Digital Roundtable: Staying on top of the conversation

Keith O'Brien and Alexandra Bruell were in Boston to discuss digital PR.

This year, PRWeek will visit eight cities where an industry close to that respective region will be discussed. For each event, leading PR pros from a variety of firms, companies, and other organizations will gather in a roundtable discussion about the issues affecting them and their peers. Keith O'Brien and Alexandra Bruell were in Boston to discuss digital PR. Click here for part one of the podcast.


Views from the C-Suite

Keith O'Brien (PRWeek):
What is the state of digital? Does the C-suite pay more attention to it on the budget side? What do clients say?

Julie Atherton (Hill & Knowlton): We're actually seeing more traction with CMOs in terms of how they take leadership or ownership of this function because a lot of times when you're talking to corporate communication functions there they don't have that much budget or they don't really understand - some of them do - but we're seeing a lot of CMOs really starting to think about this. When they dip their toe in the water with advertising agencies it just hasn't really worked and so they're starting to look at social media with their public relations company, so we're getting a lot of meetings with CMOs.

Bonin Bough (Weber Shandwick): I read an article that said 7% [of marketing people] said that social media belonged in the PR function so my big fear is that we might lose this land grab that's out there as an opportunity for us. The good thing is that display advertising is doing so badly, so advertising doesn't really have a shot right now. We just have to be more visible in the marketing function. And I've seen that the dollars to support digital are not really in the PR track yet.

Paula Drum (H&R Block): In my world in the digital division I'm part of a larger brand, so even though we're very active in the space, we're doing it on behalf of the brand. I have the communication function underneath me for digital so it's a very integrated approach, but we've seen success over the last two years … and now's it's become a land-grab. Who's going to own this? Does the brand marketing team own this? Does the corporate communications team own this? Does the team that has the expertise own this?

Paul Walker (GCI Group): I'm sort of fortunate to work with Dell. They just started their new group called Communities and Conversations. It's a mix of people out of customer service, corporate communications, marketing…Dell.com people, people who have some interest in social media capabilities, and now [this group] touch[es] anything in the company that's social media-oriented.

Erin Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): There's another opportunity beyond the CEO or CMO or the C-suite, which is educating the corporate communication clients. Then they become champions within their organizations. What's happening is they then are kind of celebrated and that elevates the entire PR function within the organization. It gives them more visibility, which is of course better for their digital programming, so we're really taking that approach and having some luck with it.

Kevin Kempskie (EMC Corporation): PR is definitely a good place to start to get this thing inside corporations. The C-suite is not ignoring us. We were approached by our CEO and our COO probably last November. We had a meeting with PR, and our VP of communications said, “So this Facebook stuff and social media stuff, we're doing something about that right?” So they are paying attention.

David Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): But at the same time, I think it's interesting when people say we need to be on Facebook because they wrote a story about it in the Wall Street Journal. That's our challenge. We go to them and say, “Well what is it you hope to achieve by being on Facebook? What is your business challenge and is Facebook the right tool to solve that challenge?” We find that there seems to be a hesitancy to get involved because you're ceding control of your message. [They say,] “Well we put this in social media and people are going to say bad things about us on our Web site.” I've got a secret, they're already doing this. If you're not publishing anything and you're not engaged in the space, you're ceding total control of what others publish about you, and then you're at the [mercy] of what they think about you. I was at a conference recently and they used the phrase, “it's all about ROI,” and then the speaker paused and said, “You all know what ROI means, right?” So we all rolled our eyes. He [says], yeah, “risk of inaction.” What is the risk of inaction? [It's by] not participating in the space that you're ceding control. Someone else will take the key word; someone else will launch the microsite; someone else will steal your message for you entirely. So it's always about determining not just the investment, but the risk of inaction.

Controlling the message

Ted Weismann (Lois Paul & Partners): The control of message thing. My response whenever I hear that is you're not losing control of your message, if anything you have more opportunity to get your message out. It's always been about clear and concise communications for companies. That's even more of a requirement now because if you're not clear and concise about getting messages out in different communities, you're not going to be welcome and it's not going to work for you.

