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We're excited that the PR Council's annual, day-long conference, "The PR Genome Project: Recoding Now," is taking place next Thursday during Communications Week 2015. We asked Matt Shaw, SVP, PR Council, to open the kimono and give a sneak peak of what will be discussed during this prestigious PR industry event. 

Your first panel of the day, "The Great Influencer Debate: Are we confusing influence with popularity?" focuses on influencer marketing. Why has influencer marketing exploded in the last year? What does it mean for the PR industry moving forward?

It’s going to be a great show. In the hands of our Chairman and event impresario Chris Graves, we are going to be looking at some of the big issues and ideas that are at the heart of our industry’s future.  We’ll get into Influencer marketing, brand journalism and media, game-changing technology and a wide-ranging discussion about the client-agency partnership.

Over the past two years, more than 60 startups focusing on social media influencers have drawn millions of dollars from early investors. It appears that many fortune-seekers believe influence marketing is the new content marketing – a hot area to capitalize on.  It’s taken off in part because social media has introduced us to a whole new set of so-called influencers, online celebrities, “gurus” and the like…and of course the data we have access to now is staggering, making measuring campaigns easier.  However, an important question to ask in all this, and we will, are we really measuring true influence? We’ll have some debate between CEOs of some of these new firms and two noted scientists who have written extensively on the nature of influence.  

Are these companies confusing influence with popularity, or can brands get big returns by tapping into large followings?    

One of the scientists is Paul Adams, the brains behind Google-Plus, who wrote a book called a few years ago called “Grouped,” which argued that true influence comes from our inner circles – not necessarily a million-plus flock of followers or a big celebrity. 

The one-on-one discussion with Bob Liodice, President & CEO of ANA, focuses on the relationship between CMOs and public relations professionals. What makes this relationship such a tenuous one?

I wouldn’t call it tenuous as much as a mostly underdeveloped relationship.  The CMO is at the center of the marketing universe, and PR firms are traveling in his/her orbit more than ever, so we must educate marketers – especially those who don’t fully appreciate what PR can do.  Just about every significant brand marketer belongs to the ANA, so Bob’s POV carries a lot of weight.  Chris will interview him on things like the importance of true integration, content marketing and PR’s role in the marketing mix.

Another panel you're hosting is called The Evolution of the Client-Agency Relationship, covering another complicated dynamic. What are a few of the best practices that the panel will cover?  

Featuring executives from Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard and Hilton - and moderated by the super-talented Elise Mitchell – attendees will learn about expanding areas of collaboration such as content marketing, influencer marketing and paid media.  I also expect some discussion around the importance of risk-taking and new pressures that clients are facing. 

The final panel looks into media and brand journalism. Who are the panelists being featured and what can attendees expect to learn?

Chris Graves – who spent 20 years in broadcast and print journalism prior to Ogilvy - has pulled in a powerhouse media panel:  The CEO of Bloomberg Media, the editorial director of T Brand Studio, which is the content arm of The New York Times, plus the BBC’s head of content, the CEO of Rebel Mouse – a hot new content company, and the head of Editorial Innovation from Time, Inc.  We want to find out if brand journalism really works. Can brands really benefit from paid content?   How do they measure success? Is branded content critical to the future of the media business? 

Why are you excited about Communications Week?  

It falls on all of us – whether as individuals, firms, corporate or associations – to promote the work we’re doing as an industry. We talk a lot about amplification in this business – well, with Communications Week we get that in abundance.

There are only a few seats left for next Thursday's event The PR Genome Project: Recoding Now. If you are interested in signing up, please click here