THE BLOG

SXSW Chronicles: Anticipation -- Day 1

03/09/2012 07:10 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2012

It might be pouring down here in Austin but the weather isn't deterring attendees of the 2012 SXSW Festival. In 2011 some 20,000 people poured into the streets of downtown Austin to take part in what has become a mecca for interactive, music and film enthusiasts.

It's my first time down here, thanks to the folks at my agency, Cohn & Wolfe. Aside from the excitement and buzz building around the more than 900 panels and events, there's an understated sense of calm as the city prepares to top last year's estimated economic haul of $167 million.

Empty lots have been transformed into wet party venues and "brand experience" sites where Festival goers will network and interact with products from companies big and small. Conversations will no doubt include "Pinfluence," yes that's a SXSW term du jour that will no doubt find it's way into the decks of many a PR agency. If you haven't been and are at all curious as to what one might expect, check out this video that Brad McCormick of our Austin team shared with me from the AMAZING folks at IFC.com and @BajillionHits. Be warned, it may cause audible laughter.

See, I told you!

In order to get myself prepped for the Festival this morning I attended the Council of PR Firms' SXSW Breakfast hosted by WCG where we discussed the progression of the Festival since its founding. In particular we talked about emerging trends in the social space as it relates to PR. There were two main points that stuck with me. First was the discussion surrounding "Big Data," which Dana Boyd has written interesting opinion pieces about, and its ability to help the PR industry and brands turn years of data into predictive models and therefore make them more insightful and efficient about their strategy. It goes without saying that this isn't a new concept, but it's worth noting that both groups have been slow to adapt.

The second item that jumped out at me was the measurement piece for PR agencies and communications more generally. The model of "impressions" as the rule of thumb for measuring ROI is a standard that loses its shine day by day. As we look to target audiences based on the social and digital platforms that they have self selected, it becomes clear that eroded models of measurement need to be a part of the mix and not the only factor that we analyze. As Bob Pearson noted, other useful metrics include whether we're shaping behavior and building share of conversations, which are complex indicators of a job well done.

As a SXSW virgin (per foursquare) I'm excited to be here and take part in the Festival. I'll be looking to collate and share tibits of interest via Twitter and daily posts. Be sure to check back in and follow me at @plrodriguez to stay informed. If you're curious as to what's happening on the ground, search SXSW on Twitter for real-time updates on the overall chatter.

That's all for now!