More Than 30 Social Media Topics Headlined the PRSA Conference, But Influential Traditional Media Still Has Its Day

While Oct. 19 may have been the wind-down day for some at the PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C., a good number of the 3,200 attendees who didn't have an early plane to catch caught some informative sessions on the state of traditional media, professional development and social media and speechwriting, among other sessions. Here's a recap of some of the sessions:

Save the PR Industry: Support Traditional Media

While PR must expand into social media, the importance of print shouldn't be underestimated. Forbes recently chose the top 25 "Web Celebs" by weighing 50% of the score on how often the stars were mentioned in traditional media.

That type of data served as the centerpiece for an afternoon panel session on where print and broadcast media is headed. While suffering, it's not accurate to say those mediums are disappearing, said Josh Hatch, interactive director at USA Today. "Google recognizes the importance traditional media plays in providing credible information on its search engine," said Hatch. 

In fact, 57% of the U.S. population—or 171 million people—gets its news from traditional, daily newspapers (according to the Newspaper Association of America), and 95% of material on blogs or news aggregators originate from old media, mostly daily newspapers, said Sharon Geltner, president of Froogle PR.

That fact alone, continued Geltner, proves that PR needs traditional media as much as traditional media needs PR. But what will happen to shrinking old media? Hatch said that news organizations will pull away from general interest efforts and concentrate on niche markets. As an example, small community newspapers are doing well, as they serve highly targeted audiences.

Old media isn't in as much trouble as people think, said Bill McCloskey of the Associated Press. McCloskey pointed out that more students than ever are choosing journalism in college, and are still learning traditional print and broadcast skills.

"The Internet is a great thing for journalists, but bad for the media business," concluded Hatch.

PR Knowledge, Skills & Abilities Needed in 2015

A new PRSA survey of more than 1,000 PR professionals finds that the skills that will be needed most by 2015 will be social media, crisis communications and reputation management.

Donald Wright, PR professor at Boston University, presented the preliminary findings of the recent survey, with the full study slated for release early next year. Writing, listening and problem solving were also high on the list of skills needed by those looking to go far in PR.

Lisa Ryan, senior VP  of of communications recruiting firm Heyman Associates, said the findings were not a big surprise. "Writing has always been the No. 1 request from companies searching for PR executives," said Ryan. "CEOs expect you to be able to write well."

Alexis Gorman, search professional at Spencer Stuart, added business acumen and leadership abilities to the list. "You must be able to weigh in on business strategies if you want to get a seat at the table," said Gorman. "For leadership, don't wait until you have a team to lead. Volunteer for projects for which you can build cross-functional teams, and get your experience there first."

Speechwriting and Social Media
In the last social media session of the conference, professional speechwriter Ian Griffin offered tips on how to leverage social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook when writing, giving and distributing presentations and speeches.

To help the writing process, Griffin recommends using the LinkedIn Groups and Polls features to research topics for speeches. "If you're speaking to electrical contractors, find an electrical contractors group in LinkedIn, and find out what their concerns are," said Griffin. Polls can also be conducted on LinkedIn, and informal straw polls can be done for a speaker to augment the speech, he said.

Griffin also recommends embedding live audience polling into presentations. An online tool,, makes it easy and inexpensive to conduct the polling. "A GM executive used the tool in a recent presentation on electric cars," said Griffin.

Twitter can also be used for research—a Twitter search for keywords can turn up conversations on hot topics and trends. Twitter Places can let you isolate posts to the place where you or your speech maker will be giving the speech, making the presentation even more relevant to the audience, said Griffin.

All in all, the 2010 PRSA International Conference will be remembered for the high number of sessions on social media topics—more than 30.

Don't miss PR News' How-To Conference on Dec. 1 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C—11 how-to sessions, 11 expert trainers, all in one day.