From The GCAi Desk: Key Takeaways From PRSA Boston Social Media Summit


The GCAi Digital Marketing Team recently attended the PRSA Boston Social Media Summit at Bentley University.

We regard this conference as one of the best – if not the best – conference we have ever attended. Every year, we walk away with great ideas and connections, and really have an all-around blast. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, it’s such an awesome experience to be with and talk to people who believe what we believe! Here are some of our takeaways.

GCAi has always believed that “good content tops everything,” so we couldn’t have agreed more when Christy Berkery (@berkeryc), Social Media Manager for the New England Patriots, said those exact words. Berkery went on to explain that she produces various types of content through three different means: identifying, seeking, and creating. Examples include sharing user-generated content such as Pats fan art, posting a photo of a player being signed to the team, and developing contests for fans to win tickets to the home opener. She also recommended always posting natively to each platform and allowing users to stay within their platform of choice whenever possible. When asked when the best time to post is and what type of content performs best, Berkery stated that every organization needs to know its audience by reviewing analytics.

“Sharing great user-generated content is just as valuable as creating your own,” said Berkery. For example, she said the most popular post across multiple platforms for this past March was a fan’s Save the Date wedding invitation. It displayed an emotionless picture of Bill Belichick with the simple words “Let’s Party”. Repacking user-generated content like this opens the door for more creativity from your audience and can increase engagement. It even drives uses for other social media platforms where content creation can be challenging. An example of this is the Pats’ Pinterest page. It is now a top spot for football themed wedding ideas, tattoos, game day recipes, and even baby portraits – all generated by fans. It’s time we stop guessing what our audiences want to see and actually let them show us.

Another modern, innovative marketing medium was highlighted by Jess Ann Kirby’s panel discussion on the emerging trend of “Influencer Marketing.” As social media continues to amplify the voice of the consumer over that of brands, peer-to-peer recommendations are expected to play an increased role in purchasing decisions. Jess discussed how brands wishing to reach niche audiences with their message would be better to do so through strategic partnerships with influencers or through established experts in the niche market that they seek to reach.

Jess (@jessannkirby) has built a following for her Rhode Island life and style blog, Prosecco & Plaid, and maintains a following of over 22,000 users on Instagram alone. Discussing the importance of discovering a brand’s key message and sticking to it, Jess has been successful in deploying tailored branded messages to her audience while keeping in step with the laidback coastal theme of her blog that her audience has come to love.

In terms of marketing innovation, there has never been a larger gap in history between those that make the decisions about media and marketing and those who actually do the work. Specifically, C-level decision makers, who often have input into or approval of digital media spending and strategy very often are not users of digital channels. The question then becomes one of audience engagement yet again. This time, however, it is how to engage your boss when he or she thinks Snapchat is a pithy conversational style.

Panelists from the healthcare industry, Ryan McBride of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (@rymcbr); Toni-Lynn Hanson, Director of Interactive Communications for Lahey Health (@LaheyHealth); and Melanie Graham, Digital Content/Social Media Producer for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (@MelanieDFCI), addressed this question in depth. First, they suggested that a pragmatic start would be emphasizing the necessity to have a presence wherever the target audience is. Analytics, of course, are a must in pitching C-level decision makers – and digital marketing can, of course, provide a wealth of analytics. Audiences, influencers, even competition all are measureable in digital space and social media.

Healthcare brands tend to generate critical information and compelling stories with ease – in fact most brands have information at the ready that would be useful for consumers. Traditional methods of dissemination, however, have the trust of C-level decision makers. You can see a print ad and hold the brochure in your hand. That is not the case with targeted digital communications – if you do not fit the target audience, then you will not see the communication. Digital marketers looking for increased C-level engagement and investment must therefore prove their case with data demonstrating not only what is currently happening but also what increased investment will bring – especially as it relates to sales and competition!

And like Ginzu knives, there was so much more, but we can’t get to it all in this post! It was a blast to meet up with our PR friends, tweet at other attendees and presenters for more information, and the chocolate chip cookies were pretty good too. Major takeaways included drive engagement with user-generated content, C-level decisions with data, and influencer relations through targeting and exchanging valuable information. Needless to say, we will be tweeting from the Mass Pike next year as we make our way to the Summit.