beyond the press release


A Tale Of PR And Social Media

"Once upon a time, there was a talented young girl in PR called Vanessa. Vanessa rocked PR: she wrote like a pro, could spin fabulous yarns and had relationships with masses of journalists and media outlets around the land.

And then something scary happened... A big, bad monster called Social Media came to town. He hung out in the shadows at first, taunting people with his new isms and new way of connecting with others. Vanessa and the townsfolk couldn't work him out - they were afraid because they'd never seen anything like him before.

The tension and unease mounted with Vanessa and the townsfolk scurrying back to their safe PR havens until one day BOOM, the Social Media Monster came out of hiding. But he turned out to be a really cool guy, hooked up with Vanessa and they lived happily ever after.

The End."

Clearly that's a fairy tale because for many PR agencies, working or even grasping social media is a nightmare.



So the PR industry is challenged by social media?

In a word, yes. Taking a page out of my own company's book, the emergence of social media and the speed at which it has infiltrated the marketing lexicon, as well as our clients' expectations is indeed frightening.

Where do we start? What do we do? What are the rules? So I'm going out on a limb here and being a dunce at asking these questions, but really, what are the answers? And who is going to tell me?

The rise of the "Social Media Expert"

With every tweet, with every friending and with every mashup it seems another expert is born. But just because you do, does not mean you are -- did nobody tell you? We spend years studying, learning, picking apart marketing strategies, trying to understand behavior, coaxing out our communication skills and in one fell swoop, overnight anyone and everyone who's posted or Tweeted is an expert.

I am sorry, I just don't buy that. An expert in PR I may be, but social media I am not (yet).

Higgledy piggledy, my best friend?

Like any disruptive innovation, social media has come at a time when everything in our lives -- online and offline -- has changed so dramatically. We could almost document the rise of social media over the past 18 months of turbulence in the US and abroad. So it's no coincidence that social media will become the marketing be-all as we kick off a new decade: social media will be to 2010 what email was to 2000.

We're starting this journey and mapping out a new course, making it up as we go along, friending each other -- PR and Social Media -- until we get it right. There are many lessons to be learned and like anything new, there are bound to be mistakes. Practice, after all, makes perfect. Companies big or small are not immune to public ridicule in having "tweeted" out of line or handled a social media crisis poorly. Corporate Tweeting now comes with a 25-page "how to" manual. PR companies, digital marketers and corporate Tweeters - we are bound to mess up along way. The point is that most of us simply don't know until we try.

The jumping-off point

So here's where it gets sticky, as far I see it. The jumping off point is that conscious decision we make to dive in head (or feet) first and immerse ourselves in all things social media.

It's the point where we say, as a PR company, "We have to embrace social media now and incorporate this into all that we do or we'll just die. It has to become part of our DNA - this is not an add-on like a regional market to distribute press releases. To be sure, we'll never lose sight of our true core of expertise -- that is after all why we rock -- but now we can expand this to include what the market wants and what the future will demand of us."

Some in the PR industry have already taken the leap and jumped. I have. It's called evolution and it's what will set certain PR companies out from everyone else. Ready to jump now?

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2 comments about "A Tale Of PR And Social Media".
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  1. Priscilla Jessup from Denmark {the agency}, July 29, 2009 at 7:58 a.m.

    Vanessa, you're right in that social media is a new step in the evolution of how we (companies and individuals) choose to communicate with the rest of the world. However, as awkward as it may appear at first, our Vikings at DENMARK find that the "play nice rules" we learned as kids apply to social media as well: be nice, be interesting, be likeable. As the effort-barriers continue to ease and we move further from the information age and deeper into the recommendation age, social media will continues its job of connecting us quickly - mind to mind to many minds. How can anyone not want to play with purpose in this amazing space?

  2. Deborah French from Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc, July 29, 2009 at 2:52 p.m.

    Vanessa- A very important point you make is that social media is not an "add on" -- failing to get involved not only limits the number of people we can reach with our messages, but, ultimately, it has the potential to offend and alienate those who realize we make no effort to meet them where they are. Yes, it's scary when you're a small fish in a big sea... and your reminder that we're "making it up as we go along, friending each other -- PR and Social Media -- until we get it right" is an accurate, and valuable, assessment.

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