Boston - the bombing: Casey’s IPREX Conference part 2

March 2014

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February 28 (evening)

While the daytime was for discussion, debate and learning, the night was for winding down; it was a chance to get to know your fellow conference goers and socialize. What better way to make the transition from day to night than with a few glasses of wine? And a few more.

March 1

7am. The alarm sounds. It had been just a few short hours ago that my head hit the pillow.

I won’t go into all the details of the night before (I know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not because I don’t remember it…). All I will say is this: the great thing about attending a work conference is that you are surrounded by likeminded people. Inevitably you create bonds with those around you – you get along in a professional sense and then there are some you’re able to connect with on a personal level too. That’s where the wine comes in. And let’s just say that the room was a lot more subdued when the session began on Saturday morning.

Slightly impaired or not, I know the panel discussion kicking off Saturday’s activities was one we were all eagerly anticipating.

The Boston Marathon bombing was a tragedy that was felt globally. Whether it was because one of your nation’s runners was in attendance, because you were from the US, or simply because you were able to empathize with the senseless devastation that was inflicted on the city – everyone in the room understood the gravity of the situation.

Kevin Cullen (Boston Globe), Mike Morrison (Massachusetts General Hospital), Adam Gaffin (creator of Universal Hub). Each of these Bostonians shared their raw, real and poignant experiences of that fateful day and the days that have passed since.

Mike and Adam in particular shared their insights on how social media was used to disseminate information to the masses. They told of the positives and the negatives of this and how they themselves used social media during the crisis.

Kevin gave perhaps the most moving recollection of the tragedy. His connection with the tragedy was phenomenal – from the police force including those on the frontline to his own personal experience of what he witnessed and his involvement as local media and as a spokesperson to national media. He was uncensored and eloquent in his descriptions.

Kevin also noted some interesting points on social media and citizen journalism in such situations. In particular he stressed the need for journalistic ethics, the ability to understand when to grant privacy and space particularly to the victims’ families. This is something citizen-journalists on social media do not always understand (he also noted though that some national media did not recognize it either).

In a word, the panel discussion was enthralling. Each speaker had a unique and touching perspective and listening to them, you couldn’t help but feel privy to a very special understanding of Boston and its people.

After the panel session concluded we launched into a group discussion on going digital: how to demonstrate your credentials, the best gateway methods to encourage digital uptake from clients, digital on a small budget and the like.

Hearing others’ experiences, success and hardships in this area was very insightful.

One resounding point that was made was this: we as PR professionals and companies need to make sure we don’t forget our own digital efforts. It’s important to help develop our clients’ competencies in this area but we must also make sure we treat ourselves as a client too and invest in our own digital footprint – it is after all the best advertisement of our skills.

So, panel and group discussion done, here I sit with a group of slightly hung over, intelligent and driven individuals. The past 48 hours were a whirlwind of laughs, learnings and most importantly building connections. I know I will be able to call on everyone I have met here for advice and expertise – equally there are those I know I will be able to call on for a wine next time I am in the US – or London and Sydney for that matter.

IPREX GLC 2014 has opened my eyes to new possibilities and ways of thinking in the field of communications. I now leave with a full head of ideas, a slightly bruised liver and an undeniable love for the beautiful and charming city of Baawstin aka Boston (love that accent!)

Next stop New York City – and what a tough act it has to follow.