Bytes from the PR Sphere: Distilling the Social Components of Public Relations

Bytes-from-the-PR-Sphere-Distilling-the-Social-Components-of-Public-Relations-V1.min copy

Social + media = engagement + information

Vis-à-vis (corporate) public relations and social media, if I had my druthers at this stage the explanation would be reversed, although media social doesn’t trip off the tongue (or keyboard) nearly as easily.

But it would be more accurate.

Welcome to the first in a series of Bytes from the PR sphere on the Windmill Networking Blog, where I’ve been invited to detail and explore fundamental links between public relations and the interwebs, primarily from an organizational narrative perspective.

Something “media social” is advancing in this veteran public relations and communication management specialist is the ability to distill large swaths of information and complex concepts into more easily digested bytes of knowledge and opinion (for time-starved and info-overloaded colleagues from different disciplines).

In accepting this assignment, my goal is “persuading” this blog’s *stakeholders and occasional readers that I’m not talking hogwash when it comes to the role and significance of online PR.

The beauty of social is that you get to decide qualitative outcomes as to whether my thoughts and words are convincing enough to influence you.

Influence – you have been influenced when you think in a way you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done. Philip Sheldrake, The Business of Influence: Reframing Marketing and PR for the Digital Age (Glossary of Terms)

*Stakeholder – a person or organization with an interest or concern in our organization or something our organization is involved in. (Ibid.)

Defining the social PR

Reputation, value and relationship building

That’s a succinct definition tweeted by Terry Flynn, past president of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) more than a year ago.

Since time, I’ve adopted it as my own “tweetable” #PR definition. Plus used it, numerous times.

Terry, together with Fran Gregory and Jean Valin, also used a wiki to develop a formal definition, which CPRS adopted a few years ago:

Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.

That’s a more-encompassing definition…but also much harder to recall, verbatim.

Remember what I just said about distilling down the essence of a concept for social media? “Reputation, value and relationship building” does just that in defining PR.

Reputation – the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something. (Also from Philip Sheldrake’s Glossary.)

Value – things of significance or usefulness an organization brings to someone or something, often a consequence of deliberate action(s), including those introduced via social media.

Relationship building – connections, informal or formal, short- or long-term, developed with various *stakeholders through dialogue, actions or transactions.

One reason I wish it was media (information) social (engagement), rather than social media, is because at this stage on the interwebs, active user numbers suggest organizational reputation and value are more likely to be determined based on information (or content):

  • searched for research purposes or simply through curiosity
  • consumed (i.e., read, watched or listened to) and
  • debated amongst third parties (i.e., champions or detractors)

rather than direct engagement or relationship buildings with stakeholders, in other words, the social aspect.

The trick is to produce information that “consumers” want to access and hear, rather than simply broadcasting corporate messaging. Ideally these same stakeholders will want to have conversations about the information found…but probably not a great deal, just yet.

I believe social media provides tremendous opportunities to interact with a lot of people and organizations, primarily at a superficial level. But I’m also a social media pragmatist: To a certain extent current platforms and interactions are inadequate in building deeper, long-term relationships. And not just for public relations, for any discipline, including marketing and customer relations.

Recognize that social relationships, particularly with companies, are transitory, often depending on a person’s current needs or interests. Tomorrow he or she may have moved on somewhere else, online or off.

This brings me to an important point:

You cannot rely solely upon social media for an organization’s public relations efforts.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that social media provides a low-cost and effective alternative to doing traditional PR.

Indeed, the various platforms lend themselves to an overall integrated communication effort for an organization’s public relations strategy and touch points. (Note that I said integrated communication, not to be confused with integrated marketing communications.) There is a great deal of potential in social media, but not as a stand-alone offering or silver bullet.

For the purposes of this column, strategy is defined as why? And tactics are defined as what, where and how?

Proposition: PR in the lead role for corporate social media

When talking about corporate social media accounts—blog(s), Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr (or other photo streams), YouTube, soon-to-be Google+ for business, even Facebook (albeit less important…more on that in a later post) and so on, isn’t the function and remit of public relationsreputation, value and relationship building—best suited to lead the social media efforts? Particularly when it comes to reputation monitoring and crisis communications?

Notice I deliberately said lead.

Not own.

