An acid test for PR practitioners

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I’ve been reflecting on my day in Manchester on Friday at the CIPR Northern Conference at which I led a session on peeking at the future of public relations practice; more on that in a minute.

There were some 120 people at the conference – a number far higher than I had expected – representing organizations both public and private, mostly from across the north of England.

The one-day event was divided up into a mixture of keynote speeches and short 50-minute workshop sessions running in parallel with each other (you had to make choices on which session you wanted to go to).

Of all the keynote speakers, the one that impressed me the most was Katie Perrior (in the photo above), director of iNHouse PR, who took us through the story of the PR campaign she led to support Boris Johnson in his bid to become mayor of London (which, as you undoubtedly know, he did win in May and is now the mayor of London, much to some people’s surprise).

Among the points of distinct interest to me in Katie’s presentation was how she described the role of social media in that PR campaign, which included a Facebook group and a person on the PR team who was a blogger. (I hope to have more soon on the PR campaign as I spoke to Katie after her keynote and she’s willing to be interviewed for an FIR Interviews podcast.)

I understand that the presentations from all the keynote speakers will be online soon at the CIPR website. Hopefully they will be on open access so you may be able to see them for yourself.

In the afternoon, I led a session on what the organizers described as ‘Futurology’ – a look at changes happening today that affect PR and what’s coming.

It was a packed session with 40 or so people. As is so often the case when talking about change and the future, there’s never enough time to dive deeply into any specific point and have a good discussion.

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So what everyone got was an overview, a look at changes in society and technology that are the key drivers affecting how people communicate and connect and the impact on the practice of PR, and what might be coming in the future.

Explaining the 2008 Gartner hype cycle (that’s me pictured doing that) produced quite a few questions, which was great as I believe everyone in public relations must at least have some understanding of the technology drivers behind much of the change we’re seeing all around us in people’s behaviours as well as the tools they use to communicate and what’s on the horizon.

I used a PowerPoint presentation as my visual aid to focus the session. That will also be available on the CIPR website soon, but I’ve already uploaded it to SlideShare where you can view it and download a copy if you’d like to under a Creative Commons license.

Before the day started, I wondered what I might learn from everyone participating in the conference.

I guess the primary learning I gained from being part of this event is that PR practitioners in the north of England are just as hungry for knowledge and, generally, are willing to consider new developments and trends as are practitioners anywhere else.

The one major thing I urged everyone to do right now is – discover and use RSS as a primary listening device.

The acid test for them now is how they put their own new learnings into action. I wonder how they’ll do.

I’m very pleased to have been part of this event. Congrats to the CIPR North West Group for a very well done conference, and especially so due to the first-rate organization of Andy and Nicky Wake of Don’t Panic Projects.

(Photos credit: Andy Wake, who took quite a few.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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