‘Coverage’, ‘column inches’, ‘long leads’, ‘picture story’;
all familiar phrases in the traditional arena of PR professionals. But it might
just as well be Greek to meetings and conference organisers. And indeed, why
should it even matter to them? Why would the worlds of PR and conferences ever
In 1600 Shakespeare’s melancholic Jaques of As You Like It
reflected, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”.
Well, in 2012, with the exponential growth of social media, the availability of
mobile devices and widespread adoption of digital, the world, more than ever,
is a stage; the difference is that now everyone in it is a journalist.
We live in an era of ‘armchair experts’, where individuals
from different industries, with no connection to journalism, broadcasting or
PR, can become authorities in their chosen fields and influence customer
opinion and behaviour just as the media does.
An example: In 2005, Pete Cashmore, living with his parents
18 miles outside Aberdeen, began documenting the rise of internet giants such
as Facebook, YouTube and Myspace. Seven years later, Mashable is universally
recognised not only as a go-to resource for technology news and reviews but as
a brand in its own right, he is dubbed ‘the planet’s sexiest geek’ and any
future sale of his digital creation will likely make him a multimillionaire
several times over.
On a much smaller scale, the vast majority of us are social
media users. Earlier this year, Mashable reported that Facebook had 955m
users. Its influence and reach continues to grow; only this week we have heard
of yet another example of ordinary individuals attaining extraordinary goals
via the global community that’s now at their fingertips with the search and
rescue success story of speed-flier, Dan Hunt.
Evidently, social networks aren’t just ‘a bit of fun for the
kids’. Even as far back as two years ago (light years in the social network
sphere), a study found that 80 per cent of Twitter users work in IT, professional
services, financial services, education, or government. And it’s in
(micro)blogging services like this that these people are sharing their news,
but more importantly, their views and complaints.
So, in today’s super-connected, hyper-mobile, sharing
environment, the consumer holds an unprecedented amount of power in the palm of
their hand. This doesn’t change when they walk off the street into a
Conference organisers are gradually waking up to this.
You’re missing a trick, for example, if you don’t introduce an event #hashtag
these days. But the majority of industry professionals still don’t really know
how to harness the power of these public forums and make them work for them.
It’s all about the consumers’ reaction and you’re smart if
you listen to them, engage with them, give them what they want; recognise
Looking at it another way, conference organisers should
think of their events as brands and PRing them in the same way.
For example, if a conference is able to foster a reputation
for getting the best speakers, there will inevitably develop a social media
community that will want to know who is on the platform to speak at the next
event. Its members will talk to one another, the digital sphere will start to
fill with ‘chatter’ about the event, fans create more fans and followers
encourage a wider following. And as a snowball gathers momentum, soon company
execs will be queuing up to appear on the conference panel.
Look at the conference’s muddier, less polished cousin, the
music festival. With a strategic communications programme in place, their
reputations precede them and early bird tickets sell out before full line ups
are even announced. Yes, you may have interested parties subscribed to
your conference newsletter, but think about your wider audience. Who aren’t you
reaching at the moment that you could be?
So, when planning for your next event, have a think about
how PR can help drive it forward as a brand.
– Jo is an Account Manager for marketing and PR consultancy,
All About The Idea. Her clients have included Coca-Cola, Austrian National
Tourist Office, University of Warwick and TalkTalk. Any comments?