The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) just announced the launch of its inaugural webinar, PR and Social Media. Using two (Canadian) case studies that “leverage blogging, wikis, YouTube, Flickr, del.icio.us and various online communities,” the session’s focus will be on the tactical side of social media, rather than theoretical concepts.
Approached several weeks ago by Vancouver-based PR consultant, Carla Shore, APR (a member of the national professional development committee), I knew that the webinar was in the works. Karen Dalton, APR, executive director of CPRS, had suggested Carla contact me for information about a February keynote session I webcast from our annual controllers’ congress (which featured one of Canada’s prominent economists, Dr. Sherry Cooper).
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One reason I’ve championed webcasting our economic update is to promote a distance-learning option for our widely dispersed membership and various publics. I publicized its availability to my own trade associations, and both CPRS and AIMS Canada happily promoted the (free) webcast as a value-add to members. Karen indicated that CPRS was exploring this realm, meaning our webcast could provide a test case re: interest. (A healthy, double-digit number of CPRS members have registered to listen to date; the archived version remains available until May 15th.)
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Carla and I quickly determined that the “webcast” platform wasn’t the optimum one for CPRS, but that affordable and accessible distance-learning definitely was an objective—the CPRS membership is also dispersed across an enormous geographical area and its more remote members do not have many opportunities to attend in-person chapter or national PD events.
From the technical side of delivery, our conversation moved to Carla and her committee’s goal for its first webinar. “We want to offer a session that discusses whether social media means rethinking what we know as ‘public relations,’ or whether it simply added to what we did in ‘old school’ PR,” Carla told me. “Ten years ago there was a big debate within PR circles about intranets—were they a PR thing or an HR thing, and if they were PR, should we own it and mange it ourselves? I believe the same debate applies to social media today. Is it a marketing/branding tool or does it belong to PR? Should we try to own it…or disown it? How does social media change what we do currently in PR?”
Carla asked me if any presenters came to mind. Because the webinar is offered under the auspices of CPRS, we agreed that it should be directly targeted at the public relations practitioner. The presenter(s) should be Canadian and, ideally, client-side case studies would be used to demonstrate measurable, successful applications of social media.
It didn’t take me long to say, “Eli Singer would be an ideal presenter.” Having worked with Eli (and other staff from Cundari Group) last year on a successful, interactive recruitment website for our association, I knew, first-hand, his “online vision” and implementation prowess. What impressed me in collaborating with Eli (besides the fact that he is so engaging and charming) was his dedication to learning the ins and outs of our organization, how he helped us to target the key publics we wanted to influence and how he didn’t “impose” any technology or processes on us. Our final platform is one that is manageable from a staff-maintenance perspective, we can track and measure its success, and it has become a valuable resource for targeted groups, such as potential students, government, non-profit agencies, the media and other interested publics.
That phone conversation ended my involvement in the webinar, until I asked Carla last night about her aspirations for its outcomes: “I hope Eli’s presentation will clarify the points we discussed [about the role of the PR practitioner and social media], and that he’ll show us that communications is about understanding how to tell good stories, so that the messages meet the right audiences, no matter what method you use to communicate. I also expect Eli will help many of us to see how to incorporate best practices into using social media into the way we practise PR.”
Note: Eli was already confirmed as the webinar’s presenter prior to two announcements hitting the media: he is a finalist in the Educator of the Year category for the 2007 Canadian New Media Awards (primarily for his brainchild, CaseCamp, a volunteer “unconference” endeavour), as well as his promotion to managing director of social POV, the new social-media practice area of Cundari Group.
Will registrants in this CPRS webinar reach the moon? Realistically, “attendance” is more likely to serve as a launching pad for discussions and exploration within organizations about the feasibility of implementation, administration and “ownership” of the social media process, including defining a role for PR practitioners. But, at a minimum, it provides an extremely cost-effective opportunity for many public relators to hear words of counsel and practical experience from one of Canada’s skyrocketing stars in this particular space.
Update (04/30/07): CPRS has provided some clarification about delivery of the session (after an inquiry of interest was received from a PR student in Europe). This will not be a “teleconference” session. Participation is activated through the web, meaning no telephone calls or additional costs. Following registration, a link will be provided to log on to the web. During the webinar, participants will view a PowerPoint on their screens and listen to Eli Singer through computer speakers.
Comments on the goals and aspirations of this webinar are welcomed, as well as shared stories about the introduction of distance-education and/or PR and social media initiatives by other associations and organizations.
Inquiries about registration should be directed to CPRS.
Update (05/8/07): Peer endorsements for the webinar
Take the “Social Media PR” webinar (Tod Maffin, Vancouver-based CBC journalist, frequent speaker, blogger and podcaster)
Case Studies, Social Media, Eli Singer, CPRS and you! (Kate Trgovac, Vancouver-based Internet, marketing and social media trailblazer; workshop leader at the upcoming mesh07 conference: Building a Community)
Update (05/14/07): Registration for this inaugural webinar has been exceedingly strong (by CPRS members/non-members alike, and even some interest from “across the pond”)–at the time of this update, numbers were 20 per cent ABOVE the national PD committee’s stretch goal. Congratulations to Carla Shore and the PD committee, CPRS administration and everyone else involved. (My organization is registered and we’re very much looking forward to the session. Just received the “prep” items/links Eli Singer recommends we view in advance….)
Related links and resources:
– CPRS Professional Development Events
– Social POV, Cundari Group
– 2007 Canadian New Media Awards Finalist: Educator of the Year
– Cundari debuts social media practice (Media in Canada)
– Canada’s Social Space Gets a New POV (One Degree)
– Build a Biz Blog (Canadian Business Magazine)
– Ones to Watch (Marketing Magazine)