Australian PR blogger, Trevor Cook, played a significant part in organizing the Global PR Blog Week conference in 2004. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the conference, his role in organizing the event and what he has been doing since ’04.
John: What was the significance of the Global PR Blog Week for you?
Trevor: It was fun and it helped demonstrate how people could come together online and create a body of mostly good quality material on line. Most of all I think it helped to counter some of the "PR is dead" stuff that was popular around that time, which originates from a false (IMO) view that PR is only about spin when PR done well is mostly about good communications. People (eg Naked Conversations) sometimes like to think that if only PR got out of the way then communications in our society would automatically improve. That's a bit like Reagan's "government is the problem not the solution" statement. It's simplistic and wrong-headed. The real challenge is to make PR better, and social media will help, is helping, to do that.
John: As one of the organizers of the conference what did it take to organize the conference, what do you recall about the event from your perspective?
Trevor: I basically came up with the initial concept and contacted a bunch of people to participate. This was easy because there was only about two dozen PR bloggers in the world at that stage (now there seem to be countless thousands), and most responded to my email within hours and were keen to participate. Most of the real hard work was done by Constantin Basturea who is now at Converseon in NYC. He did all the website stuff, which I can't do. Constantin deserves most of the credit for making it happen. Today, with twitter and facebook etc PR blogweek would have been far more interactive - the technical challenges were greater back then. Constantin's work meant we were able to do the whole thing without cost to the user - a bit like the Bloggercon idea - and that made it far more accessible.
John: What were the lasting effects of the Global PR Blog Week?
Trevor: The NewPR wiki that Constantin set up after PR blogweek partly as a way of storing the material was a very valuable resource for a lot of people. Anecdotally, I think a lot of people were encouraged to start blogging or to get more committed by the examples they saw in PR blogweek
John: How did the Global PR Blog week influence you and the industry?
Trevor: I think it helped to point to, or confirm, that PR could embrace social media and get real benefits from it. But it was a conference, and there have been many others. It was of its time when PR blogging was embryonic to say the least. I made contact with some great people like Constantin, Steve Rubel, Neville Hobson, and more and that was great fun and taught me a lot about PR in other parts of the world.
John: Reviewing the post(s) you wrote for the Global PR Blog week what has changed? What has not changed, since you wrote the post?
Trevor: Social media has grown rapidly much as we anticipated back then, but the rise of twitter, youtube and facebook have all been a surprise to me. Many of these services are far more accessible to users than blogs. Blogging tends to be a bit high end. Blogs that survive and do well over a period of years need to produce great content consistently and regularly and that's hard work. I find it difficult to blog and do everything else I want to do in life, as do many others - social media provides an easier way to stay in contact.The media has adopted social media to a large extent and is promoting it heavily. Can that save big media - well some of it, but there is still going to be an almighty rationalisation especially in regard to newspapers. Nevertheless, I find the continuing "blogging versus journalism " debate so tedious. Bloggers are not journalists, and only a few want to be. Just as boring is the "social media can do everything" line that passionate advocates sometimes push. No-one believes it in the real world. Your client is interested in how social media fits in and adds value to the existing comms strategy. Few clients listen to the 'social media can revolutionise everything' hokey. I was more naive back then, a few years of trying to sell the social media idea to clients has toughened me up on this point. I stopped doing media interviews a while ago because the journalists always wanted you to either say something alarmist about social media (identity theft etc) or they wanted a cookie cutter evangelist to say something simplistic and naive.
In my view, we'll be there when we lose the media / PR construct and just communicate. Media would add value principally by selecting and packaging great stuff for a mass audience. PR would be the people in your organisation that facilitate but don't actually do the communicating. The roles of journalist and blogger would be in the background, and the real business of communicating would be in the foreground. We're still a long way off.
John: Give an update on what you've been doing in the last five years, and what you are doing now?
Trevor: In the last couple of years I've changed direction a bit and while I still do some PR work, I'm back at university researching a Phd on Australian politics and teaching, most recently in a course on Australian Foreign and Defence Policy. I still blog a little bit and I've written a lot of articles for Australian online media sites. I'm on twitter and I enjoy Facebook because a lot of my real world family and friends use it.
John: Thanks Trevor for coming up with the original ideas, helping to organize the conference and a great interview.
(Note: I kept Trevor's original spellings from his answers to my questions. Trevor's from Australia, and Australian-English like British-English has a few different spellings compared to American-English)