Brands, Networking and Lessons from SXSW Eco

By: Isabel Balliache

Last week I attended SXSW Eco and I wanted to share some of my experiences and some of the most important things I learned, but first, some background.

Last spring, a SXSW team member came to one of the PRSSA meetings looking for volunteers. I was lucky enough to get selected to volunteer for SXSW film. Recently, I invited him out for some coffee to chat about the industry. He was nice enough to agree, and he also sent me a badge to attend SXSW Eco so I could network with other professionals.

Never heard of SXSW Eco? Well, it is a three day conference where industry leaders come together to network, and discuss important issues such as sustainability and corporate social responsibility. There are several types of session you can attend. There are expert panels, solo presentations, workshops, and one-on-one coaching. I mostly attended panels and solo presentations.

Attending was amazing, I’ve never felt so inspired. I got to meet so many fascinating people from all over the country, and leaned about a variety of engaging and thought-provoking subjects. I was specially inspired by Dale Ross, mayor of Georgetown, Texas, who attended and discussed making the city the first renewable energy sustained city in the US by 2017.

I was also excited to attend the sessions on branding and communication. Here are some key takeaways from three of those sessions:

Storytelling with Brand Values by William Espey from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

-People are everywhere and nowhere. You are competing with any 6 year old that can make a funny vimeo. It is necessary to create consumer connection by incorporating values into the brand and the brand personality.

-Find the story you want to tell and find the best avenue to connect. Then, ask yourself how can I do this inexpensively? Do not use social media as a sales pitch. Connect in a real way.

The Power of a Brand Identity by Eric Pieper

-“A brand is fueled by ambition, and that ambition fuels the brand.”

-Think about the brand identity. Who are you and what are your values?

-Always be thinking about why something catches your attention, why you think something is funny…it helps when you are the one trying to figure out how to connect with people.

Reaching the Next Generation Influencer by panel.

This panel included moderator Abby Johnston from Texas Monthly, Mallory Blair of Small Girls PR, Britt Hysen of Millennial Magazine, and Lindsey Green from Bustle.com

-Think of the word “millennial” as a movement, not as a demographic

Photo Source: Isabel Balliache From left to right: moderator Abby Johnston from Texas Monthly, Mallory Blair of Small Girls PR , Britt Hysen of Millennial Magazine, and Lindsey Green from Bustle.com
Photo Source: Isabel Balliache
From left to right: moderator Abby Johnston from Texas Monthly, Mallory Blair of Small Girls PR , Britt Hysen of Millennial Magazine, and Lindsey Green from Bustle.com

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-Focus on creating content. Authenticity is important.

-Really tailor projects for specific influencers when doing pitches.

I really can’t condense all the amazing ideas and interesting things I learned in three days into a single post. But the most important lesson I learned is about networking. PRSSA opened a door I didn’t know existed, but I learned that staying in contact with the people you meet is important. Be respectful and nice to everyone you meet, and always do a good job even if you don’t think anyone is watching.

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