PR Issues for Associations

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop of that same title yesterday morning put on by the local chapter of PRSA downtown.

Our speakers included:

  • Peter Panepento of the Chronicle of Philanthropy on creating a social media footprint
  • Tracy Cooley of BIO on the future of association meetings
  • Mark Neidig of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation on winning the Pepsi challenge
  • Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions (and general awesomeness) on Google+

The session consisted of round robin roundtables.

I have to admit, I skipped the session on the Pepsi challenge (not relevant to my organization, although it is relevant to our members) in order to spend more time with Shashi. Big geekin’!

Top takeaways included:

  • LinkedIn is likely the future of business social networking (seriously – check out the Chronicle’s LI group, although you will have to wait to be approved for membership).
  • Google+ is still a niche network (40 million users, mostly social media early adopters, as opposed to FB’s 800+ million), but there are good reasons to be on it as a brand: so you don’t get brand-jacked (like happened to Bank of America), because it will positively influence your SEO in Google (try Googling Dell), and because it’s a great platform to launch campaigns because it’s easy to aggregate multimedia.
  • The association meetings market is changing quickly and radically. We have to be willing to experiment equally radically and be prepared to dump what’s not working equally quickly, regardless of internal political support.
  • Association meetings professionals MUST work with marketing to generate buzz and get bodies in the door.
  • When it comes to the broadening definitions of what constitutes “news media,” trust but verify. Err on the side of being generous with your free press registrations for first timers, but request clips.
  • Engage media who can’t attend your conference through social media. Are you following your organization, profession, or industry’s media influencers on Twitter yet?
  • For smaller events that aren’t inherently newsworthy, look for the buzz and try to get it to play in the local media wherever your event takes place.

What have you learned this week?

How do you unplug?

Why do we feel like we have to be “on” all the time? OK, sometimes you genuinely have too much work to do in 40ish hours a week. That was the case for me at one of my previous associations. Small organizations ALWAYS have WAY more hats than heads, and I was so invested in our awesome mission that I kept adding and adding and adding until it burned me out. Sometimes you’re working with people in vastly different time zones. I’ve taken conference calls at times that are pretty wacky from a US East Coast perspective to accommodate clients across the country…or the world. Sometimes, it’s part of your known job requirements – you’re an obstetrician delivering babies or a network geek running downtimes, and odd hours are part of the package you accepted when you chose that profession.

But what about the rest of us? The woman taking a call during an intimate dinner for two at Citronelle? The guy sending text messages during Radio Golf? The roomful of bloggers tweeting madly throughout Blog Potomac but not actually talking to each other?

As Shashi Bellamkonda pointed out at Blog Potomac last week, virtual connecting can be addictive. It feels like you’re making friends and genuinely interacting with people, and, if we’re all honest with ourselves, there’s a certain degree of ego involved, too: “I’m so important that my organization will crumble if I’m unavailable for 10 minutes” and/or “I’m so interesting that that socnets will skreech to a halt without a constant stream of my pithy observations.”

The thing about being “on” all the time is that it can seriously interfere both with our actual face-to-face relationships (and our ability to form and nuture them) and with our ability to really *think* about stuff. We’re not multitasking mavens – we’re just distracted…all the time.

So, as I tweeted during Shashi’s presentation:

  • Do you unplug?
  • How do you know where/when is appropriate to be plugged in/unplugged?
  • How and when?

One person – @lalamax – responded: Take a real lunch – no phone, no computer.

My general unplugging guidelines include:

  • Unplug when face to face with someone – no taking calls of more than a “can I call you back?” duration or tweeting or texting under the table at dinner.
  • Unplug on vacation – the only reason I want to turn on my computer is to make a restaurant reservation or find out when Rebirth‘s gig at the Maple Leaf starts.
  • Unplug on weekends – if at all possible, I want to get out & play and spend face time with people I love.
  • Unplug late/early – I still like to start the day with a cup of coffee and the actual, physical Washington Post and end the day with a good book or an even better spouse.

What about you?