Walker (GCI): I hear a bunch of people saying that is the number one toughest lesson a company has to learn…is that customers are controlling the conversation. It's already going on out there. The trick is can you join it more than try to initiate it all the time because a lot of companies just want to initiate it.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): The toughest companies have not had conversations in almost their entire lives. You just need to push something out there, and even asking them to hear something bad and asking them to respond it's like “Oh my God.” I think that a lot of these guys just really aren't comfortable with the technology right now. I'm just thinking about the clients that we talk to. There are some in the consumer marketing space that are a little more comfortable, but a lot of folks aren't comfortable with having authentic conversations, even internally.

Vijay Raghavan (Qorvis Communications): Creating independent brand ambassadors is really one of the most valuable tools people can use in the digital landscape, and authenticity - that word keeps coming up in  conversational marketing - is exactly where media is going. I don't think we've found exactly where it's all headed yet. And going from there how do you effectively get the return on investment and risk of inaction? The metric is extremely hard to measure in a way, and I think that as we find those things out over the next five years time we should understand a lot more about the return on investment of investing in social media.

Drum (H&R Block): I think one of the challenges is that when people say ROI, you're looking at a very short finite period of time, and these conversations of engaging with people, creating brand ambassadors or evangelists for your brand, is not something that can be measured in a very short period of time. It might take years to understand the power of it. That's another challenge.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): How do we give them a measure so they at least have something to hold onto? Because at the end of the day… I'm looking at two-, three-, five-year planning. I need a metric to actually know that I'm moving the needle. I think that's a challenge and something we actually need to figure out, but I also think the brand ambassador thing is interesting. Influencers are people with big networks, but this is so not about people with big networks. It's about people who are passionate about the brand and want to tell your brand to the world.

Weisman (Lois Paul & Partners): There's something I repeat a lot: It's not about the A-list; it's about your A-list. And for every company it's different. And that A-list might be somebody now that's only talking to five other people who give them some attention. If they have something to say, help them grow to be that brand ambassador and do that one at a time.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Do you find that decision makers are reluctant to embrace social media until it's written about in more mainstream media, like the Journal?

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): I chatted with [Pam Edstrom, one of the partners at Waggener Edstrom] a couple of weeks ago and she said, “The challenge with multimedia digital is that there's no plop-factor. By that what she means is when you walk into a boardroom, you can plop the Wall Street Journal down on the desk and it has that gravitas weight. It's a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal, but when do you see that in the Web world? Is it a screen shot that you frame on the wall? We have these big wins that we've gotten, but when a blogger writes about something that you've actually sent them, do you frame that or do you send that? So it doesn't have that same kind of weight, but in reality it's actually stronger because no one remembers the front page of that Wall Street Journal a year ago but when you go to search for it online it's obviously resonated in perpetuity and people can find it.

Atherton (H&K): I think it's also about making sure internally, when you're dealing with your clients, that digital is integrated across all of the platforms. What we try to do is make sure our counselors and our advisors actually have some knowledge of digital and know what the different applications are. It might be the Wall Street Journal, but it might also be something that surrounds that or whatever the business objective is. We try to make it as integrated as possible. Even if they don't ask for it, we're always at the table so our existing clients get educated about how we view it as something that's part of what we do rather than a sacred little thing that gets stuck on the end. If you get stuck on the end your value isn't there.

Walker (GCI): The thing about your question is that a risk-averse executive or manager in any functional area is not going to be a good client for social media. In most of the organizations that I'm dealing with, they're going to need a champion. Sometimes that person is from corporate communications or PR, sometimes from marketing, but it's a champion who wants to break new ground; try new things; is not fearful about losing their job; they have stroke in the organization. That's where I see companies really getting traction in social media, when they have that champion.

Drum (H&R Block): I want to go back to David's plop factor. From someone on the inside, for the best champion you do have to have some plop-factor, but you have to build it yourself. So it's not pre-installed like, “Here's my Journal,” but “Guess what, Robert Scoble is talking about our brand,” and now you have to educate people on who Robert Scoble is. Well this is really big, and after you do that education, people begin to understand, ok well we're doing some things out there but if you don't take it upon yourself to build your own plop factor, then you're not going to be able to ensure the value of this.

Walker (GCI): Part of the plop factor is actually being exposed to the analytics. So many companies, the Web guys, held those analytics close. They didn't really want everyone else to know what was making a difference. In some cases, it was too hard to explain it to everyone else, but it's a real plop factor when your client is exposed to the analytics and they see something happening online that causes a big rush of traffic to the site, or they see that program building momentum or they see themselves achieving some goals that they set.

