Strategies for Your Business from What’s Next DC

You know how you go to a conference, rush from panel to panel, wish you could talk to the presenter one-on-one, and then have wave at someone across the room you really want to talk to but can’t approach because the room is too crowded?  Well, What’s Next DC is not one of those conferences.

What’s Next DC, a one-day marketing and communications conference that focusses on the latest and greatest innovations and trends we should focus our efforts on, is more about networking and strategizing than stale lectures.  We were treated to a series of presentations, small group breakout sessions, niche talks and one-on-one time with the presenters.  

I got a chance to chat with four What’s Next presenters who shared advice on what companies would keep in mind when thinking about “social”.

  • BBonin Bough, Senior Global Director of Digital and Social Media, Pepsico
  • Tim Mahlman, Chief Revenue Officer, Klout
  • Katharine Zaleski, Executive Producer and Head of Digital News Products, Washington Post
  • Sabrina Caluori, Vice President of Social Media and Performance Marketing, HBO


Special thanks to Vanessa French, President, Pivot Point Communications, for inviting me to cover the conference.  Also, thanks to What’s Next DC host, Tod Plotkin, who spoke to me about his impression of this year’s What’s Next DC.


What’s Next DC… Not Just Another Conference

“This is not just a conference, it is an “experienceadvertised What’s Next DC in reference to their all-day event on Monday, January 24, 2011.  I have to admit I had high expectations of this “experience”.  Monday was one of the coldest days of the year and I had to transfer on the Metro subway twice to get to the Georgetown University Marvin Center in Northwest DC.  Needless to say, I was none too happy.  I don’t like the cold, I don’t like getting anywhere at 8 o’clock in the morning, but I DID like What’s Next DC.  Hosted by the Green Buzz Agency, What’s Next DC aimed to give us a unique conference experience while sharing some of the most innovative trends in Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising, and Communications.  Tod Plotkin, Principal at Green Buzz Agency talked to me about how What’s Next DC came about.

Shonali Burke, Principle, Shonali Burke Consulting, was by far one of my favorite speakers.  She not only talked to us about how we can redefine Public Relations in the 21st Century, but she included shoes in her presentation.  What woman doesn’t love a good shoe story?  She is smart and witty and shared with us that “true PR” is about building relationships.  She also included some insights on how digital and social technologies are changing the game.  I spoke to her about the new PR and the one thing she wanted us all to get from her presentation.

My favorite quote of the day came from KaBOOM!, CEO & Co-Founder Darrell Hammond when he said, “if you want to be remarkable, do remarkable things”… duly noted and added to my “things to do” list for 2011!  The speaker who made me shout “hurrah” was Reggie Bradford, CEO & founder of Virtue Inc.  Bradford spoke about social media best practices for communicators using Facebook.  Don’t tell my Twitter family, but Facebook, by far, is my most useful social media marketing tool.  I turn to Twitter for news and fast information sharing but it’s on Facebook that I grow communities and do outreach projects for my client.  I use Facebook personally and professionally to promote my own endeavors and that of my clients, AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni.  Branford’s pearl of wisdom was “being on Facebook is not about followers but rather best practices and being able to measure success.”  Indeed it is.

Not so much a conference but more like a round of quick-fire presentations with networking mixers thrown in throughout day, What’s Next DC offered just the right amount of information to get us interested in the topic but not so much overkill that it made us want to fall asleep or walk away early.  Oh, and if you did somehow manage to get bored or if you simply wanted to spend a little more time with a presenter, there was an opportunity to join them in-the-round for a small group discussion.  Hats off and a big high five to Green Buzz Agency for a job well done and giving us case studies, strategies and personalized solutions to our most challenging issues regarding “digital marketing in a networked world”.  I forget which presenter used that phrase but he is the same one who said we should never use the words “social media” or “campaign” anymore.  Of course, in my day job I’m a Social Media Specialist for Campaign Consultation, Inc. I guess I’m going to have to get new business cards very soon!


With the photographer of the day!


Loved the bank of Geek Divas who were live-tweeting at the event. Left to right, Lisa Byrne (@)  Nakeva Corothers (@) and Shireen Mitchell (@)


Shonali sharing her insights during her presentation 

BLOG PDATE: Thanks to I read the tweets from #WhatsNextDC and located the unamed presenter who wants us to take “social media” and “campaign” out of our vocabulary.  It was Matt Goddard of @r2integrated.  You can find his What’s Next DC presentation here.



#WhatsNextDC tweets from

SXSWi: A Geekie, Gadget Girl’s DREAM!

The South by Southwest Festival officially ended yesterday in Austin, Texas.  I was in Austin for  SXSW® Interactive which featured five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology and tons of exciting networking events.  This year’s festival brought out record crowds for the interactive, film and music tracks drawing in web developers and designers, bloggers, mobile innovators, content producers, programmers, widget inventors, new media entrepreneurs and social media consultants from around the world. The five-day interactive festival showcased the latest ideas, the brightest minds and the coolest innovations of the future.  Yet, I couldn’t help be a little jealous when the energy changed as SXSW kicked off with the music track, bringing in thousands of artists that totally changed the energy to something that was just magical to watch.

My old music days aside, SXSW Interactive met all my expectations and in some cases surpassed them.  I was able to meet many of the geeky, techie folks I’ve been communicating with online over the past year.  Clearly one of the highlights for me was meeting Dave Grossman, one of the founding members of Amplify, which has become an addiction of mine.  Mostly I was able to learn, engage and connect with so many people on a variety of subjects from app development and monetizing your blog to privacy issues and protecting copyrighted material on the Internet.  But if I had to sum up my SXSWi experience in just five takeaways it would be this:

  1. Some of the hottest apps and tools are made at SXSWi.  Last year Twitter was the buzz during SXSWi and now they are getting over 17 million hits per day.  This year Foursquare was the favored app and they received 300,000 hits the first day of SXSWi alone.  If you have a product, SXSWi is the place to roll it out and if you have an iPhone you will be able to get the coolest apps around.  By the way, The Foursquare guys were the coolest, nicest fellas.
  2. SXSWi puts the “social” in “social networking”.  You have to get from behind your keyboard, unplug from your computer and move away from your laptop long enough to actually engage face-to-face with people to get the real SXSWi experience.
  3. Privacy remains a hot topic for the technology community.  One thing I will walk away with, however, is fact that how much information you do or do not share online is up to each individual and under the users control.
  4. There is still a place for good story telling online and it is the foundation for communication.  However, online, good stories are a three-way street; they include the storyteller, the audience and in third place, a shared experience together.
  5. Don’t be afraid of negative responses.  People are going to talk about you anyway so you might as well know what they are saying.  Then ask yourself, are you willing to change when you get feedback, be it negative or positive?

Good story telling, seeking feedback, talking to people face-to-face and taking control of your privacy… not something you would expect to hear from a group of people who live, work and play online, as I do.  How refreshing to know that the human element is not dead in Social Media.  In fact, we need humanity in order survive in the digital space.  I would have never drawn this conclusion before SXSWi but I’m glad to know the humans are still in running the show and are still in control.  Let’s see what next year brings!