‘behaviour is motivation filtered through opportunity’.

I also enjoyed the networking and the opportunity to get to know new people and exchange ideas with them, as well as actually meeting some of the folks I’ve been reading/following for a while.  That said, you soon realize the stars of SXSWi can only been seen from the planetarium that is the Ausin Convention Centre and not from a middle-American night sky…

Now my.downside:

SXSW is a big party scene – I know that shouldn’t be news – and some people place a premium on VIP lists, jumping the cue and hoarse throats. Now, I went to a few soirees (hey, I am social), but honestly I preferred the ones where you could actually talk to people instead of screaming at the top of your lungs at someone who can’t hear you and who you know is nodding out of politeness. (Or maybe my age is showing.)

Evan William’s keynote was a  major disappointment. We were there to hear the Oracle of Tweet but what we got was a pompous interviewer and little insight. The two convention halls were overflowing at the start of the session and overflowing with people leaving halfway through.  It’s too bad. I’m sure with better questions, Williams would have had something to say.

The quality of the panels was definitely mixed.  I think there should be better curation and guidelines as to who can present on what topic in order to set higher standards. Maybe there should be fewer sessions, with presenters doing their talk more than once.  Also, every room should have had AV so you can hear what people have to say.

For me, the two worst sessions were: A guy who took us through a deck you knew he used to pitch new business – complete with client testimonials; and the panel where one woman extolled the virtues of ‘ads that look like content’ and then rushed out to catch a flight before answering questions, followed by a guy who was so hung-over he looked dumbfounded by every slide he incoherently presented.

If you want to hear more, have a listen to Inside PR #197 where Robert Scoble answers the 4Qs.  I also had an opportunity to interview Brian Solis and Chris Barger, who will be featured on upcoming episodes.

My good friend Gini Dietrich blogged about her decision not to go and makes some valid points.

Special thanks to Keith McArthur and Michelle Kostya for being my panel/social buddies.

Will I make the pilgrimage next year?  I think so – it’s hard to match the overall calibre and energy of the event and the fact that you have thousands of social media practitioners in one place at one time – all trying to figure out the next big social thing.