The PR community is not only a core audience at SXSW Interactive, but also one with a major voice. The popular festival provides a wide-reaching platform that PR pros can leverage to do what they do best—build buzz and drive conversations. To that end, Jason Winocour, agency partner at Hunter Public Relations, provides three ways in which PR pros at SXSWi are doing just that.
Taking a prime seat at the ever-growing smorgasbord of SXSW Interactive programming: This year's festival had hundreds of education and programming sessions covering more than a dozen themes, such as "better tomorrow," "convergence," "gaming" and "government and global issues," to name just a few. "PR pros were well-represented throughout, especially in the convergence panels that focused on the blurring of lines and continued integration among marketing disciplines," says Winocour. Sessions in which PR pros had a seat at the table included "More Smart, Less Stupid: PR for Better Business," sponsored by the Council of Public Relations Firms, and "Branded Documentary: Cause Marketing's Best Media," which focused on the creation and marketing of Pantene's highly successful Beautiful Lengths program in which girls and young women donate their hair to create free wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.
Curating the Conversation: PR pros at 3M, Dell and Pepsi managed Twitter feeds and larger activations that curated the conversation at SXSWi, and gave attendees a sense of which big ideas, new technologies and innovations were generating the most buzz. "Dell and Pepsi created interactive boards in which attendees could view and join the conversation, and 3M invited guests to join the innovation conversation through a specially created app using iPads on site at the Fast Company Grill and the Mashable SXSWi House," says Winocour.
Leveraging Celebrities to Stoke Buzz: Publicists took a leading role in generating social media buzz, ink and airtime for a host of celebrities who descended on the festival, including Joss Whedon, Matthew McConaughey and Jay-Z. American Express tapped Jay-Z for an exclusive concert streamed live on YouTube to introduce and showcase a new experience for card members using Twitter.
As the interactive sessions wind down and conclude on March 13 and the music portion of the festival commences, the tone and sounds resonating from SXSW will no doubt change. However, the 2012 event proved that when it comes to digital innovation, PR pros are not only participating in and driving the discussions, they'll likely be returning home with new and inspired strategies for their clients or brands.
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