Digital DFW: A Recap

Today was a milestone for me. It marked the first time in about a decade that I attended a conference that was NOT associated with education. I loved my years as an educator, but it seemed that half of the conferences I attended were usually run by an elementary school teacher who insisted on treating us as if we were all eight years old. Not that I have anything against elementary teachers, bless their hearts. It is just that in education in general, teachers are generally treated like children by anyone who outranks them. This hardly helps with our image as professionals. But I digress… This conference, organized by the PRSA, was a welcome change of pace for me. It was chock-full of amazing and inspiring people in the public relations industry and I was thrilled just to be in the same room as some of them.
The morning opened up with someone I have been shamelessly cyber-stalking for about a month now. After seeing three articles in a single day on her, I took it as a sign from the Twitter gods that I was supposed to follow her – and I did. Shama Kabani is the 26-year-old CEO of her own company, The Marketing Zen Group and the author of the wildly successful book The Zen of Social Media Marketing.
There are many exciting trends happening right now in the world of public relations, marketing and social media and we need to be on our toes. Some of these trends are exciting, like the rise in drag and drop apps. Some of these are interesting in a psychoanalysis sort of way, like the way we use social media as a form of self-actualization. Some trends are a little scary, however, like the way our online identities are becoming so fully integrated that soon we will not truly ever be able to go “offline.”

I am morbidly curious, though, about the possibility of having a QR code on my tombstone. My only concern is whether that code will look like ancient hieroglyphics to future generations. Maybe I should slow down a bit and just worry about what is happening in the next five years first.
After that, I went to my first breakout session on “Flying Solo.” The discussion was for those of us who have ever considered working for ourselves. In 2010, I formed my own “company” called AMF Communications. You have probably never heard of it and for good reason. I haven’t had any real, money paying clients yet.
Margaret Ritsch, owner of Perception, said one of the hardest things for those forging ahead on their own is to decide what their rate is and to ask for what they are worth. Recently someone asked if I would do a job for $50 an hour, and I agreed but I felt horribly guilty about it. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the average hourly rate is roughly $100-250 per hour with the possibility of a retainer fee, depending on the client and the services. I didn’t know I was such a bargain!
It seems to be a common practice for freelancers to form a sole proprietorship until they figure out if they want to make this into something real or not. I was glad to see that I was not flying solo with that idea. I am still not sure what I want to do with AMF Communications, but I do know that I am going to take it slow and do my research while I continue on this path through graduate school.
After that, I attended the career expo with most of the other UNT students who were present. We had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Edelman, Burson-Marsteller, Weber Shandwick, Moroch and Idea Grove. It was Alex from the MWW Group, though, that really made me stop and reconsider the possibility of agency work. He seemed to think that with my varied background in sports, education, newspapers, magazines, non-profit and technology that I might really enjoy working with a variety of clients.   
Keynote speaker Kevin Sullivan highlighted lunch at the Las Colinas Country Club. Sullivan’s career has taken him from the Department of Education, the Dallas Mavericks, NBC Universal in New York, and finally to the White House where he served as the Director of Communications under President George W. Bush. 
He was a charming speaker who had some real gems to offer, most importantly the importance of becoming a trusted advisor to our clients. He said that we must remember that “It’s not about you… you have to earn it by adding value… be prepared… be credible… be honest.” These are lessons that transcend beyond public relations and into our everyday lives. Whether you are in the industry or not, “Take a look around, see where you can add value and be bold.”
I wrapped up the day by attending the final breakout session, “Brand New You.” This session was dedicated to understanding the effects of digital technology, from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, and how to break through the noise to brand our companies and ourselves. One thing we all agreed on was that the future of Google+ and its role in social media remains to be seen.
The best quote came from Jacqueline Lambiase, associate professor of journalism at TCU.  She said that a brand is a way of life. It is our reputation. It is our position in the industry. It is others’ perception of us. This is not just about our company brand; it is about our personal brand. “There is no such thing as a personal Facebook or Twitter,” she said. We hear this every day but too few out there seem to be taking the message to heart.
Overall, it was an exciting and informative day filled with many of the exciting movers and shakers that reside right here in the fourth largest media market that we call home – Dallas, Texas. This was my first event with the PRSA and it certainly will not be my last. 
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