Almost four years ago, I officially embarked on my solo public relations career and created JRM Comm, a PR and marketing consultancy. I always dreamed of being my own boss, so when the opportunity did arise, I was excited and eager to take on the solo PR world. I have not regretted the move because it has also given me the opportunity to speak to small businesses, PRSSA chapters, and work with outstanding clients.
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I’m getting used to the idea that I have been plying this craft for more than (or is that ‘over’? NOT!) 35 years. I am an old dog and, literally, a greybeard. Which is not to say I know it all, not by a long shot. I treasure my PRSA membership for the learning opportunities it provides me.
It is true, though, that in those years I have been to many conferences. They all have held something new for me, especially when I filled a generalist role. Conferences tend to offer a broad menu to appeal to a broad audience. It’s their nature.
Then there’s Connect ’14, planned this year for May 20–21 in Chicago. I have really enjoyed being part of the Employee Communication Section’s planning team for this conference because we all share that specialty: employee communications.
When we talk with employee communicators about conferences, they often say they’re frustrated with the content. It’s too basic, they say, or it’s too focused on big-budget tactics, or doesn’t translate to the not-for-profit world. As difficult as it is to balance these needs, the PRSA Employee Communication Section conference, Connect ’14, has done so.
First of all, it features some of the best employee communication minds in the business: people like Maril MacDonald, a true pioneer in strategic internal communications as founder of Gagen MacDonald; Linda Dulye of Dulye & Co., whose work on improving managerial communication has been vital; and Tyler Durham, who runs the change practice for Ketchum and helps companies and leaders grow and unleash the potential of their employees and brands. MacDonald, Dulye and Durham are our keynoters this year, as Connect comes to the Windy City, Chicago, May 20–21, 2014, at Loyola University of Chicago’s Water Tower Campus. That’s right in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, close to world-class shopping, dining and entertainment.
In today’s fast moving search and social Web, content flows in every direction throughout a variety of platforms, formats and devices. In fact, by the year 2020, a study from Ericsson reports that there will be over 50 billion Internet connected devices. Ubiquitous Internet access is enabling consumers and brands alike to create, consume, publish, interact and transact — anytime, anywhere.
At the same time, brands are answering the call to create more value for customers during the buying cycle through content marketing. Companies are adopting publisher models of content and media creation that are beginning to rival the reach and influence of the publications in their industry.
What do these changes mean for public relations and communications professionals? How is PR competitively positioned over marketing and advertising in a content-centric Web?
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to Peter Semmelhack, the founder and CEO of Bug Labs, and author of the recently published book, “Social Machines.” Peter will deliver the Friday keynote address at the PRSA 2013 Digital Impact Conference, June 27–28, in New York City. All I can say is, get ready to have your mind blown! Our conversation was one of the most stimulating I have had in a while — the kind that immediately goes off track, gets your brain working in a thousand directions at once as it considers the implications of what it is hearing, and is just plain fun.
Peter told me that he spent his youth with soldering iron in hand as he and his dad used Heathkits to explore the possibilities of electronic devices. His various businesses have continued this interest, creating software, hardware and services that, at their core, are about connectivity. His latest venture, BugLabs, continues this work as he builds the tools needed to create what is currently called the “Internet of Things.”
After introducing ourselves to each other, we started talking about definitions — my favorite place to start. The first question I asked was, “What is a ‘thing?’” (You have to admit, “thing” is one of the quintessentially undefinable terms in the English language — the term we use when we can’t figure out what term to use! This leads me to laugh a bit about how much this new area obviously troubles our intellects.) Peter’s “things” are network devices that have no screen and a limited or no user interface. Think air conditioners, vending machines or wearable fitness trackers. This is, of course, in contrast to other connected devices, such as smartphones or tablets. It doesn’t mean that “things” are dumb, it just means that their intelligence resides elsewhere — probably in the growing data cloud.
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