VA Takes on the PR + Social Media Summit

October 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

By: Casey Schaak

On Wednesday, October 10, a few of our VA team members spent the day at Marquette University taking a deeper dive into social media practices, policies and trends. The fourth annual PR + Social Media Summit was quiet the success, and the hashtag “#prsms” was even trending nationally on Twitter.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our #prsms experience:

Creativity is key. Content is king.

U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds kicked off the summit with his own unique social media experience. He auctioned off his left shoulder on Ebay with the intention of displaying the winning company’s Twitter handle on the space during the 2012 Olympics. Hanson Dodge Creative, of Milwaukee, won the auction with a bid of $11,100. 

Nick’s experience showcased unconventional brand building. While the Olympic Committee required him to cover the temporary tattoo during his races, the buzz created around the auction led to free publicity for both Nick and Hanson Dodge. The auction and the tattoo increased awareness and Twitter followers for Nick and Hanson Dodge, and even shed light onto some controversial Olympic rules prohibiting Olympians from recognizing their individual sponsors before, during and after the games.

Balancing Work and Personal Life on Social Media

The Social Media Policy Panel, comprised of Erik Ugland, Diederich College of Communications, Mary Henige, General Motors Company, John Kalter, Godfrey & Kahn, William Caraher, College of Business Administration, and Eric Rumbaugh, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, focused on how companies handle employee social media interactions.

Each employer has its own social media culture. For GM, its policies require employees to be transparent and identify their role within the company when posting or commenting on the internet. They also must say that their opinions are their own, not those of GM, and employees are encouraged to link to approved GM content found on the GM website when necessary. A key legal take-away when it comes to a company’s social media liability is “put it in writing.” Employees are going to be on social media, so it’s important companies have guidelines.

Stand Up for Your Brand

Molly McKenna, McDonalds, presented “Sharing Your Brand Story: Breaking Through Today’s Cluttered World.” Her presentation focused on five social media truths:

  • Truth 1: People have perceptions about your brand.
  • Truth 2: Act of listening and responding can change your business.
  • Truth 3: You never know where the fire will come from.
  • Truth 4: Response can be more important than the situation.
  • Truth 5: We’re operating in a society of continuous partial attention.

McDonalds has learned to deal with negativity towards its stereotypically unhealthy and fried meal options by embracing its brand. Through social media, it creates an emotional brand connection along with authentic and transparent conversations with followers. In response to negativity regarding large soft drink sizes, McDonalds took the stance that the consumer makes his or her own choices. The company has developed a variety of menu options, and the consumer can choose which items and sizes he or she wants.

The Human Touch

Mary Henige, director of social media and digital marketing for GM, showed how GM is engaging with consumers and fans/followers by creating a personal side to the company. Instead of showing buildings and copy about the company, GM has created a video blog on its website that features different employees, showing their work life and personal life. The blog also highlights local owners and dealers. It takes the GM brand and gives it a human touch.

Additionally, the GM Facebook page features “Fan Friday.” Each Friday the page changes its banner photo to display a photo submitted by a fan. By adding a personal connection to its website and social media pages, GM paints a compelling story and engages with its fans on an emotional level.

What is Social Media and Why Should I Care About It?

Brian Moran, small business consultant, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of not just being on social media, but taking the time to do it right. Social media is a great tool for lead generation, customer service, market research, competitive analysis and PR, but if it’s not done right, it’s a waste of time and money.

Here are Brian’s 10 suggestions for social media users:


  • Tweet, retweet, reply
  • Be consistent
  • Avoid politics, religion and tweeting after midnight


  • Make connections
  • Give and get recommendations
  • Join groups
  • Ask questions; give answers


  • Use Google alerts
  • Engage with industry communities
  • Get employees involved, but make sure they know the rules

Social Media for PR

The News and Social Media Panel, with Kati Berg, Diederich College of Communications, Sharif Durhams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathryn Janicek, NBC Chicago morning show, Andy Tarnoff,, and Herbert Lowe, Diedrich College of Communications, gave an inside look at the media’s perception and utilization of social media.

For traditional media reporters and anchors, social media is a conversation. It’s a way to connect with the community and extend and develop their on-air/on-paper personalities. Stories that are covered in print and broadcast can be expanded through social media and the public can engage with the news and join the conversation.

When it comes to relationships with PR, social media is a way to build relationships and set yourself apart amongst the many email pitches the media receives. Just as the social platform adds personality to reporters and anchors, it adds personality to PR pros as well. It is a unique way to find a common ground and connect – reporter/anchor to PR representative.

Winning the Social Media Race

Augie Ray, of Prudential, gave some great insight into the value of social media. By his definition, “social media is a medium where value is exchanged and relationships are created mutually.”

The winner in the social media race is not just the brand with the most fans, but the brand with the most fans having the most meaningful engagement.

As you can tell, every speaker and panel during the PR + Social Media Summit provided a wealth of insightful information. It was a great experience and we’re looking forward to attending the event again next year!


§ One Response to VA Takes on the PR + Social Media Summit

  • […] In a series of discussions the summit covered a wide variety of topics from branding and tweeting to “winning the social media race”. Speakers from across the country attended, ranging from an Olympic athlete, to GM Executives and even a few campus professors. For a full recap, check out our blog. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading VA Takes on the PR + Social Media Summit at Have you had your VA Today?.


%d bloggers like this: