Categories: Media issues / PR issues

4 November 2009

One comment

Ready for the real PR revolution?

I’m captivated by the provocative headlines on Paul Holmes’s PR blog. The other day he posted a piece entitled For good PR people, digital changes nothing. That made me clap. It also sparked the urge to build on his comments.

Holmes lands some good blows against the arguments of Jeff Jarvis, Paul Argenti and other social media over-enthusiasts. He sets out clearly why PR’s fundamentals are as sound today as they were before the digital age began. His core remarks are so good they are worth reprinting:

“Social media experts talk about the need to surrender control of the message; PR people did that every time they spoke to a reporter.

“Social media experts talk about the need to listen as much as you talk; good PR has always been as much about bringing an outside perspective into the company as it has been about delivering the company message to external audiences.

“Social media experts talk about engaging directly with the public; that’s what good public relations people have always tried to do, especially in the community relations realm, although they have been limited in terms of the media for such engagement.

“Social media experts talk about measuring the success of campaigns by the level of engagement, the creation of ambassadors, the strength of relationships; that’s been a Holy Grail for the PR industry (which has never been well served by metrics focused on media clippings and advertising equivalency) for as long as I’ve been writing about it.”

I agree with all of the above. And I’m thrilled that Holmes is fighting the PR industry’s corner so robustly. But there are some points that I feel are worth adding to his, because some things have changed. Here’s a few real trends worth considering.

1. The number of “communicators” has  increased hugely as a result of digitalization.

2. The volume and quantity of misinformation has also risen exponentially, while the number of plausible, useful and worthwhile communicators has not increased much, if at all.

3. Traditional media is in a state of flux. The business model of some serious players is in tatters. The outcome of this is difficult to predict and will vary from market to market and between continents. So dead tree press is not so much dead as in transition.

4. Certainly, some industries are more suited to social media than others. For instance, for regulatory reasons some people cannot engage in too much online dialogue, while others like Ryanair do all their business on the Web but don’t go in for online conversations at all, and Apple produces the technology and sidesteps new media engagement.

5. Strikingly, dealing with the blogosphere is remarkably like dealing with the old media in terms of providing information, socialising, schmoozing etc. Online, on-air, or on paper, you find the few who matter and get on with them and through to them.

6. Monitoring the blogosphere is time-consuming, but the good news is that while everybody can get their view out there, most still don’t matter at all. (Yeah, yeah: I know you’re not allowed to say so.)

7. Online chatter and noise is not the same as old media debate, comment and reporting. This is partly because the blogosphere is inclined to temporary hysteria. (Yeah, yeah: I know the Daily Mail is too.)

8. The best way of counteracting nonsense in the blogosphere is to do so in the old media, or with those bits of the blogosphere which look most like the old media.

9. The future of good reputation lies with those companies, people and institutions that stand up to the crowd and refuse to get lost in it. That’s done by keeping their integrity, sticking to the evidence, and speaking clearly.

10. The big – perhaps even revolutionary – challenge for PRs is how to remain a source of information that stands up to scrutiny.

11. Here’s a wildcard. PRs and their clients can now easily become the media. So let’s really think about disintermediation.

Point 11 is not a trivial shift. I shall be exploring in more depth over the next few months just how the relationship between PRs, whether in agencies or inhouse, and their clients might well change in truly revolutionary ways.

One response to “Ready for the real PR revolution?”

  1. Sean Williams says:

    Paul, excellent post, as usual. I’d add a few items to your list, with respect to internal communication.

    Social media has increased the necessity of organizations to exponentially improve their internal communication effectiveness. That means having clear understanding of the level of employee comprehension regarding the business itself, its goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. Research, as always, is the primary means by which this is accomplished. Social media use by employees, either on or off the clock, makes it very unlikely that internal spin (the last refuge of spin these days) can succeed.

    Employees have multifarious choices about the sources of information about the business; the official source is just one, and is increasingly mistrusted (see ‘internal spin’ for details).

    Employees have long been able to smell spin — and outright falsehood — from their company comms. Social media magnifies this capability, but the solution — straight talk, respect and dialogue — hasn’t changed.

    Leaders frequently cite their own communication activities as essential to their leadership. But too few practitioners concentrate on managerial communication. From branding to motivation to reputation, making the internal constituency into raving fans is a cost conscious and effective strategy.

    Thanks for another great discussion.