Just returning from the Edelman Academic Summit held this year in Palo Alto, CA. What a fabulous event! With 40 speakers and 16 sessions over three days, my brain is still hurting.

Richard Edelman made a bold decision over five years ago to round-up academics from the areas of Journalism and Public Relations, bring in Edelman executives, and throw real clients into the mix for good measure. The idea was inspired at the time and the event just keeps getting better! Held on the campus of Stanford with partners PR Week and MediaX, I guess it would be hard for any event to go south in this venue. But the organization, execution, and content of the Edelman Academic Summit was extraordinary! The sessions began in the afternoon on Wednesday, June 20, but Thursday was the big workday. Here’s the complete agenda.

Mr. Edelman kicked off the Thursday session with a discussion on the emergence of new media platforms and the changes that technology and social media are having on business communications and education. Television, computers, cellphones and tablets are being used by consumers for different experiences. Content now needs to be delivered seamlessly across platforms. But, this challenges the business model of most media companies. Mr. Edelman identified 5 trends that are transforming communications today and then shared an expanded model of the media cloverleaf he conceptualized a few years ago.

1) New Social Media Giants are Being Born
Tumblr, Pinterest and Buzzfeed are expanding exponentially. While Facebook is the largest social network by far, its growth is slowing as users are exploring new experiences.

2) Paid Media Amplifies Social
Facebook’s sponsored stories, Twitter’s trending topics, Google Adwords, and conventional media are being successfully used to drive search and viewers/readers to PR content. Paid media now supports stories. Audience generation is key.

3) Search is Morphing Into Social
Google is using Google+ and other algorithms to add personalization to consumer search strings. This provides an additional social filter on search results.

4) Amplification Trumps Circulation
The business model for most media organizations is based on circulation or how many readers, listeners, viewers are delivered. Unfortunately for them, consumers are now using online communities to explore and to share content. Mr. Edelman referred to this as a change from “info-centric” to “socio-centric” behavior. He mentioned the popularity of “best-of” lists or “listicals” as an example.

5) Visual Storytelling
The big point here is that all companies are now media companies. The addition of 2nd-screen experiences opens up tremendous opportunities for companies and agencies to tell the stories they want to tell. This requires new skill sets. But, Mr. Edelman was very clear on the point that PR stories should be transparent. Unlike traditional news, brand journalism is meant to have a viewpoint.

To take advantage of these changes, Mr. Edleman unveiled an updated “cloverleaf model” that he developed. The model emphasizes the interplay among mainstream media, owned media, new media companies, and social media platforms. See below.

Edelman Media Cloverleaf

I applaud Edelman for their commitment. Partnering with business and industry is the only way colleges and universities can keep pace with the changes in communication tools and strategies. Real-world application is really the key to insuring that college grads from Journalism, PR, and Advertising have the skills they need to succeed in a changing world.