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.
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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