How often do you hear Obama, Air NZ and PRINZ in the same sentence?

Rebecca Foote, PRINZ Comms Advisor for membership hosted two lucky ticket winners (and PRINZ members) at the recent Air New Zealand Social Media Breakfast with Teddy Goff and Ross Dawson – and here’s her blog from the event.

Teddy Goff, Digital Director of Barack Obama’s 2008 and 20012 election campaigns.

Ross Dawson, an Australian author, futurist and entrepreneur. Dawson is most famous for writing Living Networks (2002) – predicting the social networking revolution.

Air New Zealand’s Social Media Breakfast was a display of social media at its best. Teddy Goff spoke about the extensive use of social media in the last two election campaigns. Air New Zealand’s opening video highlighted the success of the Flying Social Network, the centre of the company’s social media activity.

It is not a new idea that social media is here to stay. Ross Dawson’s presentation reassured us that social media is going to become even more important. Yet companies still fear what they don’t know, and social media can seem like unchartered territory for those who have never dived in before.

But if this Breakfast screamed anything it was: BE BRAVE!

Obama and his digital team were BRAVE. To put the President of the United States on social media to answer questions, take criticism and get feedback for all the world to see is a leap of faith. Politics divides America into Red and Blue. Opinions are held strongly, shared freely, and discussions can turn very quickly. Most of all, the openness and freedom of social media is at odds with the idea of politicians operating behind closed doors.

The Obama social media campaign had three key goals: to fundraise money for the election campaign, to register people to vote, and to get people to vote for Obama. Teddy outlined a few key principles of the digital effort:

  •  Even online, people still want to be engaged, have a relationship, and be liked
  • People don’t like politics or political rhetoric, but they trust their friends
  • About 98% of Americans can be reached through the 34 million fans of Barack Obama on Facebook
  • Don’t be lame, tell real stories.

The campaign fundraised over US$600million and registered 1 million to vote. And we know the result.

According to Goff, its success is no surprise. The public had an opportunity to engage with a President who freely answers questions on Reddit, shares family photos on Facebook, and is up with the latest on Twitter. Obama met with the people, in their world (albeit a virtual one), gave them the time of day, and developed a relationship with them.

Public relations, at its core, is about relationships and engagement, and social media provides an excellent platform to achieve these objectives. The principle stays the same, only the tool and channel is different.

The breakfast’s tone and content brought to mind my experience at the recent PRINZ PR Summer Camp, where PRINZ trainer Catherine Arrow said that the most important trait a PR practitioner can have is courage. I am sure Teddy Goff would agree.

If you’d like to get more knowledge, experience or strategic nous when it comes to online, take a look at the courses offered by PRINZ, there is something to suit everyone from trend spotting, to playing with the tools, a full immersion Social Media bootcamp and thinking strategically. Take a look here for courses from Feb – May 2013.

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