Hungry like the Woolf: Tales from the Mean Streets of PR
You've probably sat through PowerPoint presentations underlining how brands such as Kryptonite Locks and Dell were affected by so-called new media. Presenters surely have regaled you with the tale of how online people power in China pushed Starbucks from the Forbidden City.
Many admit that ‘this stuff' is important. Yes, they should be doing something about ‘it'. But, all too often, the discussion ends there. Nothing more than an earnest acknowledgement that ‘PR 2.0' is here (somewhere). For some reason, people go back to their cubicles and labour over another dry press release that's more likely to find a place in the deleted items of an editor's PC than on the front page. For many, the thud factor of newspaper and magazine clippings is still the only benchmark of public relations success.
Don't get me wrong. Well written, on message articles in significant newspapers and magazines are undeniably still influential. But (and it's a big but), they are not the end all and be all.
Sadly, many of us have grown up in a profession that has put these types of tactics on a pedestal. There's a PR generation that's conveniently convinced themselves that public relations equates to media relations. We've clung to a giant leap of faith that says if an article featuring my managing director appears on page 42 of Ming Pao, then this is a PR success. Surely, this is an output. It's the beginning of a discussion, not an end in itself. While we continue to focus on these types of measures, we'll never reach the potential of PR 2.0.
But what is PR 2.0? And how can I get some? It's not quite as simple as downloading the next version of iTunes. But it does share a pedigree with Web 2.0 - certainly an enabler of this new age of public relations.
PR 2.0 (says Wikipedia) was a phrase coined by Silicon Valley PR consultant Brian Solis. Brian (who's The Essential Guide to Social Media is a must read for anyone in communications) defines PR 2.0 as "...the understanding and practice that communications is a two-way process and incorporates the tools, principles, strategies, and philosophies for reaching, engaging, guiding, influencing, and helping people directly in addition to the traditional cycle of PR influence."
I like this lengthy definition. It brings PR back to where it should be. A discussion with publics - with people. These people are the most media (and PR!) savvy generation in history. Quite frankly, they don't believe the hype. Ours is an age in which the public and private have been redefined. Open, cloud technology is enabling connection and collaboration at an unprecedented level. Our markets are also more fragmented than ever, with the rise of truly global consumers. Today's audiences want to participate and be connected; they desire a genuine, open conversation and seek a community. And, perhaps most pertinent, they demand all of this now.
Reaching these people is the key and this isn't just about using the latest web tools. PR 2.0 isn't just for the technical elite - those that can differentiate between facebook and FriendFeed, Twitter and Jaiku or RSS and SMS. Powerful they may be, but these tools are simply enablers.
The principles that underlie PR 2.0 are stronger and require more than IT skills.
Before you build a blog, set up an island in Second Life or start Tweeting, take a deep breath. Then start listening to what you audience is saying. Radical huh?
It is time to go back to PR 101. Perhaps all PR 2.0 is doing, is getting us to cast aside the media relations assumptions we've made. It is time to redefine what's influential - and how your consumers or constituents want to engage with you. For sure, social media platforms and tools have become influential. But these are just means to a PR ‘end'. Meeting prospective buyers in a pub for a quick demo and a couple of pints may be infinitely more valuable than on a facebook page.
This is the heart of this new age of PR. We, as PR professionals, need to rediscover what genuinely influences decisions - and be prepared to be part of what is now a collaborative process. Page 42 of Ming Pao will always be important. But surely the discussion that follows the article is considerably more so.
Senior Vice President
Global Social Media Lead
- Text 100
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