“Engaging the Blogosphere” Conference

                        In an industry that’s changing, it’s not only product that’s in flux, but the way in which the industry is promoted, marketed and reported upon that’s changing, as well. For the first time (outside of a phone conversation or over a “tall frosty one”) the Chicago Auto Show gave media, PR reps and manufacturers a chance to put a more formal face on the challenges of new media by producing its “Engaging the Blogosphere” conference.
            Gene Cameron and Chance Parker of J.D. Power offered background data on car buyers’ love of shopping for their cars on the Net, saying that, “91 percent of buyers say they go to research vehicles” prior to purchase. Additionally, they said that more than 60 percent of dealers have engaged online quotes and information for customers.
            They offered their positions on how dealers and the industry are changing their business models and practices to accommodate this ever-growing group, especially in how the industry is trying to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of blogs—both professional and hobbyist. Data they had compiled during the run-up for the Chevy Volt was used as an example of how blogs and social media have become meaningful part of the exposure a vehicle gets.
            Following the presentation, the changing face of media coverage was discussed—and at several points in great spirit—in a panel format. Conference panelists included Chevrolet Communications Director Terry Rhadigan; AutoWeek Editor/Associate Publisher Dutch Mandel; AutoBlog.com Editor-in-Chief John Neff; and KickingTires Editor David Thomas. All were kept in line—and lively—by the masterful moderation of Jason Vines.
            Two breakout sessions followed. The first conducted by GolinHarris public relations social media expert Rick Wion, who discussed social media trends and effective communication strategies. The second group was directed by Google Automotive Industry Sales and Operations Manager Seth Barron, who discussed potential online revenue streams best characterized as, “How does someone make a buck at this?”
            The conversations held in both breakout sessions demonstrated the need for further discussion about blogging and social media, and the necessity for both traditional and new media to peacefully coexist. From all quarters, what we’ve heard on the phones and read online, it’s apparent that the time allotted in Chicago might have been a bit short to accommodate the topic fully—but was very well received. Sounds like a reprise next February might be in order!

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