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): The other thing on the plop factor is that digital extends the traditional media so significantly. So when we just unveiled the $5 currency for the treasury department we did everything online and they got so many stories off-line that they could never have gotten without the whole online digital. I think as we educate clients about that, they're more open to experiment online.

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): So that's it right there. There's no bigger pet-peeve for me, and I'm a digital guy, but when I hear someone say something to the effect of “mainstream media is dead,” that just makes my skin crawl because the whole point is, just think about how you live your daily lives. We all looked through a newspaper this morning. I watched the beginning of the Today show. I do get e-news alerts on my smart phone, but I listen to the radio. So we all get information in different ways. The Internet is just augmenting it. There are still wire services, newspapers. People are still getting information. That's how talk radio gets their ideas for what they cover everyday.

Atherton (H&K): I think also what's interesting is how it's made us more strategic in terms of research because you've got to really look at the demographics and psychographics of who you want to reach. You can't just say, “Here's the Wall Street Journal.” You really have to look at “Who do I want to reach and what's the plan of engagement for that particular small group and how do I spread it bottom up and top down?” So the levels of complexity are huge and that again causes problems because how do you explain that to clients?

Raghavan (Qorvis): I also think that creating that plop factor illustrates the challenges perfectly of competing among silos within marketing versus communications because the Wall Street Journal is obviously great for the VP of corporate communications. When you go to the CMOs they say, “That's fine, but what's it doing for product sales?” Whereas here, creating that plop factor is really using social media and that sort of thing to create the plop factor within marketing. The importance of integration between those two departments is just crucial. Otherwise, nobody really sees the point of social media.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): If you ask, is it difficult to sell this stuff right now? Of course it's difficult to sell this stuff right now. We sit across from sister agencies all the time with clients, and every single agency is trying to put out social media, so here we are fighting for the same piece of business. The Wall Street Journal published an article which said “social media not delivering the returns that advertisers thought it would.” That's because they're taking banner ads out on Facebook. What we're doing is saying you know what, instead of using the client as the person who's going to pull this together, let's call the ad agency directly and say “Hey you guys are going to drop $2 million on MySpace, so let us help build a community there and work together.” So I think it's also on us to really start working with the agencies now because at the end of the day the [lion's] share of the dollar sits in the media buying function.

Drum (H&R Block): The dirty secret about social media is that it doesn't cost as much as traditional media, but it requires a heck of a lot more effort in terms of man hours, and that's what people don't realize. You're going to pay for it maybe not as much as buying traditional media but you do have to put resources behind it.

Weismann (Lois Paul & Partners): That's what makes it really hard to get executives involved and people at the higher level of the companies involved because it's…how do you figure out who to follow on Twitter? Getting over that kind of barrier is important. That's where you start with one tool, make it work, show the difference, have a champion to really drive it, and make a believer out of people.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Does anyone here think that the increases in the social media space make PR professionals' jobs harder?

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): The access to information, the real-time focus group, the ability to find out what people are thinking instantly…there's a lot that makes it easier.

Kempskie (EMC): There might be something too that social media gives the PR function the measurement legitimacy that it's lacked for so long. Now with the social media aspect of this, there are measurements you can get whether it be social media press releases or measuring the hits on a certain video. If that's generated by PR and if you can find a correlation between what that product launch used and different social media tools to launch and achieve the results you got, we can start to look at the analytics and titles back to orders and click-thru rates and things like that on Web sites. I think it could really help boost PR's legitimacy as really strategic communications.

Atherton (H&K): Well I think social media's a game changer, and everyone is looking at well what's the next big thing, so it's going to take a long time, but I do think gives us the opportunity to measure far more accurately, and that eventually we'll be able to look at those points of engagement, whether it be video. I mean you can look at metrics now, they're just not sanctioned.

Raghavan (Qorvis): I think there's a lot more information to digest now. Hopefully there's a main publication you go to. If you can digest the information efficiently, if you digest it inefficiently, not only does it make your job harder, but it makes it impossible. So I think that's exactly what everyone is trying to figure out how to digest that information effectively and how to push the information you're trying to get out there effectively as well.

