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Tolerance and Technology at PRSA International Conference in Salt Lake

PRSA president and CEO Cheryl Proctor-Rogers opened the PRSA International Conference in Salt Lake this afternoon with a challenge to public relations practitioners to be careful not to surround themselves only with others like themselves, who share the same cultural experience. Rather than just hire employees with similar political and social views, she reminded us that challenging one’s sensibilities by having the courage to venture outside of your comfort zone is shortest the path to meaningful growth, and a necessary ingredient to encouraging greater cross-cultural tolerance.

Tavis Smiley gave the keynote, and his set-up was basically that challenging the audience to try out new ways if thinking was the benchmark of any good public speaker. He went on to say that the key to being a good PR person was having tolerance for every person, no matter who they are or where they came from. His message too was one of tolerance.

Earlier in the day, Katie Paine and I went to the LDS Conference Center to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance a special Veterans Day concert for their Sunday broadcast. After watching HBO’s “Big Love” for a full season, and being titallated with the one-hour dramedy’s sensationalizing of polygamy, the opening presentation by a local newscaster about how the choir was formed and the beauty of the musical performance itself gave me a fresh sense of appreciation, understanding and tolerance for the Church of Latter Day Saints.

On the technology siode, the highlight of the exhibit hall — if not the entire conference — was a media experiment called News at Seven built by three students from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. The students, Sanjay C. Sood, Sara Owsley and Nathan D. Nichols, invented an application that pulls media from YouTube and a variety of other new media sources to create a dynamic montage on any given subject, hosted by avatars who editorialize the subject matter by reading opinions from the blogosphere. This stuff is light years beyond blogs and podcasts, and I was so jazzed talking to these students, I literally wanted to take them all home with me. And get this…they think Second Life sucks.

I have nothing but heartfelt thanks and appreciation to PRSA for bringing them out to the conference, and respect and admiration for Kristian Hammond who runs the program at Northwestern for leading these young geniuses through this remarkable experiment.

At the party, I ran into my friends Joanne Killen and Mike Furtney of the Killeen Furtney Group PR. Joanne was nice enough to introduce me to a number of VIPs from Counselor’s Academy, including Roy D. Vaughn, APR of Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations in Tennessee, who enjoyed talking to. Later, I ran into Patrick McLaughlin of Airfoil PR, who chair’s the PRSA Technology section. Now I’m packing up to shove off tomorrow morning to fly back to Los Angeles and I’m speaking at the entertainment Marketing Conference on Podcasting Tuesday morning.

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