Real-Time Communications Means Real Talk

This is my first full week back from being on holiday for the past month. Ahhh, good old R&R....

Yesterday, I spent half the day leading two roundtable discussions at the Real-Time Communications Conference, where Steve Etzler and Team BDI packed the house again. See my blog post about his prior event, Convergence 2008.

Here are some good outtakes:

* The keynote was Ray Kerins, VP of Worldwide Communications for Pfizer. When I first saw that someone from Pfizer was the keynote for a communications conference, I thought for sure that Steve had finally lost his marbles (no offense, Steve). I mean, what would someone in "no comment" pharma-land have to possibly say about real-time communications? Turns out a lot. Ray was real, engaging and funny. Who knew pharma had it in 'em? "Pharma and its social model HAS to change," is a quote directly from Ray at the conference. Ray informed us that when he became part of the communications team at Pfizer, he was told on his second day that the unwritten rule at Pfizer was to toss out the first voice mail or email from journalists. Whoa! Thanks to Ray's initiatives, Pfizer now has a TRUE worldwide, 24-hour communications team where his team members spend 50% of their time with the media and bloggers are respected like the journalists we are. (Yeah!)

* The panel that was moderated by Sarah Milstein, author of "Twitter and the Micro-Messaging Revolution" included: Morgan Johnston of JetBlue, Dave Armon of PR Newswire, Paul Gennaro of AECOM, David Sacks of Yammer and Marc Monseau of J&J. Definitely a motley crew and definitely engaging. Check out the online video here.

* Dave Armon has a new blog called Pounce Now. Although the blog sports the standard WordPress theme, it's got some good, off-beat content. It's clear Dave has somethin' to say. Let's see where it goes - the blog is only a month old. (Sidebar: I initially sat next to Dave who was generously Twittering the conference on his Blackberry. I can say that you never know how loud the clicking noise of texting is until you're sitting at the back of an auditorioum next to someone Twittering and you're trying to focus on the presentation. I eventually changed seats so that I could ask a question, so it all worked out.) If you're on Twitter, check out PR Newswire: @prnewswire

* Paul Gennaro talked about the need for brands to act on the information that they get from the real-time communication flow. A great quote from him at the conference addressing that need is, "My wife says I listen, but I don't do any differently."

* Marc Monseau gave a lot of "business speak", but there was one topic about which I felt he was dead on. I'm going to blog about this a bit more over at Marketing Profs, but his point was social media journalists need to give major corporations time to get back to them. He gave the example of a story online in which a social media journalist wrote, "Marc Monseau could not be reached for comment." And, they had only left a voice mail for him 5 minutes prior. Talk about real-time communications!

* I felt the rockstar of the panel was Morgan Johnston. Maybe because I'm totally engaged with the JetBlue brand...who knows, but he was real, personable and didn't delve into "marketing speak". It was nice to meet the face behind the @JetBlue Twitter account. Morgan said that the challenge with real-time conversations that are potentially damaging to the brand is, "the follow-up...that's the challenge at this point." What he meant is that when people express negative sentiment about a brand online - even if the situation is resolved to their satisfaction, you can't always guarantee that the same group of people who saw the initial complaint, will see it IF the offended party decides to post either a "retraction" or share how the company resolved their problem. Maybe 10,000 people see the complaint, but only 7,000 people see the resolution. Bummer, dude.

* The roundtables were packed with moderators like myself, Robin Carey of Social Media Today (and, yes, I'm also a MyVenturePad blogger!), Matt DeLoca of The Feed Room (also a sponsor) and Perry Hewitt from Crimson Hexagon (LOVE that company name!) sharing insights with both PR and corporate types who were genuinely interested in learning more.

One dig though...Steve, let's get some women on those keynotes and panels! We're not just good for moderating and roundtable discussions, you know! :) [See update below...]

So, if you missed it, watch the video of the panel and make sure you get your buns to the next one. The networking was great (I already have a speaking offer) and the attendees were first draft.

Don't want to miss the next one? Sign-up for te BDI mailing list and save the date for March 3, 2009!

[1/16/09 Update: Steve read this post and had this to say:

Just to set the record straight, BDI has had numerous female presenters and panelists over the years. I would argue the majority of our speakers have been female. We also produce diversity job fairs and conferences for the advertising industry that actually help get those from minority backgrounds into the industry. The conference portions of those events feature industry leaders as speakers including Carol H Williams, McGee Williams from Burrell, Tiffany R Warren from Arnold and the list goes on. Below are the links to our past diversity programs and conferences so you can see for yourself if you are interested. With that said, I almost leaned over to you during the panel discussion to say that we could have used a female panelist up there, so I agree with your sentiment :)

I guess you told ME, Steve! No, seriously, thanks for setting the record straight, Steve. I know BDI has a great record of working with women speakers and I should have mentioned that in my post originally.]

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2 Comments

  • Perry Hewitt

    Thanks for the recap. We thought there was a terrific turnout, and that the both the keynote and the panels were right on topic. I'll join you in encouraging Steve to keep up his effort to recruit women as presenters and panelists!