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Vocus Users Conference 2012 equips clients for a PR evolution

Vocus president and CEO Rick Rudman stood in front of attendees at the Vocus Users Conference yesterday and acknowledged the multifaceted challenges his audience faces today: public relations and marketing professionals have to engage customers and equip their brands to communicate in totally new ways.

“Engagement is not raining down on people and hoping they get wet,” said Rudman. People have to “like” brands and invite them into their personal social media presence. Knowing that engagement is key and attainable on a deeper level, the first day of the two-day Users Conference kicked off with an energizing speech from Peter Shankman, author and founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

Shankman took his audience back to the foundation of what public relations professionals really need to be doing for their clients. “Forget about the technology for a moment,” said Shankman. “Just focus on being likeable.” He believes that if companies and the people who represent them are transparent and conduct themselves ethically, they will have morefriends” than they know what to do with.

Shankman cited a Twitter tale of an aspiring model seated next to a married actor on a Virgin America flight who tweeted their conversation for the world to read. By the time their flight landed, the world knew he had removed his wedding band while he was in the restroom before returning to his seat to flirt with her. While he advised his audience to be aware that there are no secrets anymore, he also encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones. This comment was one of the most tweeted during his talk: “there’s no growth taking place inside comfort zones. It’s called the no-growth zone.”

For more ideas about how to grow, attendees listened to speaker Mark Ragan, CEO and publisher of Ragan Communications. As a former reporter who covered the Reagan White House, Ragan knows what makes a good story. He also has some perspective on the tools public relations professionals are currently using. He suggested brand journalism and content marketing as techniques companies can use to grow their online reputation, while YouTube and blogs can increase sales.

His approach to success is pragmatic. “If you do content well, you can replace the void left in newsrooms today,” he said. “It’s about getting your content out and fishing where the fish are.” Great content, plus engagement will equal success, he added. People have to want to share content and comment on it. What do consumers want? Just ask yourself, he advised.

The next panel included DuPont public affairs manager Edward Adams, who has a suggestion on how to maximize press releases: Write one press release that’s done one way and another one that’s done differently. Use the analytics to show how one press release received a lot of reads but not a lot of interaction. Then compare the style of that release to the one that did receive a lot of reads and a lot of interaction. “That’s how you actually learn something from your efforts,” said Adams.

Closing out the day was speaker Dayna Steele, author of “Rock to the Top” and Fast Company magazine blogger. And boy does she know what it takes to be a rock star. Her four tips to public relations and marketing professionals (have passion, knowledge, networking skills, and discipline) come from her relationships with actual rock stars like Gene Simmons and Billy Idol. She wants people to do what they are passionate about, but know that it has to come with hard, nonglamorous work and dedication. “There are a lot of really talented people out there you’ll never hear of because they didn’t have the discipline to do what it takes to be successful,” said Steele.

Steele defines a rock star as anyone who “does what they want, when they want to do it.” But first, a rock star has to believe they are one. In fact, her motto is “Life is too short to have anything but delusions about yourself.”

–Rebecca Bredholt

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