Talking Tech, Media & PR Heads

It’s next to impossible to keep track of all the tech, media, advertising and PR industry events that occur during any given month. On the horizon are CES, which continues to reign supreme for consumer tech and electronics buffs, while South By Southwest (SXSW) does the same for interactive, music and film aficionados. Then we have the “weeks:” Internet Week, Advertising Week and Social Media Week, each of which offers attendees a range of timely topics and speakers.

If you’re among the lucky chosen few, the World Economic Forum, Allen & Co’s media mover & shaker getaway in Sun Valley, the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival or even the annual TED Conferences would be the hot tickets.

In recent years, mainstream and niche media brands have leveraged their names to create pundit-pontificating conferences and award shows that add lucrative new revenue streams to their coffers (offsetting their depleted ad revenue).

A few that come to mind include: AllThings Digital Conferences, TechCrunch Disrupt and the Crunchies, Business Insider Ignition, Fortune Brainstorm Tech, Mashable’s Media Summit, and those from industry-leading trade publications like Variety, WWD, Ad Age, and MediaPost. Even the burgeoning digital outlets have gotten into the game. Among them: Digiday, GigaOM, StreetFight, AllFacebook, VentureBeat, Digiday Conference & Expo, and conference veteran O’Reilly Media.

In the public relations space, not a day passes without practitioners being wooed to attend any number of events or webinars or make an award submission. Followers of this blog will know that I recently presided over two sessions at PRSA’s annual International Conference in San Francisco. The first featured CEOs from Ketchum, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Golin Harris and Airfoil, while the second culled the wisdom from in-house PR pros from Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

Other content-driven PR industry events emanate from outlets like, PR News, Bulldog Reporter, Holmes Report, and, of course, PRWeek. PRWeek editor Steve Barrett invited me to attend this year’s event after I had missed last year’s. First, it was great to reconnect with so many friends and former colleagues including agency chiefs Rob Flaherty of Ketchum, Richard Edelman, B-M founder/chairman emeritus Harold Burson, F-H’s Dave Senay, and Ogilvy’s Christopher Graves.

I also had a chance to catch up with my former B-M and H&K colleague Chris Atkins who now leads PwC’s U.S. communications efforts, former BM’er Judi Mackey who does the same globally for Lazard, Julia Hood, EVP at Haymarket Media (PR Week’s parent), Arthur Page Society president Roger Bolton, Council of PR Firms’ executive director Kathy Cripps, my former New York Times client now at Mashable Stacy Martinet (a “40 Under 40” winner), crisis/reputation “doctor” Mike Paul, health care PR pro Lauren Letellier, Edelman New York wunderkind Russ Dubner, and former trusted proteges Susan Pagano, now a senior partner at Fleishman Hillard, and Caroline Starke, a vice president at APCO.

Bolton, Robinson & Lockhart (l. to r.) Photo: Himler w/ Canon PowerShot SX 20

The first session I attended revolved around PR ethics and featured former Facebook communications chief and Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart, Arthur Page Society’s Roger Bolton and my former client Janet Robinson who recently departed as CEO of The New York Times Company.  Fleishman CEO Dave Senay moderated.

Taking a page from CNN’s people meter during election night, PR Week retained the services of Michael Maslansky’s firm, which provided gizmos that allowed the audience to register in real time their approval of what was being said.
Interestingly, the rating indices were split into < ten years in the business and > ten years in the biz.

Also interesting, if not supremely ironic given the nature of this particular session, was that Mr. Maslansky’s firm was co-founded by none other than Frank Luntz, who, IMHO, is one of the least ethical, if not dupicitous communications professionals working in the business today. He is now on his own.

Some notable quotables I tweeted from the session on ethics:

Former New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson:

The media exists because of its commitment to the public’s right to know. 

The situation w/ Jayson Blair quite a bit different than News of the World 

There is more potential for the PR industry for building a branded conversation than ever before. 

Your jobs (in PR) have gotten much harder in recent years…from media changes, etc. 

Fleishman Hillard president/CEO Dave Senay on ethics:

We are all one tweet away from sudden death. 

Former Facebook communications chief and Clinton spokesperson Joe Lockhart:

Gov. Romney’s strategy to suddenly change his positions “almost worked.” 

[PR Pros] no longer need, in many cases, mainstream media. 

There is no chance in our lifetime that federal regulators will look at the PR industry. 

The biggest change in the market is the diminished power of the MSM and the rise of the partisan media. 

Arthur Page Society president Roger Bolton:

It’s important for the PR industry to adopt a set of values, i.e., who we are, what we stand for.

Joe Lockhart

ALso while at the PRWeek confab, I had a chance to grab some sound from a few of the presenters. Here’s an audio clip of what Joe Lockhart had to say about his time at Facebook and the state of the media today. Listen here (RT: 4:12)

I also chatted up Jolie Hunt, AOL’s new CMO and chief communications officer who honed her craft at the FT and then under IBM’s Jon Iwata. Jolie’s had two life changes in recent

AOL’s Jolie Hunt

months: she’s newly married and she’s new to AOL. I asked her about the challenges in breaking the (mis)perceptions about AOL (dial-up, anyone?) and redefining the company around the quality content it offers today (i.e., TechCrunch, HuffPost, Patch…). Listen here. (RT 3:11)

And then who can forget the show the Republicans put on at their National Convention this year? Think empty chair! I was able to grab some time with James Davis, director of PR for the Republican National Convention. Fascinating how he got his first break. Listen here. (RT: 5:55)

GOP Convention’s James Davis

Finally, at the very end of the evening, my pal Stacy Martinet facilitated a chat (and photo) with her boss, Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable. Stacy’s also newly married and I had a chance to also talk to her hubby Drake Martinet, formerly of AllThings D who now toils at Lerer Ventures‘ (and BedRocket‘s) hot new video news-driven portfolio company NowThis News, which is in partnership with BuzzFeed.

Pete & Pete (Photo: Stacy Martinet w/ Himler’s iPhone 5)

I talked with Pete Cashmore about Mashable’s new hyper-socialized site, launched into beta that very evening. He also talked about the virtues (to brand marketers) of the site’s revenue-generating model he calls “native advertising,” which sounds a lot like the paid-owned “hybrid” mashup I posted on last week.

While Pete says this approach, which uses editorial staffers to create original (paid) content, has been around at Mashable “for four years,” Digiday’s Jack Marshall posted a piece in which he asked execs from Tumblr, BuzzFeed, The Economist and elsewhere for a fresh take on the term. Here’s our conversation. (RT: 5:58)

All in all, I’d say PRWeek put on a rather good show this year.