Monday, October 05, 2009

PR & social media - time to get jiggy with it

I was talking with someone this week about the plethora of social media 'experts' that have cropped up like new season mushrooms over the past 18 months and we got on to the subject of where PR fitted in to the scheme of things.

As PR people we are not necessarily tech-savvy. We have IT people to fix our computers and keep us humming along on 'teh interwebz'. We hang about on the geek fringe, dabbling in social networking... or do we more than dabble?

As a blogger for the past five years I've been around the online community for quite some time and would consider myself to be something of an early adopter in that realm.

That being the case, recognising the obvious benefits that social media could bring to my client communication strategies wasn't exactly a huge leap. If I'm online talking about stuff, then surely there are people out there talking about my clients' stuff that I should know about. And if they're not talking about my clients' stuff, then maybe they should be?

That's where some of those PR skills are handy in sorting out the wheat from the chaff. But it's a double edged sword *damn, I should stop with the analogies already!*

Ahem, anyway, as a PR professional my job is to develop clever communication strategies and execute them in a manner to generate as much positive publicity for the client as possible. It's all about the content and the execution.

It's the same with social media strategy. Good content is critical, BUT and it's a huge BUT, the execution is even more critical. It's one thing to pump out a word doc via email to your media lists and follow up with the schmooze, but that just ain't gonna cut the iSnack 2.0 sangers on the interwebz.

What us PR people have had to embrace in a massive way is the idea that we are now communicating with the public directly. Hello, I'm doing it right now! Sure, we still rely heavily on our dear friends in the media to act as the disseminators through traditional media outlets, but we're also coming to you live straight down that copper pipe and into ur 'puters at home.

This is where the big but comes into play. Okay, you're a PR professional kicking huge goals in the traditional sense - column cms coming out of the wahzoo - and then your client says 'let's get jiggy with it on twitter... can you deliver?'

Then you have to ask yourself, 'can I?' Do you have a twitter profile? Do you tweet often? Have you been networking and building your list of followers? Are you sitting there asking 'WTF is he talking about?'

Think of it this way, how important are your media contacts in the PR game as you move through the years and build those links? Bloody important. It's what sets you apart from a PR newby.

The social media arena is no different, if you don't have the contacts, you're not being taken seriously. That point is quite obvious on twitter - if you don't have a good list of followers, you're talking to no one. Sure, Mrs Kutcher and K Rudd will add you to their list, but are they really going to join in the chat about a new burger or pie you're trying to launch?

Don't miss the boat... just sayin'. But just as important, don't suddenly come trampling into the social media space slinging media releases about left right and centre because that'll end in tears. Remember, you're trying to generate a conversation - spamming will win you no friends... trust me, I've been there, but I'm back.

Take the time to develop your contacts and win their trust. Listen to what the tweeps are saying, share ideas and don't just bang on about your clients all the time. Make them WANT to read what you've got to say.

Please excuse any typos, I'm in the middle of organising a tweet-up in Perth to launch Mrs Mac's new Tex Mex pie. Those Perth tweeps just love a pie and a pint :)


Carolyn Anna Hall said...

Great article. TOTALLY agree.

Char said...

Hi there, been lurking on your blog for awhile, and I completely agree with you!

I find that some clients are still scared of change, and the PR person has to play the role of social media saleman (or woman) as well in some situations. And being involved in and experiencing social media for yourself is quite important for selling what you're pushing as credibly.

Hope you don't mind if I share this piece.