Leading encompasses:

  • (first and foremost) counsel to others, from the C-suite spanning outwards
  • participation and buy-in from a slew of related departments and *stakeholders (including employees and external groups)
  • determining the communication vehicles and/or touch points for dialogue, both of which should be regular and honest

“Own” is a self-important concept and should be banned from something as central, fluid and relatively untested as effective reputation management and value in the social sphere; particularly as there is more than enough room for multiple voices and perspectives who all share the same business vision and goals.

Brass tacks for online PR observations

I’m not trying to be provocative or controversial indicating that social media should be part of public relation’s remit in a leading role. I know that many (for example, marketers) would argue differently. But this column focuses on PR and social media.

This leads into a very important point. Public relations is not marketing (or simply media relations). Nor should public relations report to marketing in a subservient role, including in social media efforts. Both disciplines have equally important roles to play in organizational efforts and goals, but there are some crucial differentiators.

I respect the discipline of marketing. I’ve worked happily and productively with marketing colleagues, with great success helping to further their goals. Together we’ve collaborated in successful marketing PR efforts.

But I’m not interested in overt “marketing” being directed at me in social media.

Be honest—are you?

Yes, for-profit organizations are in the business of making money. Charities and other non-profits (i.e., arts organizations and associations, etc.,) also have fiscal goals. But when it comes to strategic online PR, reputation, value and relationship building supersede blatant commercialism.

But here’s the sweet spot: once you’ve mastered the three pillars of PR, the sales and marketing aspect, combined with effective customer relations, become more effortless…because customers and other stakeholders are more interested in “doing business” with a company they trust, both online and off—which should make every department happy.

Until the next Byte

Readers are invited to comment on the above definitions and propositions; additionally, to indicate any areas of particular interest that could be explored in future Bytes from the PR sphere columns.

Judy Gombita
This monthly Social Media and Public Relations column is contributed by Judy Gombita. Judy is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. +Judy Gombita
Judy Gombita

@jgombita

Sr/hybrid (social) public relations & communication management strategist. Mindful curation @PRConversations. Heart: travel, film, theatre, opera, books & food.
In @TheDrum: Why the #PR industry is attracting a flurry of mergers and acquisitions http://t.co/sUWeSWyvM6 - 16 hours ago
Judy Gombita
Social Fresh West

Comments

  1. says

    Judy,

    First, congratulations on your inaugural post on Neal’s blog.  It’s about time PR got some respect (Rodney Dangerfield RIP).  Perfect way to begin, starting off with a definitional  foundation.  We continue to struggle with the lexicon for public relations (sorry, the PRSA-inspired formal — i.e. Ivory Tower — definition resonates like a 2-ton slab of Brazilian granite.)  Now we try to get our collective arms around social media, or media social as you would prefer.  Years ago when asked at a cocktail party what PR was and what I did for a living, I said it’s like the guy who operates the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland.  Clear, concise and…everyone got it.  Adjusting the definition for our brave, new SM world, social media then is the ability for everyone to enjoy the boat ride at the Magic Kingdom without a ticket, whenever they want and to secondarily share the experience with others who will (hopefully) become their friends, connectors and/or customers.  The slight struggle in social media is the Jungle Cruise operator wants to own the ride, but so do the people selling spears, shrunken heads and Mickey pencils in the shop next door.   Seriously, our profession has done a relatively good job at explaining what we do to each other.  The bigger challenge perhaps is in explaining to non-PR pros (such as the people who sign the contracts and approve the checks) what we do and, more important, how we can help companies or constituencies achieve business objectives.  Looking forward to your posts.

    Joel

    • says

      Joel, I know you’re awaiting a response from Judy, which I’m sure will come soon, but thank you so much for adding to the conversation from your PR perspective.  As you know, I have the highest respect for your profession, and I do think that PR should have a seat at the table with regards to social media strategy.  It is interesting how many PR pros have become marketers with the advent of social media.  Judy provides a compelling story as to the role that PR should have in social media that is clearly delineated from that of marketing (although there is definitely a complementary if not collaborative role that they can have).  I’m looking forward to Judy’s future posts as much as you are!

      • says

        It may be unusual, Neal, but I actually think you’ve become more of a PR person than a sales and marketing one, regarding social media. That’s because you understand the long-term influence of reputation, value and relationship building….

