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SxSW Day 3: Creating A Connection

The day started off with a great Social Media Breakfast Austin/SxSW where I had a chance to hang out with a few hundred other social media professionals. I saw some old friends and met a few new people with some really interesting companies. I ended up reconnecting with many of them at the Microsoft party later in the evening.

Compared to the first two days of the SxSW, the panels were interesting, but not as strong.

The first panel I attended took a look at the use of applications for extending the brand. The main takeaways were the iPhone is now the dominant brand platform, eclipsing Facebook (for the company has more control). The general consensus from the audience and panel ties into the theme I raised yesterday in my banking recap: The future is mobile. They also emphasized the brand needs to take a backseat in the application or consumers won’t stay engaged.

One if the most interesting points in the session was the debate over the use of apps for engaging consumers. The general consensus is one most consumer technology marketing people have heard for years “The days of brands doing traditional marketing are gone.  They need to engage customers in social dialogue and provide utility, or they won’t have lasting relationship.”

A strong counterargument that was advanced speaks for itself “I like toothpaste, but don’t want to have a two way conversation with it.”

That being said, what Charmin has done with mothers rating bathrooms shows the type of discussions one can have for common household items.

The second panel I attended was hosted by Scott Kirsner and dealt with effective ways to build a cult (or Facebook and Twitter followers…your choice). While there was little earth-shattering about the discussion, it reinforced that building a community usually takes time, it requires constantly refreshed new content and it has to *be* a community. Talking to customers does not draw a crowd. Talking *with* customers draws a crowd. The filmmaker he interviewed advocated letting fans be part of the process. Engage them. They them use your content, have fun with it and create new things. They will help promote your movie (or software) much more if they feel a sense of some ownership. The final important point was that if your content isn’t embeddable, it’s like you are leaving on a roadtrip without any gas.

Finally I attended a session with Peter Molyneux, one of the most influential game designers of the past 30 years. I went both because I have worked with many game companies and because the topic intrigued me – How can videogames speak to the heart? I thought there are lessons that could be applied to public relations and marketing. To my surprise, I think I was the only non-filmmaker or game designer in the room.

The first thing Molyneux said tied back to the first panel on mobile apps and the theme that emerged today. Movies can never engage like games. Movies want flaccid robots. Think about that in terms of traditional public relations or marketing, and now how PR has evolved. By making consumers’ voices heard, knowing they have a stake in your brand, companies can create an emotional connection they could never create through shouting.

So the question is, how are we as public relations professionals working to create that connection every day?

Were there other panels I missed? Let me know what you think about SxSW.


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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 19 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national treasurer for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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