On friday I attended a fascinating public relations conference on what's next for social media and social networking. The day consisted of panels, presentations and discussions on the trends and innovations that are re-shaping public relations and the communications industry. Speakers included Ray Jordan, Corporate Vice President Public Affairs and Communications, Johnson & Johnson, www.jnj.com, Michael Bass, Senior Vice President, National Basketball Association,nba.com, Ray Kerins, Vice President External Affiars, Pfizer Inc. pfizer.com, Bryson Thornton, Senior Manager Marketing Communications, Del Monte Foods, delmonte.com, Josh Stoffregen, Manager Global Communications, Prudential Fianancial, Susan Getgood, author of Professional Blogging for Dummies and co-founder of Blog with Integrity, Jacalyn Lee, Public Relations Director, The Knot Inc. theknot.com
Interestingly, the take away for the day was that although companies are actively engaging in social media, social media has not profoundly changed the public relations profession. The public relations profession has always been about relationships and that has fundamentally stayed the same. The only thing that has changed says Bryson Thornton from Del Monte is that the vehicles that we communicate with have changed. "Today we need to be quicker and more nimble and we need to focus on providing interesting content," says Thornton, "Naturally, we need to include social media into our communication mix, but it has not changed the fundamental core of public relations."
While social media may not have changed the whole profession, it has certainly provided companies with a wonderful opportunity to engage more directly with customers. Each presenter shared some of the ways they are utilizing social media strategies to connect and learn from their different publics. Whether it's using blogs or web shows or twitter and facebook, it all comes down to content and relationships and understanding how different people want to be communicated with. Building relationships is still at the core of public relations but now in the digital age we need to communicate more frequently and more candidly.