John: What did you learn from the Global PR Blog Week?
Tom: Well I am a firm believer that you never stop learning. It’s one of the best things about PR and indeed about social media. There’s always new insights and perspectives. I learned a lot from the first PR Blog Week – I didn’t agree with everything I read mind you – but you had over 35 authors sharing their views on every area of Public Relations and there was a huge opportunity to learn and broaden your horizons. There still is, the content is still online and there’s some great articles there, I highly recommend it. My biggest personal learning was that regardless of what area of the profession we are working in, PR people face many common issues. The other thing that becomes very apparent from reviewing the content is that change takes place a lot more slowly than we expect. If you look at many of the issues that were addressed, they are the same issues we face today. Sure some of the buzzwords and tools may have changed, but the challenges are very similar.
John: What did you learn about blogging (if you learned anything about blogging) from the blog week?
Tom: I think PR Blog Week confirmed my belief that there was a fantastic, informal global community of PR people willing to share their experience and their expertise with the broader world. There is a fantastic online PR community and it’s growing every day. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but it’s a fantastic resource for everyone working in this business. I would strongly recommend any PR practitioner to get online and get reading. You’ll probably learn a lot and at the very least the authors will provoke your to think about your career and your day to day job. As I mentioned before, you never stop learning, you never stop taking on new perspectives.
John: Did the conference give you any new insights into PR, if so, what were they?
Tom: The conference covered an amazing array of topics from PR ethics to Search Engine Optimization, Measurement and Crisis Communications; every article provided compelling content. I took insights from most of the contributors. In fact after you interviewed Trevor Cook last week, I went back to the archives and browsed many of the articles and there’s great stuff up there. The fantastic thing about the Internet is that there are opportunities to learn every single day. The challenge for all of us is putting time aside to capture that opportunity.
John: What were the lasting effects of the Global PR Blog Week?Tom: I think the Global PR Blog Week was a seminal moment, when the PR industry found its voice online. I started blogging in 2002, mostly by accident and as a way of capturing the little online PR content that was available. By the time the event took place in 2004 there was a strong PR community online. The PR Blog Week underlined that community and put in place a network that has since grown and grown. It’s staggering to see the number of PR blogs now online, and I am delighted to note that probably 90% of the contributors to that first week are still blogging and tweeting today. I would love to think that many people went and read the content and took away great insight. I think it’s still valuable content today, so if you haven’t already read it, go and dive in today!
John: How did the Global PR Blog week influence you and the industry?
Tom: This was the first time (in my memory) that a group of PR people came together to share their knowledge and expertise freely online – where anyone could come and read it. When you look at the breadth of the subject matter, there was something for everyone. I would love to think that people took the time to read the content and to be honest I think the vast majority of it is still relevant today. Many of the issues being discussed back in 2004 are the same issues we’re facing today.
John: Was the conference truly global? What was the influence of the conference in Ireland? Did your global perspective about PR change after the global conference?
Tom: Yes I think it was global. We had contributors from all across North America, Europe and Australia. No doubt if you held it today you could build an even broader geographic spread, but that’s pretty global for a grassroots online event. I’m not sure what the influence was in Ireland, we had two Irish-based contributors (myself and Bernie Goldbach), and I know many PR people in Ireland followed the event. I think when you live in a small country you have a pretty global outlook because you are influenced by larger countries. Personally speaking I have been working around Europe and the US since 1995 so I had a pretty solid international outlook! That said it’s up to people whether they took the time to read it or not. I think any PR practitioner or student would get value from it.
John: Reviewing the post(s) you wrote for the Global PR Blog week what has changed? What has not changed, since you wrote your post?Tom: Nothing has changed since I wrote my post. The PR profession is still struggling with the same issues then as now. Our profession operates in every country, language and economic and social sector in the world. The practice of PR differs widely – even inside the same country and sector. We are still struggling with balancing new and traditional tools and we still haven’t got a single, agreed form of measurement. As I’ve always said, as long of PR agencies view measurement as a “strategic differentiator” we’re in trouble. Last week I read the New York Times piece on Spinning the Web and it brought me right back to 2004. I’d love to know how many PR practitioners read that and thought that doesn’t resemble my day job in any way shape or form? That was my reaction. The variety of PR is one of its strengths but also one if its weaknesses. I don’t have the solution but I think social media is raising the issue of transparency and that’s probably a good thing. The more we read the perspectives of other practitioners, the more we can understand them and see the common ground. That’s why the ever growing number of PR bloggers is not only great – it’s important.
John: Give an update on what you've been doing in the last five years, and what you are doing now?
Tom: Back in 2004 I was working for a small software company called Cape Clear Software (now part of WorkDay). Then in the summer of 2005 I moved to Microsoft in Dublin where I ran the company’s PR and Corporate Social Responsibility programs in Ireland. Earlier this year I moved my family to the Pacific Northwest, to Redmond Washington where I’m now working in Microsoft’s Corporate Communications team looking after our global Citizenship and Community Affairs programs. All change, all good!
John: Thanks Tom! Great insights!