        Hmm. You could be a case study for a future column!

        Thanks, again, for the opportunity. What I like about writing for your blog (versus my regular hangout, PR Conversations) is in detailing PR to people from other disciplines, rather than always having conversations with other PR practitioners, professors and students. Less of an “echo-chamber” per se (or a “filter bubble” as per Elia Pariser’s recent book).

        Like I said in this first column, it also gives me the chance to flex my “persuasive” writing muscles….

    • says

      Thanks for the words of support, Joel. (Plus in posting the first comment.) It’s great to move some of our overarching offline debates (publicly) here to Neal’s blog.

      First I’d like to put a couple things back on column track before addressing your great analogy for the PR role. I think you might have read too quickly, because that definition comes from the Canadian Public Relations Society.

      By comparison, PRSA’s current definition is:

      “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” (PRSA’s 1982 National Assembly formally adopted this definition of public relations)

      Whether you like the CPRS definition or not, what I think what everyone can appreciate is the innovative use of social media (i.e., a wiki) to build it, drawing upon a wealth of internationally accepted definitions and combining them into the most commonly identified concepts and phraseology. Let alone how much commentary and general enthusiasm it received. Do you know of any other association or organization that has done this regarding an eventual board-approved definition? Perhaps this demonstrates some essential Canadian traits: inclusiveness and accommodation. :-)

      My other small red flag was your phrase “the Jungle Cruise operator wants to OWN the ride.” Not only did I state, rather emphatically, that we aren’t talking “own”ership when it comes to social media, but I would
      contend that the operator generally isn’t the owner, whatever the vehicle.

      Usually the operator-person in your analogy is the PR employee, primary agency contact or consultant (i.e., solo PR). If they leave the job or get transferred to some other area, the Jungle Cruise is going to keep operating or moving.

      Ergo, it’s the current person in the position who leads or directs, not owns. Circumstances may alter and/or the individual change, but the area responsibility should remain the same. As will the true real estate owner—the corporation/employer.

      I very much like your comment about how social media gives everyone “the ability…to enjoy the board ride at the Magic Kingdom without a ticket, whenever they want and to secondarily share the experience with others…”

      That’s brilliant!

      It also speaks about what I said in this inaugural column: the beauty of social is each person deciding how persuasive (or enjoyable) and influential is the time spent in any specific online experience.

      I laughed reading your characterization of marketers as “people selling spears, shrunken heads and Mickey pencils.” At least you didn’t include snake oil! Marketers as a group aren’t bad people. They simply have a laser-like focus on adding to the organization’s bottom line—which is the primary role they were hired to do. When times are good and the ideas are working, marketers are heroes, especially to shareholders and leadership. But when there is a crisis…that’s when you want the PR person to be talking to the media and other stakeholders—preferably when and where an existing relationship has been built and/or the organization is already viewed in a generally positive and trusted light.

      Another line I’ve borrowed from Terry Flynn (although I’ve yet to hear his actual presentation, alas):

      “[Effective] public relations is valuable but not valued.”

      Except, of course, during a significant event or crisis, when all eyes (and criticisms) are on the public relations function to do effective reputation management and crisis communications, it would seem.

      Your final comments appear to reflect the commendable focus of PRSA’s outreach efforts: Making a business case for public relations. Visit: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligen

      I hope you’ve accessed (or will access) the online materials, which are currently available to everyone.

      Thanks, again, for the comments and support.

  2. says

    PR is definitely in a new frontier Neal. This is a great over view.

    I think what is really confusing business is what is happening in popular culture. They forget their business is not a celebrity. If GE tweets ‘working on new wind turbine’ will any press pick that up? Maybe but most likely not in any significant way. So if GE can’t will Bob’s TV’s or Joe’s Restaurant or even a regional Bank get such play? No.

    But then they watch sports and it says ‘Ballplayer X just announced on Twitter he signed a contract extension’ and it is all over the news now. No press conference. No special reporting. If it was only that easy! But the sports star is a celeb. He has your attention because he interests you. and because he interests you the press will pick it up because this is content they know you want to receive.

    But with the right strategy you can facilitate these things in a beneficial way for your brand or business to help amplify your message. And you have to focus on what content/message your target wants to receive.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Howie.  Yes, we are in unchartered territory, but I believe that PR has and should play an important role in a company’s social media strategy. That’s why I handpicked Judy Gombita to write a monthly column on the subject!

