Second International PR and Social Media Summit (English follow-up story)

As promised to my foreign audience, I have here an overview of the 2 days spent in Amsterdam on 16th-17th of May 2013 on the occasion of Second International PR and Social Media Summit. The content of this article is the English version of the two guest posts in Romanian (here and here) which I had on Ruxa’s blog (thanks again!).

Day 1

Second International PR and Social Media Summit in Amsterdam was overwhelming in a positive way, also because it happened having on the background the accommodation with a new place. It was full of meaningful presentations which apart from their content, were an example of good practice for anyone willing to improve their presentation skills.

Below some take away key learnings deserving to be shared:

Mark Ragan, CEO Ragan Communications and moderator of the event, spoke about the influencer communicator and his role in the instant communication era. He reminded about the joy of this profession and the big advantage we have from being an active part of content revolution. Mark pointed out some new notions defining this context of communication focused on content strategy:

brand journalism – a new mentality, according to which any company has the potential of a media outlet, if respecting 3 principles: appropriate audience targeting, results measurement and shareable content creation. The brand journalism notion is the ground for building credibility and trust and implies internally cultivating a different vision over the company;

newsroom mentality – could be the key to success for the company defining itself as a media outlet. That means easing the cross-department communication flows (“banish the silos”: PR, Marketing, HR etc. – how many times didn’t you experience the isolation from other departments’ activities and thus realized you were having an incongruent communication?) and encouraging the daily identification of newsworthy company topics (Mark was speaking about the so-called news breakfast, daily morning meetings aimed to find headlines worth to be put on the agenda);

content curation the way towards covering much narrowed niches, by “spinning” the topic in order to contextualize it, to give it a “flavor” of one particular audience’s interest. Related to this, Mark spoke about the concept of news jacking, which refers exactly to localizing the news which are relevant, worthy for the brands.

Eventually, Mark reminded about the power of the stories, that storytelling which is still the most powerful weapon for successful content generation. And an example of good practice, which “wow”-ed the audience can be found here.

Loren Becker, Downtown Coordinator and Zappos Experience & Community Team Manager, defined an organizational culture which in my opinion is an utopia – I personally say that I cannot believe unless I see it🙂 I am referring to a culture of happiness, based on healthy internal environment and a culture of real caring for the client; at the grounds, the unexpected principle according to which building a healthy organizational culture is, on the long run, more important than operational performance. A short but concluding video about Zappos culture is here and their guiding set of values here.

Cindy Penders, Manager of External Communications for ING Holland, spoke with transparency about the communicational challenges for an industry relying under the sign of systematical lack of credibility, in the context of the financial crisis. Her full presentation is available here, but out of it I would like to highlight two things: first, the creative way through which ING chose to communicate their sponsorship for Riskjmuseum and second the openness Cindy had for speaking about a recent crisis of ING Holland, which she admitted they did not manage very well (see the presentation, slides 30-34 – first answer of the corporation came only after 3 hours, while a significant number of customers complaint about a bad display of their balances and over 12,000 tweets were sent).

Peter von Satzger, PR Director MTV, perfectly synthetized the communicational noise and the information overload, where there are more and more opportunities to communicate, but less chances to be heard. Thus, the different approach he proposed is far from being risk-free and implies rather challenging the limits and assuming consequences which, according to him, can only bring benefits for the brand, given the industry MTV operates in (where any kind of buzz is more than welcomed, be it positive or negative).

At the end of the first day, from Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO Pure Performance Communications, I found out about the book „Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR professional”, for which I admit having my interest on and I’ve put it on my reading list for the next period.

Day 2

Day 2 was intensely oriented towards socializing, both regarding networking between participants and speeches, which were about social media.

We had the chance to hear some nice case studies and inside stories which clearly showed that social media strategy for mature companies are not only about Facebook or Twitter or blogs. What social media people from Marvel Entertainment, LEGO, Ford do is an integrated strategy, internally legitimated, which is no longer in the phase of asking for its rights (as it is the case of social media in our country :().

