PR Advanced: Be The Change, Looking Back (Part 3)

In this series of guest posts, participants of PR Advanced: Be The Change will give their own perspective on a different part of the day.  This third post is about the conference’s first keynote speaker, Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications at IBM.

I have never been to any sort of PR conference before; being new to PR, I have yet to get my feet wet. When I heard that Jon Iwata was coming, I was pleasantly surprised–the Senior VP of Marketing and Communications at IBM is coming to BU? As much I was impressed by his credentials, I didn’t expect much to come out of his talk. I assumed speakers like him always gave out the same speech–where PR is going, what you can do about it and how to improve yourself in the business, etc.

I could not have been more incorrect if I had said that Egypt sounds like a wonderful place for a peaceful vacation. Charismatic, personable and informative, Iwata began his talk with a quote from Abe Lincoln that summarizes much of what PR is: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” In essence, this is what we in the business strive for: trying to get that shadow to match the tree in a way that benefits our clients.

Iwata blew my mind with his idea that we, as public relations workers, cannot just be satisfied with awareness; we need to create a link between awareness and action. Mr. Iwata used the perfect example of personal fitness: everyone is aware that they should exercise, and that it creates a better lifestyle, but not everyone is lining up outside of FitRec. It’s not enough to believe; we need to create responses from our publics. In this age of transparency and hyper-saturation of media, awareness is no longer enough.

Honestly, talk about a man you would die to work for. Jon Iwata, beyond being charming, knows this business, especially its faults. It takes a certain person to have the wisdom to go further in communications than most people dream about. I bet even IBM’s Watson isn’t smart enough. I would shell about money to hear this man speak again. Being so new, he gives inspiration that this field can work out for me, and that’s pretty awesome.

I got so much out of going to this conference. I have to give props to the event coordinator, Ginny Soskey, who was the driving force behind me joining PRSSA and coming to PR Advanced. This is a field I want to be involved in, and the connections I made with people at the conference are hopefully connections I will have for a lifetime. It was definitely an amazing experience.

Written by Ryan Schreiner. You can contact him at or @rschre on Twitter.

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