has asked me to spread the word about the EuroBlog2008 Spring Symposium     taking place in Brussels, from March 13-15.  I have heard good things about the former events under this banner and given the number of new/social media conferences around at the moment, it is essential to know which are really good value.

I regularly encounter PR professionals whose organisations have spent several hundreds of pounds on them attending various events on the topic of blogging, podcasting, social networking etc.  There is undoubtedly much interest in the PR world about everything online – although how many attendees are translating their interest into useful practice is another issue.

You also have to question the huge costs of attending many of these conferences, which seem to consist of talking heads presenting “case studies” (although they aren’t scientifically robust enough to warrant this label being little more than personal promotion/reflections).  One-off examples such as Cadbury’s Wispa bar and the HSBC student loan are bandied about as being evidence of the power of Facebook – without any checking of the actual facts.

What about the millions spent by brands so far that have not led to any noticeable outcome?  It isn’t reasonable to generalise from isolated cases – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend every company rushing into social media PR campaigns or strategies, but that seems to be the view of many “evangelists” at these events.

And, it seems every PR agency is establishing itself as an expert in the social media arena and urging clients to bung budget their way for spurious campaigns involving Facebook, SecondLife and “viral” word of mouth campaigns.

The EuroBlog symposium will seek to bring:

“together the latest academic thought with leading edge practice from Europe, the USA and elsewhere to draw new theoretical insights and encourage and shape practitioner innovation and implementation. By identifying and presenting examples of best practice, empirical investigation and new concepts for modelling and understanding the rapid changes in relationship management, EuroBlog 2008 will shape the agenda for social media discussion.”

Of course, even academic conferences can be full of rhetoric and questionable “best practice” examples.  But maybe a more reflective approach will help question not just promote universal pursuit of new media strategies.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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