Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 28, 2010

Out of the Comfort Zone

Bill Tancer, author of “Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters,” and self-proclaimed ‘data-geek’, walked on stage and won the crowd over with an engaging story on prom dresses.

He led off with a quote from Walker Percy: “To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something.”

From there he took us on a journey, showing how people say one thing, but search will reveal another. It is unwise for public relations professionals, who need to not only understand the latest trends, but to be a step ahead of them, to ignore what search can reveal. Tancer advised tools like Google Trends, Google Insights and real-time social search engines like Tweet Cloud to get us started in the right direction.

Data can unveil hidden stories beyond a preconceived notion, and is often a place that ‘non-data-geeks’ and PR pros get a little nervous. It’s time to get comfortable. Personally, I’m starting by picking up a copy of “Click.”

Following Tancer was Jeffrey Hayzlett, who took the stage with an enthusiastic hallelujah! Hayzlett was energetic and told us the story about how his former employer, Kodak, needed to adapt or die.

It’s clear that a lot of businesses have been affected by the digital revolution and Kodak was not the only one suffering from an identity crisis. Hayzlett lead the charge by asking simple questions — Why are you in the game? What are your values? What do you represent?

For Kodak, and all companies who may be asking the questions, it was about getting back to the core values of where they began.

A few tips from Hayzlett about getting back to business:

  • Passion is not a substitute for planning — go forward, but know why you’re doing it.
  • Cause tension — stretch for good ideas. You can always scale down something great, but can’t always amp up average.
  • Get social — engage, educate, excite, evangelize.
  • Mistakes are okay, no one is going to die.

These things helped Kodak reinvent themselves for a new digital generation. People are still creating their Kodak moments and trust the brand that is helping them remember their lives.

Jeff left us with a comment that was spoken to him by the great oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, during college: “One should never be afraid when you’re in good company.”

As PR professionals, I think the PRSA 2010 International Conference was the perfect example of that statement, as we all stepped out of our daily routines to embrace new ideas, and were most definitely in good company. In addition, Hayzlett’s advice about taking it to the edge can help us all out of our shell professionally and help us find that next great idea.

So whether it’s looking into data and numbers or getting back to the core of our businesses, it’s time to get a little uncomfortable to go forward.

Tammy Homan is the media relations/communications coordinator at Nsight/Cellcom, based in Green Bay, WI. Connect with Tammy on LinkedIn and follow Tammy on Twitter @tammyrhoman.

For more coverage on the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, visit PRSA Intelligence, follow #prsa_ic and the Conference blog.

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