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This week I was lucky enough to attend my first Society for New Communications Research event at the NewCommForum in San Francisco and came away energized, impressed and exploding with new ideas. I go to quite a few of these type of events these days, and the quality and depth of thinking here was well beyond the norm.

My panel on blogger relations was first cab off the rank Monday morning as I presented on Converseon’s work with Graco as the thorn amongst the roses alongside the super-smart Susan Getgood, Julie Crabill from SHIFT and Laura Tomasetti from 360 PR. Susan led the panel and chose each of our case studies from those recently honored in the SNCR awards so there was some top notch knowledge sharing amongst the examples (I hope ;) ).

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the event:

Opening Key Note – Charles Best from DonorsChoose.org

Donors Choose have a brilliant model, this was the first I’d heard of their approach to micro-funding of educational efforts and I know I’ll be a supporter in future. Best presented on the success of their model and had a wealth of tips for marketers, as I shared with PR Newser:

- “Donors want a more meaningful connection. To become philanthropists, not just cheque writers” – likewise consumers will want a deeper connection with a brand, if there is the right underlying cause

- “A-List bloggers didn’t drive the most donations, smaller blogs that had a greater level of connection and engagement with their readers had better results’” – Forget an ‘A List’ top down approach to online communication, find the people who matter to you/your brand and build a meaningful relationship with them.

- “Individuals who made a real world effort for the charity (like growing a mustache for a month) and documented it online drove a great deal of donations“ – the best WOM marketing will connect the online and off-line worlds.

More significant though, is the amazing results from a partnership between DonorsChoose and Crate & Barrel. Check out this WSJ article for an in-depth analysis of the amazing (rigourously measured) results. This presentation touched on an area of passion for me in social media for social good, while also giving me even more hope that the best marketing approaches moving forward will revolve around mutual benefit for the brand and community.

Geno Church on Brand Ambassadors

Geno’s presentation on brand ambassadors was probably the best session I attended at the conference. I’ve been familiar with Brains on Fire’s excellent Fiskateers brand ambassador work for a while, and enjoyed hearing more of the thinking behind it and other great examples.

It was great to see some projects that produced truly impressive business results through an approach focused on relationship building with passionate supporters of brands. Even a (relatively) small number of engaged supporters can make a difference for a brand if the brand rewards, encourages and supports their dedication.

Shel Holtz on Crisis Communication in a Social Media World

My entrance to social media came about years ago after coming across Shel’s excellent textbook ‘PR on the Net‘, now I’m proud to call Shel a mate but this was the first time I got to see him officially present – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Shel’s energy and encyclopediac knowledge of relevant case studies shows why he’s such a highly regarded speaker. Shel’s littany of case studies of online crises were great proof points to me of why brands must, at the very least, listen to the online conversation and have the correct internal processes and infrastructure in place to be able to quickly respond.

In crisis after crisis Shel went through, brands won’t able to react quickly enough to influence the conversation. Listening is the first step, but there’s also a need to have the internal policies, processes and culture in place to be able to quickly jump into conversations – and that’s a lot easier said than done.

I was also happy to connect with Joe Thornley again, one of the wisest peeps in our space, and Clemson’s own Dr Mihaela V who was kind enough to give me a Clemson Tshirt that I’ll wear with pride next time I have a chat with her smart students.

Wherever you are I’d advise following the SNCR’s work and research, and if you get a chance to go to one of their events (the next one will be in Boston in November) be sure to do so!

This post is cross-posted at my personal blog Young PR.

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