The Generation Game: An interactive lecture from Justin McKeown

Justin McKeown, Regional Director at Grayling UK and former student of Leeds Metropolitan University, visited his former university on Monday and gave a fun and interactive lecture.

First we were shown a picture of Bruce Forsyth (Justin explained it would become clear why he was relevant soon enough) Justin began the lecture by asking the audience to arrange themselves into age order without talking to one another. Of course – the ‘not talking’ part did not exactly turn out as planned and there was slight confusion on everyone’s face. However, we managed to do it and after evaluation, managed to arrange ourselves into age order. (I was very near the end of the left hand side, being a 91 child) Then he invited someone who was born in the 80’s to pick someone from the 90’s to ‘volunteer themselves’.

He then showed the two volunteers a range of pictures which they had to remember, just like The Generation Game Conveyor belt. The pictures included logos for Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, YouTube, LinkedIn.. pictures of Typewriters, paparazzi, old-school photographs (basically, a mish mash of things people were trying to decipher the relevance of.) Justin encouraged a lot of audience participation – with the audience able to shout out things from the slides.

Anyway, it started to become clear as to the purpose of Justin’s lecture. By arranging our age and showing us pictures, he was trying to see what we did and didn’t know about PR today, and what we could recognise. He was trying to show the ever-changing world of PR.

With a number of stories to hand and examples; it became clear the message he was trying to push across, that in this fast-paced world, opportunities have never been greater for the PR profession (of course mainly through the use of social media). An issue Justin raised: What is the shelf-life of newspapers? The Times is losing millions each year because of social media. Nowadays, if you miss a press deadline it simply doesn’t matter – because you have the internet.

A great example is the Leslie Neilson death. He asked how people had found out about this death and everyone answered “Twitter, Facebook”. The news story hadn’t even been in the papers yet. If half the world know already, is it even news anymore? Social media has made it possible to know news as it happens, but the shelf-life of trends is probably no less than 2 hours. Within 2 hours of the news of Leslie Neilson’s death being broadcast across major internet platforms, it was gone again. With a flash of an eye, you can miss a huge news story. PR professionals now have the benefit of being able to get stuff into the news quickly, and before everyone else. This is why it is so important to keep your finger on the pulse at all times.

It is obvious how beneficial social media is to the PR profession and Justin highlighted these advantages well. Following my blog post below.. “Evaluate This” I was interested in the points that Justin was making about PR evaluation. “Evaluation is fundamentally changing” he said. Although we will always measure input, the digital world and social media is making it much easier to increase change indicators and our output to stimulate actions and change the way people think about a brand. A very interesting thought; social media is allowing us new tools to evaluate our campaigns and what people are saying about your clients and your campaigns.

A few excellent points Justin made about the online world are these:

  • Brands are not in control – This point is a tough one. In my opinion..we are more in control of monitoring how people are saying things about us, but we are not in control about what people are saying. We are also not in control of how and for how long our message is being received
  • When online, we should listen to the most relevant conversations – By strong use of market research we can listen to the most relevant conversations and move through all the noise of the internet to be able to understand our consumer more effectively.
  • Easy to monitor what people are saying, but we are not in control of the information on the web
  • Information flows in every direction, all day and all night – Information on the web flows 24/7 and as we are humans, and not robots, it is impossible to manage and control this information all day every day and all night every night. It doesn’t stop, but we need too. Therefore we again lose our element of control!
  • Influence networks are at the core – Just the ability to broadcast is not enough, we need specific knowledge. For example, if we are doing a campaign around cycling – who is the most influential person/thing to network and communicate our knowledge?
  • Increasingly business is a conversation –Probably my favourite point. Social media has allowed brands to realise that consumers are people and to build relationships with them and communicate effectively then real people need to speak to real people.A lot of brands have picked up on this with the use of Customer Service Twitter Feeds.

Thank you Justin for a great lecture!!

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