Saturday, June 16, 2007

Talk, Talk, Talk

Well, today's talk for the Health and Science Communications Association went really well; as a friend of mine would say, I kicked butt and took names. :)

Meanwhile, yesterday's talk (gak! was it only yesterday?) for the Canadian Public Relations Society in Edmonton also went really, really well. I did a little interview with one of the CPRS chapter newsletters in advance of my talk. Here's what I had to say:

Q. In your own words, how would you describe what you do as a futurist?

A. I'm both a science-fiction writer and a futurist -- and that combination is important. A futurist on his or her own is good at extrapolating trends and telling you what the population size might be in a given year, or how big our economy will be. But a science-fiction writer's job is to go further, placing all that in societal context: what will the changes coming down the pike actually mean to lives of people here in Canada, at home, at work, at play. PR is public relations -- and I'm going to give a snapshot of what the world the public is going to live in is really going to be like in the next couple of decades.

Q. What will your topic "Fast Forward in the Communications Arena" focus on?

A. Among other things, the ever increasing rate of change. If you stop and think about it, what happened in the last 20 years is enormous -- the fall of the USSR, the birth of the World Wide Web, the cell-phone revolution, the use of DNA screening in criminal cases. But if you think you can just flip that amount of change over to the other side of tomorrow -- if you expect just a comparable amount of change in the next 20 years -- you're wrong. The pace is accelerating rapidly, almost exponentially -- and I'll explain why in my talk. We'll see as much change in the last two years of the next couple of decades as we saw in all of the 1987-2007 period.

Q. What does the theme of the conference -- Fast Forward -- mean to you in terms of public relations?

A. It's the whole key. Time's choice of "You" -- independent content creators -- as the "Person of the Year" for 2007 underscores this. We've left behind the era in which PR leads public perception; henceforth its principal job will be responding to what the public is saying online. PR becomes collaborative not just with the client, but with the consumer, too.

Q. What should a PR practitioner come away with after attending your presentation?

A. An awareness that PR response times will have to be as close to instantaneous as possible: you won't be able to contain leaks about upcoming events, and PR crises will go worldwide within a matter of moments. Nimbleness will be the top skill, and leveraging the power that technology gives you will be the best way to obtain that.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


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