I like going to Rotorua. Once you get over the smell of sulphur, you start enjoying the character of the city. Nestled in heritage, it reminds you of Kiwiana that goes beyond summer barbys and souvenir shops in Auckland (though I love Auckland, three cheers for the shore!!!).
This time around, my trip was for organising/attending the 2011 PRINZ Conference – PR an art or a science? The two-day public relations gala had a wide spectrum of speakers but there was one common string – the letter ‘C’. In the times where feeding the online content monster seems to be the top concern for most communicators, it was evident from the presentations that context, connectivity, community and culture were the key (if not the king).
Global marketer, designer and blogger Jesse Desjardins took to everyone’s fancy. He epitomized what people think the ‘social media generation’ is all about – ‘young and restless’ (but all in a fantastic way). He held our attention better than any thriller, making one poignant point after another with an ease that comes to people who believe that context is more important than content.
Jesse acknowledged that while we want to control the message, we can’t anymore. However, we can control the tone. It’s no longer about who says what, but the how they say it and in what context they say it that matters. Having 5000 followers on Twitter is not difficult. I can start following random lists that interest me and out of courtesy maybe 40% will follow me back. But what does that mean? Nothing! My followers will ‘care’ about who I am only if I’m saying something that has some context to who they are.
If you are to go by anything that Callum Feasby from Brandtology had to say, it is connectivity and community building that can make those 2500 Facebook ‘Likes’ mean something to your brand. He pointed out (not something we shouldn’t instinctively know) that you must ‘reach out’ to the influencers amongst your 2500 likes and get them to talk on your behalf. OK, don’t get me wrong, this is not about manipulation but about engagement. Listen, respond, be proactive but more importantly be human. Understand web analytics and use them for your benefit. The likes will slowly convert into conversations and then eventually become your advocates.
Finally, a lesson in social media from an unlikely candidate – an academic! Graeme Sterne, from Manukau Institute of Technology talked about the Maori model of PR and reminded us of the pillars of communication that we tend to overlook – emotion, spirituality and culture. I’ve noticed that any talk about culture makes people awkward. But I agree with everything Graeme had to say (even though it had the perfect recipe for discomfort). In our over connected iLives (read iPhone, iMac, iPod and the likes) we must not forget the basic values of hospitality that to me are as important online as offline. Imagine a website that is not welcoming, makes for boring company, doesn’t care for how you feel about it and can’t pronounce your name right (oh, that’s stretching the metaphor too far…but you get the point, right?!).
There were many more interesting presentations but I’ll share them once I have fully recovered from the exhausting yet super exciting conference that it was.