Healthcare connection

Atherton (H&K): We're seeing that now more and more with pharma and healthcare because they want to spend their money and they want to move online and they see that it's not just about banner ads. They see it's about doing something of value, and that helps their reputation and supports their brand. It's about sponsoring a community and giving information, and there's a huge opportunity there.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): I think it's interesting that you bring up healthcare because I was just at DTC. For the last 10 years, I've heard the same thing since there were chat rooms. I'm just so frustrated. It's like when are they going to figure out how to get around or deal with or realize the real value of the space? Because no big pharma has actually done social media execution yet. 

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): I think it's also coming upon the FDA to provide some guidance.

Walker (GCI): I think they might be more active than you think, but they might be a different flavor. For example, would you call going to a blog to correct this information social media? Well, it's part of it. The fastest growing part of our business is healthcare, and based on the things that have happened in the last 12 months, it's going to get heavily regulated. What they're doing right now is getting their act together.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): I think one of the top things is that pharma has a task force, everybody has a task force, and looking at social media, the thing is on the regulatory legal side, the lawyers change every 14 months, so there's not one legal voice that's like, “Here's what we're going to set.”

Walker (GCI): Here's where you have to champion with the lawyers because lawyers with pharmaceutical companies will say no to everything.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Those of you who work with healthcare, do you feel like [clients] internally starting to think about it, hoping that the FDA's going to come in and say this is what we're going to allow, this is what we hope it will be?

Walker (GCI): They're just taking the FDA's position on advertising and marketing and they're extending it to social media and creating some boundaries they can operate.

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): I think they're very happy to participate. Because you don't have a voice, you're not part of the influence if you're not part of the conversation and that's the position they put themselves in.

Walker (GCI): Have you seen the numbers of people online [looking for healthcare info]?

Drum (H&R Block): And they're taking action based on what they find online, yet only 3% of the information is actually accurate, so it's a huge missed opportunity.

Expectations of staff

O'Brien (PRWeek): People throw out the phrase digital native, but what do you really expect from students that are just entering the profession in terms of digital expertise?

Kempskie (EMC): From the PR practice, this is going to become just part of PR. It's actually going to become easier for these digital natives to come into this world and become more savvy on it and probably those of us are still trying to catch up.

Walker (GCI): What I'm not expecting is for them to show up and know how to apply those tools that they can use to get a business result. It drives me crazy when I hear that inside my agency or from a client, “Oh let's put the 22-year-old guy on Facebook on that; he loves that stuff.” That's naïve, and they just don't know how to operate in the work environment.

Weismann (Lois Paul & Partners): At the same time, we were talking about the need for authenticity and integrity earlier, as far as companies participating, so they bring that mindset. I hear that when Facebook launched Beacon, and kids were going to be inundated with ads, they didn't want that. It's really a pure social networking environment, and I think the reason why was because there was this resistance, so they're coming from this mindset of being authentic, and as communications people in training, that's what they're going to be outfitting, and it's going to be easier.

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): We have a new employee. She graduated last year, and she's really tech-savvy. I asked her, “How did you get to be so tech-savvy?” And she said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, with Twitter and Facebook.” She said, “That's how people my age live, how we communicate. It's not that I'm tech-savvy. It's just what we do.” It made a lot of sense when I heard it, but to hear her say it, I was like it kind of clicked. It's harder for me because I didn't grow up with it, just like it was harder for my grandmother to program the clock on the VCR. What I expect from them is to teach us a little too. I'll say, “Hey listen, here's the business challenge: what do you know in terms of the digital tech space in terms of how you communicate with your friends and how would you best reach your parents?” and see what they say.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Obviously if someone wants to work in your digital group, there would be that expectation of certain digital skills, but for the average account service person, what competencies, tactical, not strategic, are expecting them to have?

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): For us, they would be disqualified – in fact, senior candidates would be disqualified too - if they don't have a conversant level of knowledge. If you need to explain to someone applying for a job what Twitter is or how to blog, we're not going to hire you for any division. There has to be a certain comfort level and an understanding of media… and a willingness to accept integrated media. We don't look at whether they've done blogging or post videos on YouTube, but there's more around an understanding and an ability to speak intelligently about it. To your point about education, we actually do reverse mentoring. We take a junior person and partner them with a very senior person they might not otherwise get face-time with, and the senior person is supposed to impart some strategic business knowledge, and the junior person just gets them on Facebook or just gets them on YouTube.