    • says

      Hello, Howie!

      One of the joys of participating in someone else’s blog is you get to meet and converse with people new to you, who share similar ideas.

      I am so glad you zeroed in on the common conundrum of the interesting “media” (information) aspect of the social. I concur that the vast majority of a company’s properties and social offerings aren’t akin to those of sports celebrities. Hardly. But this isn’t something new. It’s a common complaint of journalists (and now bloggers) about receiving news releases about widgets that are downright dull and/or have nothing to do with your publishing platform. Let alone the release simply being bad. And how often does the insistent idea that said release must be done originate from the C-suite?

      I think what organizations need to do is figure out WHY stakeholders do visit their social media properties and spend the bulk of the real estate space on those same things—even if they are not sexy. And persuade leadership this is the case and the best way to deploy resources.

      Although I can’t point you to an online version just yet, I encourage you to visit (Australian) Craig Pearce’s blog to register then download and read “Public Relations 2011: Issues, Insights and Ideas.” On pages 15-17 of his report you will find my submission, “Internal journo and SEO expert; new ‘trust’ calisthenics for the PR pro.” In it, I discuss focusing your social media information efforts on what visitors want to research and find out about, rather than what the organization thinks would make for interesting “corporate messaging.” (Plus there’s a wealth of other submissions from practitioners from different countries.)

      I’m actually not a huge fan of the word “messaging.” Or spin. That’s why I’m working to evolve the term to “organizational narrative.” And another side note: I stopped using the word “target” audiences/publics after being mildly chastised by Jim Grunig for it on our PR Conversations group interview with him a few years ago. (See Engaging (and grilling) the social side of James Grunig.)

      What Jim said (extraction):

      “I dislike the term ‘targeted’ publics. This suggests that the organization should try to limit its publics to those it wants to reach because of its self interests. I believe we have to identify publics from their own perspectives.

      Publics consist of people who are affected by the consequences of an organization’s behaviour—either positively or negatively. Other publics also seek consequences from an organization that the organization might prefer not to provide—such as a pharmaceutical company producing an orphan drug that might cure a disease but is not profitable.

      The great thing about the new media is that publics are free to identify themselves rather than waiting for the organization to identify them. Obviously, therefore we should engage all publics—at least to the extent that the organization has the resources to engage them….”

      But this in no way takes away from my appreciation that you weighed in, Howie; I hope you continue to read and comment on future columns here on Neal’s bog. As a collaborative and open-minded group of practitioners, we’re well situated to figure out strategic and effective online PR.

  3. says

    Thanks
    for the words of support, Joel. (Plus in posting the first comment.) It’s great to move some of our overarching
    offline debates (publicly) here to Neal’s blog.

     

    First
    I’d like to put a couple things back on column track before addressing your
    great analogy for the PR role. I think you might have read too quickly, because
    that definition comes from the Canadian Public Relations Society. PRSA’s
    current definition is:

     

    “Public
    relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” (PRSA’s
    1982 National Assembly formally adopted this definition of public relations)

    Whether
    you like the CPRS definition or not, what I think what everyone can appreciate
    is the innovative use of social media (i.e., a wiki) to build it, drawing upon
    a wealth of internationally accepted definitions and combining them into the
    most commonly identified concepts and phraseology. Let alone how much
    commentary and general enthusiasm it received. Do you know of any other association
    or organization that has done this regarding an eventual board-approved
    definition? Perhaps this demonstrates some essential Canadian traits:
    inclusiveness and accommodation. :-)

     

    My
    other small red flag was your phrase “the Jungle Cruise operator wants to OWN
    the ride.” Not only did I state, rather emphatically, that we aren’t
    talking “own”ership when it comes to social media, but I would
    contend that the operator generally isn’t the owner, whatever the vehicle.
    Usually the operator-person in your analogy is the PR employee, primary agency
    contact or consultant (i.e., solo PR). If they leave the job or get transferred
    to some other area, the Jungle Cruise is going to keep operating or moving.
    Ergo, it’s the current person in the position who leads or directs, not owns.
    Circumstances may alter and/or the individual change, but the area
    responsibility should remain the same. As will the true real estate owner—the
    corporation/employer.

