My lessons learned at Blog Potomac

I bought my tickets for Blog Potomac many months ago when we at THP just started to learn about social media and marketing.  In the months since then we have begun to counsel some clients and have some others about to start.

Blog Potomac, during a break, in Falls Church, VA
Blog Potomac, during a break, in Falls Church, VA

Also during those months I have Tweeted and forged online relationships with a number of people who I knew would be coming to Northern Virginia to the event,

So I had two goals for my day at the State Theater (see photo for the scene during a break)

, learn at least one new thing I could bring back to Richmond, to my firm and my clients, and meet in person a number of the people with whom until then I only communicated  with at 140 characters (or less) at a time.

The event did not disappoint on either front.  First on the lesson(s) learned and it was more than one.

  • Validation:  This came primarily from one of the keynotes, Shel Holtz, who has pioneered online public relations.  Shel validated the use of social media and provided the group with arguments against the many barriers that those on the corporate side build against the use of social media.  For example, take statistics and case studies to attorneys and show them that engaging can in fact keep their company out of trouble not create more trouble for it.  Shel also pointed out that the role of the PR firm in social media is to counsel first with an eye on the communications goals and not get caught up in the hype of it all.


  • New ideas:  These I will “borrow” from Scott Monty, the social media guy from Ford Motor Co.   Scott reinforced the importance of the blog, not only as a way to engage but as a first response tool at the time of crisis.  He reminded the group that crisis is not the time to cower, but is a time for opportunity.  He also spoke about the importance of an organization having a “social media hub” like as a place to engage directly with customers.  These hubs are more than just websites or blogs but a place to have that ongoing conversation.


  • Perseverance:  This came from Shashi Bellamkonda, the social media “swami” at Network Solutions.  Every organization needs a Shashi.  He told about his personal quest to create a social media effort at Network Solutions, how his sold it to the C-level, how he built his social media team.  This now multi-award winning effort, has led to a drastic improvement of the company’s customer service reputation among customers.


  • The need for goals and mesaurement:  This was mentioned by many, but was reinforced by my friend Shonali Burke, the one-woman communication wrecking crew from DC.  Who whispered over my laptop about the importance of goals and measurement all day.  Shonali, the “golden ruler” is in the mail.

As if these lessons weren’t enough, it was the friendship that glowed along with the hundreds of laptops and PDA’s in the sparingly-lit globe theater that really made the day for me.  As a late comer to the social media party that many of these folks have been celebrating for years now, I was welcomed with hand shakes and hugs from many who I’ve tweeted with over the past six months.

Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) and Beth Harte (@bethharte) whose blogs are featured down the right hand side sought me out as did Arik Hanson (@arikhanson), Allan Schoenberg (@allanschoenberg) and countless others including Lisa Hoffman (@lisahoffman) who sat next to me and kindly laughed at my one-liners.  It was also good to see some friends from RVA like Adam Gainer, Michael Toner and Scott Davila, whose new CRT/Tanaka colleague Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) created Blog Potomac and who gets my personal thanks.

I liken my first six months or so exploring social media as part of the communications rainbow as a freshman year in college.  I’ve met a lot of friends who have been kind enough to show me the lay of the land.  Many of them I met at Blog Potomac on Friday.  The event validated much of what I have learned to date and also has been thinking of all the things I want to do next.  The event  was also what social media is all about, a community whose conversation began online, coming together to learn, debate and have fun.

And while I know some of the upperclassmen made have heard a lot of “the stuff” at other events they atttended, I truthfully could not have asked for more.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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