Kempskie (EMC): That needs to happen at a lot of different companies. At our company, that's exactly what's happening. The Gen Y-ers who are very savvy on social media are coming in and educating the senior folks.

Atherton (H&K): There are some junior people who are Gen Y, and they're on Facebook and Twitter and everything but when we ask them what would advance their career, they'd say getting a hit in the Wall Street Journal, but I think they're getting it.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): You were talking about, eventually as a PR industry we'd get it, it'd just become part of our industry. I just want to throw it out there, are we? Because I look at what happened in advertising with interactive, and they couldn't get it, and interactive became its own industry, and now they're pushing advertising back. So are we on a real path when you have senior people who might be difficult to educate?

Kempskie (EMC): I remember interactive was its own beast, not promoted as something to become part of what we do as day-to-day PR people. You're going to have different applications of social media for advertisers, PR, and everyone's going to get in the game; they're just going to use different tools.  

Atherton (H&K): I come from advertising. I've been in PR for two years, so I'm not 100% sure that advertising's going to get it because they're still looking to find what it's going to replace in their business which is a multi-million, billion dollar business that's focused on commercials. As long as they're focused on that, they look at all these things like social media and everything as so how do we monetize that? We don't look at paid media. We say, what's the social impact of that? What's the communication challenge for that? We look at it in a much better way than they look at it. I'm sure they'll try it, but it's not going to be something they really understand as deeply as we understand it.

Drum (H&R Block): I worked with interactive agencies, traditional agencies, PR agencies, and there's a new breed of agency coming up that is social-media oriented. They have a very specialized service that goes beyond just communications. They have the ability to develop the Idea Storms, widgets, and some of the other applications and understand how it all fits together. So I think the challenge is, if you're looking at it and you want to be more a part of this and be the driver here, how are you going to adapt to those other needs and have that be more innovative because it's not just about the outreach and the social networking, but it's about how you build that entire community.

Raghavan (Qorvis): More and more our clients have those integrated needs, so what we're trying to do is integrate our own team inside

Atherton (H&K): I don't think one agency can do everything, and as much as we say we want to own this space, I don't think we'll ever own this space because … I think that we reach out within our network to people. We go out and say we have contacts with social media companies as well, so we just put together the best team, but we hold together the strategic principle. We don't think that we're Web developers or what some companies do. We just work with who does the best job for the client.

Walker (GCI): I don't think PR agencies are going to dominate the space because PR agencies are notorious for not investing. Ad agencies have a lot of money, but they have a lot of baggage. If they're going to replace a 30-second commercial, they're going to have to do a lot of social media. Interactive firms think that the experience, and the Web site, is what it's all about. Turn the switch on, and leave, and they don't really want to change the content. So I think there's a lot of convergence on the new space. Maybe some of these new agencies will have traction, but the agencies are going to have a tough time getting traction because who do they sell to? They have to go knocking around the doors because there's not one clear guy who says oh that's the social media guy. I think it's integrated— digital, it's SEM, SEO, online advertising, interactive, analytics. If you can bring all of that in an integrated fashion, that's pretty exciting.

Atherton (H&K): If you look at the size of the investments that PR agencies would make and the size of the investments that ad agencies are making, it's not the same, but I think that all our agencies are investing in global networks. We're all trying to do it.  

Governmental Approach

O'Brien (PRWeek): How do you feel about public government entities? Are they being savvy about new media or are they on the low end of the curve?

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): I think what people tend to forget is when it comes to the dot-gov initiatives, there are some rules in place because it's a fine line between communications and propaganda. The rule is you can only link to a dot-mil (military) or another dot-gov. Those are the rules.

[It's interesting to] look at the some of the ways that members of Congress are engaging online. In fact, when we were sitting here, Roy Blunt, the minority whip, has twittered out that he's going to appear on a TV show tonight. What's interesting is they're using it that way. The House floor has a Twitter account and is twittering out what's being discussed and happening on the floor in real time. So I think there are things like that that can be used because it's a little more loose.

Byrne (Burson-Marsteller): I think there's also another lens you have to look through and you have to ultimately protect the integrity and reputation of the US government. So some of the more fun and creative things you might want to do with a government client, aside from all the regulations, there's also protecting the integrity of the office or branch, and that's a whole other kind of obligation as an agency that we have to help them navigate.  

