Thoughts on the NWA PRSA 2009 Communication Conference

Posted by admin on October 14, 2009

The Northwest Arkansas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America held its first ever communications conference on October 14 at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers, Ark. One hundred communications professionals from Northwest Arkansas and across the region attended this event to learn from the line-up of expert speakers as well as each other.

Entitled Building Your Brand, this year's conference provided attendees the opportunity to attend panel discussions on the state of communications and media as well as a host of breakout sessions that covered topics ranging from research and social media to internal branding and governmental affairs. The day's events began with an informative presentation from Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of Private Brands for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Thomas used Wal-Mart's own brand strategy to illustrate the importance of building customer loyalty while building your brand.

Jimmy Dykes, noted ESPN men's college basketball analyst, brought the conference to an end with his lunchtime keynote presentation. Dykes shared his observations on public relations excellence as they relate to the PR professionals in his field, sports information directors.

Every attendee leaves a conference with their own favorite memory or lesson learned. Some favorite moments from the Mitchell staff include:

Tammy Varner

ESPN game analyst Jimmy Dykes compared public relations with a point guard’s ability to complete a great pass. In order to achieve success, the pass must be on time and on target. The same goes for the messages that we communicate. Ask yourself, is this timely? Is the message on target?

Ed Nicholson of Tyson Foods gave a great tip for getting your feet wet in social media. Start by listening. “Would you walk in to a party and just start talking to people?" This is excellent advice. Social media is much more than an online billboard. It’s all about relationships and conversation.

Heather Ellington

Mike Sells of the Sells Agency, gave us a good reminder about research and its importance in the PR four-step process. If research is more than a year old, it is most likely out of date and not current with the continually-changing consumer beliefs. Before beginning any project, be sure to conduct the appropriate research.

He also emphasized the difference between market research and consumer research. Your consumers might not be the majority in the market therefore, there should be two separate sets of data: one to reflect the market you are trying to reach and one to reflect your consumers.

I was really impressed with Natasha Bell, from, and her thoughts on how public relations professionals can work together with online bloggers to create the most attention-grabbing story for the online community. She expressed how the press release works great as background information and facts but online bloggers really want two-way communication that allows them to come up with a creative idea to capture the messaging that you might not get from traditional media.

To read more opinions and commentary on the conference, check out our post of the #nwaprsa Twitter feed from the day of the conference.

Topics: Updates from the agency, Mitchell Team