In the advertising world the interactive festival SXSW (South By South West) has acquired a status as a cooler Cannes, a more democratic TED. But it appears not to have resonated so much with the PR world. At SXSW this year there were 31,000 people including inventors, professors, tech start ups, a lot of clients and, according to the IPA, about 150-200 UK agency folk, but I did not meet a single UK PR professional.
When I asked clients why they had flown to Texas they gave the same answer: technology is turning their industries upside down so in order to to help shape the direction of their brands they wanted to be much better informed about the leading edge of innovation.
So where were the PR professionals?
Is it that it's just too expensive for PR agencies to cover the costs? But saying that, I did AIR B&B and stayed in a cheap apartment and not a swanky hotel and flew over economy so actually the costs weren't that high.
Is it that its not seen as relevant to anyone's day job, so it's hard to justify? If that's the case, that's pretty sad. In my opinion SXSW is the one global event where the world of brands, products and services, technology and marketing collide. Attending something like this is a way to raise eyes up from the day job into the near-future. It's a chance to think hard thoughts about where our world, and our clients and our industry is heading. I found it to be invaluable, but it worries me that so few of the PR industry made the trip out.
If you work in PR in the UK, did you head out to Austin? If you did, what did you think?