LOGAN—Students are rarely encouraged to spend time and effort on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but public relations professionals at the Fourth Annual Mountain West PR conference emphasized that social media have become and important tool. The three-day conference, sponsored by the Department of Journalism & Communication and its Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, drew a variety of professionals and students. Marketing, public relations, technology and non-profit professionals were all present, and though their jobs are different, each understands and shared the important role that social media plays in the business world and public relations. The conference was underwritten by a $10,000 donation from Utah-based Vivint, a home security company. “The Internet is how we find out a lot about new businesses,” technology entrepreneur and conference speaker Amanda Peyton said. “As the social web grows, it will be a really, really, important tool in terms of discovery of businesses and new products.” Sarah Reale, a JCOM alumna and social media coordinator at Salt Lake Community College, said social media are still a relatively new tool, and businesses are just beginning to take advantage of online capabilities. A former USU PR & Marketing staff member until 2009, Reale said social media wasn’t part of the PR mix when she was working at USU. “When I started, no one in the entire office knew about Facebook or Twitter,” Reale said. “Now I’m trying to convince people that they need to have a strategy behind it.” Many conference speakers noted that social media strategy consists of making a personal connection and creating interesting, quality content that engages people. Mallory Blair, co-founder of the New York firm, Small Girls PR, shared with students a few rules for online engagement. Each social media interaction should be kept authentic and include listening, sharing, giving, playing and teaching, Blair said. “We try to treat social applications as you would treat a friendship,” Blair said, “because every brand has skills.” However, successful public relations is not only about interaction, said S. Max Brown, vice-president at Rideau Recognition Solutions. Public relations also includes what is said through social media “The only thing that we put out there is quality content,” Brown said. “Connecting today is about dialogue.” Brown explained that in order to be effective in social media, 90 percent of one’s time should be spent talking about others and building up them and their products.
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