You know you've reached a certain age when you nod in agreement when someone at a conference (in this case Tom Murphy from Microsoft) asks: "Do you remember PR before the internet?"
Yes, I do. I also remember the days when an agency called PIMS posted news releases to journalists. Deciding whether the release should go first or second class or - hang the cost - by bike. Having an eight month battle in 1991 to persuade Eagle Star that I needed a PC to do my job. (They thought PCs were for secretaries only.) Happy days? No, not even with a heady dose of nostalgia.
Frightening to think my 20 year career in PR has already seen the meteoric rise and equally rapid fall of the fax machine. (Embarrassing to recall that in 1988 I asked if they had fax machines in Germany when someone asked me to fax something there.)
So it was a pleasure today to sit in on the University of Sunderland's latest event on the impact of social media such as blogs and podcasts, Delivering the new PR 2.0, managed by Nicky and Andy Wake from Don't Panic Event Management.
I went to the original 2006 event in London last November, as I reported at the time. Today's event went a stage further, beginning to explain how PR practitioners could, indeed should, engage with these trends.
Tom Murphy was excellent. It was refreshing to hear a senior Microsoft communicator telling us all not to get carried away by the hype about social media. Stuart Bruce also gave his characteristic mix of insight and common sense. (The photo above shows Stuart in full flow.)
As I wrote in my report about last year's conference, I'm not convinced by the hype about Second Life, the online virtual 'world'. Neville Hobson was again the resident evangelist about Second Life, describing how you can now test drive a virtual Ford car in Second Life and then place your order for the real thing there. I still think this whole SL phenomenon reeks of boys and their toys, despite the fact real companies are spending a lot of money building a SL presence. My suspicions were confirmed when Neville showed an image of his company crayon's virtual receptionist at their SL 'office' - a leggy blonde...
One of the clearest messages, from Philip Young and Stuart Rushton from the University of Sunderland, was how our personal online actions and comments can overshadow our professional reputations. Anyone taking part in online conversations should take care what they say online. In this sense, there's no such thing as a work-life balance!
The Sunderland and Don't Panic teams are taking Delivering the new PR 2.0 event around the country. Do go along if you get the chance.
Finally, you've got to hand it to Stuart Bruce. Not only was he one of the star speakers at today's event, he's also comms director for Alan Johnson's campaign to become Labour's deputy leader. This photo shows Stuart multi-tasking at today's event! He's also rewiring his house, as he revealed in an Ertblog comment. And preparing for the arrival of a new baby in July...