March is a BIG month around these parts. It ushers in: 1) the very best weather Austin has to offer 2) Texas bluebonnets 3) SXSW. If you know SXSW at all, you most likely know it for its music and film festival portions. But something nearly surpassing these two in anticipation and excitement in recent years is SXSW Interactive (SXSWi). Several years ago, I teased my agency’s web development subcontractor for being “geeked out” about attending SXSWi. Back then, it seemed to be just a bunch of socially challenged geeks converging over the latest coding trends and video game developments, neither of which I cared much about. Fast-forward 6-7 years, and I will be attending SXSWi myself…for the second time. And so will each one of my fellow bloggers here at The PR Channel, in some capacity.
Why am I now a SXSWi convert? Because digital interaction has been transformed from a space web developers owned exclusively, to something absolutely critical for public relations and marketing communications folks to understand. No longer are we chained to traditional media, direct mail and (frankly) high-priced, archaic web, marketing and PR firms to spread our gospel. Your customer community (or tribe) is online, without a doubt. And you have direct access to your tribe, with 95 percent fewer technical limitations standing in your way than, say, 10 years ago. It’s a utopia filled with public relations potential. Your only challenge now is to figure out how to harness that power effectively: with a great communications plan and equally great execution. That’s where your friendly PR consultant enters the picture. Plus, just knowing that digital marketing communications tools like blogs, social networking, iPhone apps, and QR codes are out there is one thing; knowing what to use for your specific objectives is another. And THAT’S why you should care that we PR consultants attend and learn from SXSWi.
There are more than 500 million active users on Facebook, with the average user connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. Our friends at BazaarVoice report that roughly three out of four CMOs expect to tie social media to revenue in 2011. Half of Americans with income above $75,000/year get their news online, and 40 percent in that income level research products online (according to a Pew study). The evidence is endless: PR pros NEED to have digital interaction competencies. Think of how your own purchasing decisions are made or influenced online, and you’ll understand why.
My fellow PRC blogger Dana Marruffo and I will be posting SXSWi takeaways right here during the conference, March 11-16. Stay tuned, and long live the geeks.