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): From a tech perspective, one thing I find really fascinating is that when the President submitted the budget this year it was digital, and the fact that his digital signature was authenticated. So it was delivered from the White House to Capitol Hill, digitally it was signed on one side, and officially received and authenticated up on Capitol Hill on their side. And that's the first time that's actually happened.

Raghavan (Qorvis): I think from the other side of things, the way that the digital landscape has affected public affairs in terms of how people are trying to influence government, that's probably the biggest success of the digital landscape. Because while it's hard to define metrics for product sales and housing and that sort of thing in the corporate environment, when you're talking about public affairs it's very easy to see how you're moving the needle in the digital landscape.

Since we're working in DC, a lot of what we're involved with is associations hiring us to do public affairs or create public affairs campaigns and recruit grassroots to call their representatives on a certain issue and convince them to influence Congress in a way. To be able to measure how you can recruit a grassroots to influence the government in the digital landscape, it's unimaginable to think that you could do even close to what you can do today even three years ago. It's unbelievable using all of these tools like Twitter, like Facebook, everything you can do can point toward public affairs and you can very easily define it for your clients and your clients can be extremely satisfied.  

Drum (H&R Block): The reality is that interactive is still not the lead in terms of the media mix. Dollars are still slowly coming over. I look at my own company and … we probably have some of the largest social media campaigns out there, and it's not a large portion of my marketing budget. Until you get into building very robust functionality, it's still a pretty small investment.

Bough (Weber Shandwick): We talk to our clients about that too. We say, “Hey, take a percentage. Let's do pilots.” [If] You don't play in space, you're [not going to benefit from it]

Drum (H&R Block): Second Life, that's a great example. We all keep hearing that the Web is going to go to a virtual 3-D world. If you're not in there understanding of what this is like how would you ever be prepared to make that move? We have an island where tax pros and avatars are there twice a week providing tax advice, and we had someone blog that this is the new way to do customer service. Unless you experience it yourself, you don't really understand and this is such a deep experience.

Almacy (Waggener Edstrom): One of the first examples that was a big success was Starwood Suites because they were launching concept hotels, which is a cool idea, but my response was why not just do that on Starwood's Web site? But at the end of the day, they don't want to do it on their Web site.

Kempskie (EMC): I'm not convinced that [Second Life is] cut out for marketing and communications and things like that. We did use it fairly successfully last year for recruiting. We got about 300+ resumes and had 60 or 70 follow-ups and hired half a dozen people. We were trying to find tech people who were actually users. Found unique people who may not have otherwise come to EMC. Can anyone here really point to any significant applications or social media where they've gotten great success out of it? Any part of a campaign? And how'd you measure that?

Bough (Weber Shandwick): The Honeywell stuff we're doing, and recruitment, but we're trying to create a community and target geeks and nerds. What's nice is they can have conversations, bring their scientists in. It's a learning experience. They're trying to reach college students. It's been very successful.

Raghavan (Qorvis): A lot of what we did was through Facebook. There were over 1,000 independent Facebook groups created that we had nothing to do with. Groups popped up throughout the country. They actually gathered amongst themselves and decided to go to Congressional town hall meetings to yell at their Congressman.

Kempskie (EMC): So you created this Facebook campaign and supported it with traditional PR?

Raghavan (Qorvis): Yeah, and a lot of what we did was dynamic widgets that we could push through peoples' Facebook groups, through their e-mail signatures, on their social network profiles, on their blogs. With these widgets, you can actually centralize the push of the distribution, and I think what we were talking about in terms of destination, going to where people are, this allows the best of both worlds because you're pushing that centralized information out from one place but it's going to where everyone is. So creating those widgets, those things can really get the message out to where people are and drive them back to the destination. That's what we're all talking about. Social media is creating destinations all over the Internet, and you might want to drive them back to a newer destination or leave it out there, but creating a way to disseminate your information all over the Internet is really the key.

Atherton (H&K): I think conversation is the great connector. It's something that gets back to why it's interesting up front to play in that space. 

Key points:

CMOs are paying attention to the growth of new and social media 

The digital landscape provides a unique opportunity to create brand ambassadors

Healthcare and pharma companies are slowly participating in social media 

Digital knowledge should be a core competency for any incoming PR employee

Younger staffers can help to train more senior employees in areas of new and social media

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