Ryan Penagos, Executive Editorial Director for Marvel Entertainment’s Digital Media Group – at Marvel, employees are encouraged to develop personal Twitter accounts representing brand characters and have the right to use them as satellites for the umbrella-account of Marvel. Ryan gave as an example his personal Twitter account, @Agent_M, used for managing the accounts for @Avengers, @RealDeadpool and for coordinating the team in charge with @Marvel account (and thus they are daily reaching approximately 2 very active millions of followers).

Lars Silberbauer, Head of Social Media LEGO Group, had a very vibrant speech about the business as a brick concept, a real ecosystem residing under the principle of connectivity through content. Speaking about companies doing social media for real, not from time to time and without any vision, Lars told us about the impressive team of specialists he’s managing: 4 members in the core team (him and 3 colleagues, together managing the global engagement that they’re doing; they are originated from UK, US, Denmark and Mauritius and now live in the UK), then 20-25 social media champions active in different markets where LEGO has its operations, plus approximately 300 employees with „Social Media Driving License” (meaning they were trained and know how to handle for them and for the brand the presence within social networks). LEGO strategy has 3 main pillars:

special attention for the social needs of LEGO fans (and he very nice said they identified here the following needs: building together – for example, the joy a father and his son have when working as a team for something, respectively the pride of building something, of having something coming out from your hands);

creating value and content which LEGO fans resonate with, having as aim to amplify brand affinity (and here I noticed they put a lot of accent on crowdsourcing – they have for example, in Japan, the CUUSOO contest, where fans are invited to come up with new ideas of product and those reaching more than 10,000 votes turn into real products in LEGO’s portfolio);

speed of reaction – adapting to “hot” issues, such as the Tribute to Neil Armstrong (when they built a customized LEGO toy in real time).
Last but not least, the great story about LEGO’s origins in a brand inspiring movie here.

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Arnt Eriksen, Chief Innovation Officer DDB, added to the already told ideas about the power of storytelling a successful formula 1rE2zag. What does this stand for? A single strong message (1), relevant (r), emotional and engaging (E2), different („when others do zig, you do zag”). He also said that a successful customer journey is described through 3 verbs: findlikelove, and alongside this way brand should effectively intervene for easing the path towards love🙂 Arnt and his outstanding philosophy can also be followed during the Re:think conferences he is organizing on his own.

Patrick Kampmann, Co-founder Volontaire, enchanted us with the brave story of Sweden, which left a big and important part of the national brand promotion to be managed by his agency. This is how was born the project Curators of Sweden: The world’s most democratic Twitter account, several times winner of Cannes Lions Grand Prix. What’s Sweden doing more exactly? In order to deliver in an unconventional way the idea that it’s an ultra-progressive country, encouraging innovation, openness, authenticity, it decided to empower its citizens with managing the official Twitter account, @Sweden. Thus, a Swedish citizen is chosen to handle for one week the account, in a free manner, without a content plan or other constraints. And believe me, so far, they had a wide variety of administrators, with different sexual and religious orientations, fanatics, priests etc. and still they did not give up. So, this a huge proof of courage and transparency which, obviously, has generated a lot of buzz and controversial reactions.

The conference was closed by Scott Monty, Head of Social Media Ford, who spoke about amazing things done by Ford even since 2007 and which, to be honest, I cannot see feasible in our country not even in the next 3-4 years. I only invite you to have a look over Ford’s mission and vision which, though corporate, are listed in a clear and concise manner, without many nice but not-at-all useful words. Also deriving from these, there is the social media matrix, called Ford One Social, which is about: Listen and engage; Measure and monitor; Train; Growth at scale. With Scott I’ve established a very strong relation, given that I had the case study of dissertation on his social media practice. And this is how the precious souvenir below was born🙂

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As a conclusion, the Second International PR and Social Media Summit experience in Amsterdam was an extraordinary one, both in terms of content, but also because speakers were available for meaningful talks after their keynotes. This experience has once again showed me which are the standards we should bear in mind and from where we should choose our sources of inspiration. All those people I’ve here mentioned deserve being closely tracked on their professional path and explored as much as possible when there is such an occasion. They are real treasures worth to be haunted J I’m glad I had the chance to personally know them and hopefully everything I’ve shared here will be useful for the readers! For an even more real “look and feel” of the summit, I also leave you the video below. I will come up with other materials🙂

The 2013 International Social Media & PR Summit from 7 ditches tv on Vimeo.

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