PRIA National Conference 2009 in Brisbane, Australia

PRIAIt was an honor to be an international keynote at the PRIA National Conference in Brisbane, Australia.  The program was held at the Sofitel Brisbane, a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city.  I was able to walk around the day before the conference to see the sights of the City and to check out the local shopping.

The conference began on Monday, October 26th with an international keynote from Scott Goodstein (@sgcatalyst), former external online director, Obama for America.  Some interesting highlights from Scott’s presentation that he shared included:

  • The campaign allowed the new media team a seat at the table.  All of the campaign groups were integrated.
  • The campaign groups understood the change in media and that the campaign had to be in the long tail (i.e., Google, YouTube, Facebook, Hulu and Twitter).
  • The campaign positioned Obama to be known as the social media candidate or the new media candidate.
  • The entire campaign was about change and the teams experimented with what worked and what didn’t work.
  • Four important lessons from the campaign:
    • Don’t be afraid to experiment, for example, Twitter and live video streams gave early tastemakers more information.  However, the use of the mobile WAP handheld phones was not as successful.  Many people were not aware of their phone plans, and this particular part of the campaign was not promoted heavily.  The effort captured thousands, but not millions of people.
    • Use deadlines to test and move ideas, for example, the early vote hotlines.  The campaign also used text messages and MySpace to get more votes out.  The text message program at rallies worked very well because more volunteers wanted to be on the text message program.
    • Allow consensus to engage and validate, for example, the “Yes We Can” video had nothing to do with a formal campaign effort, many blogs were not about official campaign releases but rather how people were taking action and many artists gave artwork for the campaign and encouraged other artists to create original pieces of art for the campaign.
    • Market your online presence by being intriguing, relevant, eye catching and targeted, which sparked action!

I was also very happy to sit in on Christian Schultz’s presentation.  Christian is the head of communications for Mattel Europe.  He was an engaging speaking and his sense of humor had the audience learning and laughing at the same time.  Christian’s presentation focused on leadership and how public relations professionals need to align their PR program goals with the brand’s overall business goals.  Another important message from Christian’s presentation was, “Let it go.” Brands can no longer control the messages as consumers are and have been in control.

A few other interesting presentations included:

  • Hank Jongen’s, General Manager Corporate Communications, discussion on Centrelink and how to assist people on becoming self sufficient and helping those in need.
  • Andrew Humpherson, General Manager Government and Public Affairs at ANSTO presented on the nuclear facility’s community relations program.  He also discussed transparency in communication and proper damage control.
  • Ross McSwain, Director of the Office of the Commissioner presented on behalf of the Queensland Corrective Services an interesting case study about the communication around the opening of a correctional facility in a community.

On Tuesday, October 27th I presented my keynote presentation PR R(e)volution.  I was very pleased with the audience reaction and the many tweets throughout the discussion.  Of course I’d like to focus on the Q&A, which is the best part of the presentation because it gave me a gauge of my audience’s understanding of the material as well as the challenges they face practicing PR in Australia.

A few of the questions included:

  • Australia is about five years behind the U.S. Are there other countries that are similar to the US and ahead in terms of social media communications?  I discussed that the US and Europe are in the forefront of social media.  According to O’Reilly media in August 2009, the regions with the most active users on Facebook include North America (37.1%), Europe (29.4%) and Asia (10.5%).  It should be noted that countries in Europe are experiencing growth as recorded in February 2009, with total Europe, age 15+, home and work locations.
    Also according to O’Reilly Media, Facebook growth in Europe, February 2009 – Total Europe, age 15+, home and work locations:

    – UK: 22,656,000 (+75%)
    – France: 13,698,000 (+518%)
    – Italy: 10,764,000 (+2,721%)
    – Spain: 5,662,000 (+999%)
    – Germany: 3,433,000 (+405%)

  • How do you avoid the noise and social networking drain on your time and resources?  Social networking can take a tremendous amount of time and commitment. There are so many different networks and the more you engage; the more conversations that involve you or your brand.  There are two ways that I deal with the social networking drain or social network fatigue (SNF).  I wrote a blog post earlier this year about all of the things that I do when I start to fee burnt out from too much time in social communities.  From drawing and dancing to cooking and cleaning, you have to totally remove yourself from your networks and do something completely different to rejuvenate yourself.
    I also learned quickly that there’s a lot of noise in the social sphere and you have the filter out the less important or meaningless material, in order to maintain a constant flow of relevant and timely information. Friend selection and monitoring is very important. You don’t have to be friends with every person that follows you and you can use a number of monitoring tools, from Google Alerts to backtype (key word searches) to hear what’s important to your personal brand or to your company.  And, if you’re on Twitter, I use TweetDeck to create important groups of people that I want to follow and listen in on their conversations regularly.
  • Part of my presentation discussed new PR 2.0 vocabulary and “losing” words including messages, pitching and audiences.  The question arose: why should we stop talking about messages?  A key part of public relations is developing key messages?  It’s not that we will stop developing the overall key messages of the brand, however, the way that we engage in conversations, tell business stories and offer information about our companies will change from blasting a one size fits all story with crafted messages, to one-on-one communication that is based on listening to the market and offering people relevant content based on what you hear and what they need.  The messages that should go away are the canned messages that show up in news releases that do not mean anything to the people reading them.  When you listen you can offer communication (or messages) that help people.

I will never forget the PRIA National Conference 2009 or my first trip to Australia.  It was truly a fantastic experience.  I met the most incredible people and learned a tremendous amount by engaging in PR in Australia. I hope to keep in touch with many of my new friends!