Is the old dog learning new tricks?

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Teaching an old Dog new tricks

Recently a girl on work experience asked me about how I got into PR, what I studied, and how I’ve seen things change in the industry.

It reminded of one particular class in college in 2006 with John Gallagher, our Course Director for the MA in PR at DIT. John was chatting to us about these things called ‘blogs’ – not one of us, out of a class of 40, knew what a blog was, and it was only when one of my ‘brave’ class mates piped up and asked the question, that we were enlightened!

This got me thinking, and I doubt John has been asked that question since… things have changed so quickly in the 8 years I’ve been involved in the PR industry with the advent of social media and advancing technology.

When I joined Fuzion in 2007, Facebook was just rearing its head, Twitter had barely been heard of in Ireland – and as for Pinterest and Instagram, well they were more commonly known as ‘Post-Its’ and ‘Polaroids’! Now me, I’m ‘old-school’ when it comes to PR, I love to pick up a newspaper or magazine, and see a physical press clipping for my clients, but I can’t deny that social media and technology have certainly been a big help in my job, particularly when it comes to event planning and management.

In the ‘olden days’ hours would be spent drawing up invitation lists, and gathering people’s postal addresses, and stuffing envelopes with snazzy invites that so much time had been taken designing and printing. While now, I simply walk down the office to the guys in our design department, brief them on what I want the invitation to look like, and voila…. A file arrives in my inbox that I can simply upload to a system like Mailchimp along with my database of invitees and their email addresses (very little need for postal addresses anymore), I click send, and off it goes into cyber space, arriving in inboxes of everyone I want to reach within mere moments… simples!

But that’s not all, I can analyse exactly who’s opened the invite, how many times they’ve viewed it, if they’ve clicked hyperlinks to bring them to social media pages for the event; the list goes on. If I really want a particular person at the event, but they haven’t opened the invite for some reason, at least I know, and I can make sure to get in touch with them.

As well as sending invitations by email, I also have the opportunity to share details of the event on the various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Never has it been so easy to communicate with target audiences. To ensure I’m reaching them, I can allocate a small advertising spend targeting a certain demographic if necessary; as well as interacting with them and sharing updates and news about the upcoming event.

Managing a guest list is so easy now. I either receive RSVPs directly into my inbox and manage the guest list from there, or I can set up a registration page using an online ticketing service like Eventbrite, where all registrations are tracked and I know how many tickets are remaining for example. This saves hours of phone calls, making this sort of event preparation and management so time efficient for us and cost efficient for our clients.

As I already said, I’m ‘old-school’ so I won’t dismiss the more ‘traditional’ methods, and will certainly make that call or post that letter if required; and I’ll almost always recommend that we issue a press release with a great PR photo to help promote an event.

For me, it’s a combination of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ that go a long way to making a great event come together.

Alison O’Brien

Alison O’Brien is a Senior Account Director with Fuzion PR, Marketing & Design which has offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

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