5 SXSWi Sessions PR Pros Shouldn’t Miss

Image provided by SXSW.com, photo by: Brittany Ryan

Image provided by SXSW.com, photo by: Brittany Ryan.
It’s T-minus one month and six days until Austin’s most anticipated conference of the year. South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) begins Friday, March 9 and the whole city is preparing. Hotels have tripled their rates and are mostly booked, the city is organizing the transportation routes and local Austinites are planning their schedules and thanking their lucky stars they live close by.

I’m excited Ketner Group is sending a couple of us to SXSWi—I can’t wait to absorb all of the marketing, new media and technology ideas and advice everyone has to share. The session line up looks really interesting, and the only thing that disappoints me is that I can’t be in more than one place at the same time. You should see my schedule on the SXSWi. The site lets you star the sessions you find interesting and adds them to your “My SXSW Schedule” tab in your account. There are places where I have five sessions at the same time—that’s just not possible.

This got me thinking, “I wish someone would read through all several hundred sessions and let me know which ones are a MUST-SEE as a PR professional.” Apparently, bottles aren’t big enough to hold genies and leprechauns are really hard to catch. So I read through every single session description and starred my favorites. If you’re a PR pro, I would recommend starring the following sessions for yourself:

“Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas”
Presenter: David Meerman Scott (Best-selling author!)
The rules have changed. The traditional PR model—sticking closely to a preset script and campaign timeline—no longer works the way it used to. Public discourse now moves so fast and so dynamically that all it takes is a single afternoon to blast the wheels off someone’s laboriously crafted narrative. Enter newsjacking: the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business. It creates a level playing field—literally anyone can newsjack—but, that new level favors players who are observant, quick to react, and skilled at communicating. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to throw an opponent or simply draft off the news momentum to further your own ends. Marketing and PR expert and bestselling author David Meerman Scott prepares you to launch your business ahead of the competition and attract the attention of highly-engaged audiences by taking advantage of breaking news

“We Made This, and it’s Not an Ad”
Presenter: Robbie Whiting, Director of Creative Tech & Production, Duncan/Channon
What if agencies and marketers created products and services, not just ads? And what if they made these things for themselves, not just for clients? They do. But tackling things like product design, creating new businesses or building complex real-world experiences requires a creative, technical, managerial and entrepreneurial spirit more associated with Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue. It demands new roles, agile approaches, external partnerships, technologies, investments and compensation models that can drive even the most hardened finance director crazy. And in some cases, it may even require a complete reboot from the ground up. The ability to make something that isn’t an “ad” is no longer optional in modern advertising. But it’s certainly not easy, either. So what can we learn from the makers, technologists and agencies already playing in this space? Turns out, a whole heckuva lot.

“Get Lit: Why Story Matters”
Presenter: Jill Meyers, Editor, American Short Fiction
You built a product. It’s amazing, brilliant, even earth-shattering. You know it, your team knows it, your mom knows it. So why doesn’t anyone else seem to get it? The answer may be that you haven’t told them the right story. As it turns out, good writing is hard to come by, and people who are good at making things aren’t necessarily the best at telling their story. But don’t worry: you can learn! In the world of fiction, we’ve been thinking about story–and how to make it powerful, visceral, and beautiful–for a long time. This panel will bring the practices and structure of fiction to help you transform your idea, product, or service from the mundane to the sublime.

“More Smart, Less Stupid: PR for Better Business”
Bob Pearson, WCG
Gary Stockman, Porter Novelli
Kathy Cripps, Honeywell Aerospace
Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

Panelists use “ripped-from-the-headlines” business cases to spur debate on the essential truths of corporate reputation and brand management. This session is sponsored by the Council of PR Firms.

“Funny People Can Make You Buy Dumb Things”
Andy Currie, Executive Creative Director, Grey Advertsiing
Jim Beiderman, Executive Producer, JimCo (From the Onion News!)
Tony Mennuto, Creative Director, RadioFace
(Because, honestly, this just looks too funny to pass up!) Find out why funny “works” with consumers from a panel of experts and professional comedy people including: Jim Beiderman, exec producer of The Onion News Network, The Whitest Kids U Know, and Michael and Michael Have Issues; Andy Currie, advertising creative director and writer of the award-winning Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man In The World” campaign; Tony Mennuto, former TV comedy writer and award-winning creative director of RadioFace – a marketing and branding company specializing in funny content; PLUS, a recognizable guest from the comedy world. Our panel will show examples, and discuss the funniest, most effective ways of reaching people across all marketing platforms including: TV, radio, digital, social, live performances, and stranger mediums. A fake ad campaign (for a ridiculous product) will be presented to the crowd to illustrate the power and possibilities of a far-reaching, humor-based ad campaign.

These are the five sessions that I will definitely not miss. But don’t stop here! There are so many other great sessions to see, and if you have other suggestions, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Fellow PR pros should also make a note to attend Marketo’s Marketer’s Meetup, Monday, March 12 at 5 p.m. to mingle with social media, digital, marketing and PR pros at SXSWi.