Notes from the PRSA Western District Conference

This year’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Western District Conference, held in Riverside, CA, covered a number of emerging issues in public relations. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of a couple of the panels.


These days, the professional services landscape is a buyer’s market – there are so many great options that people often fully research different agencies and make a decision before even reaching out to a company. With this glut of choices, differentiating your business is harder than ever.

In his session on successful differentiation, David Arvin, President of The Visibility Coach, discussed the importance of determining the practice area or service your company has that puts it ahead of the rest – the one thing that you do better than your competitors. It’s also important to determine what question or problem your brand is the answer to. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for consumers to pick out one good option from all the other good options populating the market.

Influencer Marketing

In his keynote address, Jim Lin, SVP and Creative Director at Ketchum Digital, covered best practices for working with influencers and shared his perspective on how influencer marketing fits in with public relations and marketing as a whole.

An influencer is a person or group with the ability to influence the behavior or opinions or others, and who has a significant effect on a consumer’s purchasing decision. Influencer marketing is the act of incentivizing influencers to spread awareness of a product or service to their audiences, in the hopes that these audiences will be inspired to try the product themselves.

Though influencers may sound similar to journalists you’re hoping will write about your clients or company, don’t make the mistake of conflating them with the media. While it’s true that influencer marketing, like media exposure, contributes to the overall perception and visibility of a brand, influencers’ objectives are fundamentally different. Journalists report on stories because it’s their job to do so, whereas influencers need more incentive than just a story, as they are working to build their personal brands and names. This incentive usually comes in the form of free products/services, as well as additional payment.

Another common misstep companies can make when leveraging influencers is the failure to properly vet an influencer, and to take their audience claims at their word. Always take the time to research an influencer’s social media follower counts and engagement to ensure that they and their audience are the right fit for your brand.

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