I went to the CIPR northern conference last week. I never expect these events to knock me for six but as PR conferences go, it was pretty good. Highlights included the talk by Katie Perrior from inHouse PR about the campaign they ran to get Boris elected for mayor. A fascinating talk which demonstrated the power of PR to change opinion and influence.
Another popular one was Neville Hobson's talk - titled Futurology, he gave an overview of the need for PRs to understand the online arena - particularly liked hist comment that PR should stand for 'Personal Relationships'. However during questions, a rather bewildered looking press officer said, "I don't understand any of this techy stuff so how do I start?" I think this is a really common feeling so, for what it's worth, here's my take on how to get 'started' in understanding social media.
1. Set up google alerts for terms of interest - even generic ones like 'online PR' or 'social media' can bring you back some interesting results.
2. Get FeedDemon or similar RSS feed and start subscribing to blogs. If you're not sure which blogs to read or how to find them, your google alerts will give you a starting point and once you've found a blog that interests you, have a look at their blog roll and before long you'll be subscribing to a long list.
3. Join Twitter. Honestly you have to. The common sequence of events with a new Twitter user is a) they join b) they announce that they just don't "get it" c) never use it again. The best way to get started with Twitter is to follow some of the bloggers that you read, look at who they're following and off you go. Like any social networking tool, the more you use it, the more you get out of it.
4. Start a blog - it gives you an idea of how blogs work, etiquette etc which is vital if you're a PR person hoping to target influential bloggers.
That's it. No mystery, no smoke and mirrors. You just have to dive in.