IPRA Summit (London) Day One

Having made a strong case today at the second annual International Public Relations Association Summit that public relations professionals are doing a disservice to their organizations or agencies by not learning as much as they can about social media, I am compelled to blog about 'day one' of the conference.  Since the conference featured many speakers, I can only focus on what for me were a few highlights. (At least one other blogger has done a quick -- although frankly rather obtuse -- summary of the first session which did focus on social media.)

Euan Semple, formerly of the BBC and a thoughtful, articulate proselytizer for the shape-shifting impact of social media on public relations argued passionately that blogging is about relationships and intimacy. Companies which see it as a tool only for information dissemination or product seeding will inevitably make serious missteps because neither of these are about connection or dialogue which are both the zeitgeist of the blog world. He also introduced -- for me at least -- the new word 'flog', describing the now infamous 'false blog' created as gimmick to build reputation for a well-known American retailer.

Mark Durrant of Motorola (full disclosure -- Motorola is client of H&K Canada) reported on a fascinating think-tank session the company organized at Windsor Castle that discussed, among other things, whether "seamless mobility means the end of journalism". Not surprisingly given attendance at the think-tank session -- many journalists -- the answer was no. But it was agreed journalism will become something different . . . for one thing, it will be a more collaborative profession. It was also concluded there will always be a need for good writing. My editorial comment on this is that frankly good writing is no longer only the province of journalists, and the very nature of what constitutes "good writing" may also be changing. (Although sound grammar and correct spelling should never die since they evidence sound thought.)

Francesca Polini from Greenpeace in the Netherlands demonstrated a powerful use of the web as campaign tool. In opposition to a planned expansion of the whaling industry in South Korea, Greenpeace launched what it called a "virtual march". It asked global supporters to take photographs of themselves below a sign that read "No Whaling" in Korean and upload them to its website. These photos -- in the neighbourhood of 500,000 -- were gathered by Greenpeace which then projected them on a wall or screen outside the International Whaling Commission meeting discusssing the issue. Greenpeace didn't need to disrupt the meeting in any way. It simply made its case for opposition through a virtual protest. The planned expansion was defeated.

And, in a final session, Dan Smith (secretary-general for the NGO International Alert) suggested that companies could take better advantage of NGOs by engaging with them when they are considering investments or involvement in countries involved in conflicts and wars. They have much to offer in understanding how best to manage engagement in environments that will inevitably lead to global scrutiny and reputational challenges. 

Just a few personal reflections on an intense and thoroughly satisfying exchange of ideas among professionals.  

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