     

    I
    very much like your comment about how social media gives everyone “the
    ability…to enjoy the board ride at the Magic Kingdom
    without a ticket, whenever they want and to secondarily share the experience
    with others…”

     

    That’s
    brilliant!

     

    It
    also speaks about what I said in this inaugural column: the beauty of social is
    each person deciding how persuasive (or enjoyable) and influential is the time
    spent in any specific online experience.

     

    I
    laughed reading your characterization of marketers as “people selling
    spears, shrunken heads and Mickey pencils.” At least you didn’t include
    snake oil! Marketers as a group aren’t bad people. They simply have a laser-like
    focus on adding to the organization’s bottom line—which is the primary role
    they were hired to do. When times are good and the ideas are working, marketers
    are heroes, especially to shareholders and leadership. But when there is a
    crisis…that’s when you want the PR person to be talking to the media and other
    stakeholders—preferably when and where an existing relationship has been built
    and/or the organization is already viewed in a generally positive and trusted light.
    Another line I’ve borrowed from Terry Flynn (although I’ve yet to hear his
    actual presentation, alas):

     

    “[Effective]
    public relations is valuable but not valued.”

     

    Except,
    of course, during a significant event or crisis, when all eyes (and criticisms)
    are on the public relations function to do effective reputation management and
    crisis communications, it would seem.

     

    Your
    final comments appear to reflect the commendable focus of PRSA’s outreach
    efforts: Making a business case for public relations. Visit: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/BusinessCase/
    I hope you’ve accessed (or will access) the online materials, which are
    currently available to everyone. Thanks, again, for the comments and support.

  4. Anonymous says

    Hi Judy, really enjoyed your first post here and your PR definitions and perspectives. Because I started my career many years ago as a copywriter, I’ve always believed in the power of integrated PR and marketing. What’s interesting about the impact of social media on public relations is that it’s forcing us to rethink PR roles and goals. In a good way.

    We don’t need to run screaming in fear from “marketing” any more. The things that make media social so effective have always been in our PR toolkits. They’ve just been reinvented with “new” names like conversations, content marketing, curation, storytelling, listening posts and content creation. In fact, in ancient PR history, it just used to be called “community relations.” Best of all PR knows how to deliver the social goods without overt marketing, overselling and shouting. Most of the time, LOL.

    No question PR can lead without fighting to own media social. Looking forward to your explorations.

    • says

      Thanks for weighing in, Jeff.

      Interesting, I did not know about your copywriter background. Was it in advertising or for a marcomm agency? (Or in-house marcomm?) If that is the case, I can see why you would be a proponent of integrated marketing and public relations. But I still maintain that the integration should focus on “communications” not marketing and PR.

      Why?

      Because in the “tweetable” words of my wise friend (and measurement guru) Sean Williams ( http://twitter.com/commAMMO ):

      “I’m an Integrated Communications devotee–all marketing is communications, not all communications is marketing.”

      Sean recently did a blog post about the topic. See: “PR as sales support: EZ 2 Measure, but…”
      http://www.communicationammo.com/meas/pr-as-sales-support-ez-2-measure-but/

      And note that the wonderful Terry O’Reilly (of The Age of Persuasion book and CBC Radio show/podcast fame) will use the words “advertising and marketing” interchangeably, but always quite clearly differentiates public relations.

      I’d be interested in discussing, in more detail, how you feel social media is forcing us to “rethink PR roles and goals” (in a good way). I don’t believe “reputation, value and relationship building” were rethought as goals due to social media. I’d say simply that the tactics or options to do these things have broadened with social media.

      Regardless of your thoughts on integration (which gives me pause), I’m pleased that you concur about PR’s “leading” (now own-ing) role to play.

      (As his “PRCoach” handle is not hotlinked, check out Jeff Domansky’s content-rich site: http://www.theprcoach.com/pr-blog/ Jeff is truly one of the most active and generous “PR content” curators in the Twitterverse.)

      • says

        Judy, Sean’s phrase “all marketing is communications, not all communications is marketing” is brilliant. My sentiments exactly. When I say social media is forcing us to rethink PR, it revolves around the idea that [media social] “community relations” as we used to know it is right back in style and PR is best equipped to lead it and manage it. Thanks again for your props and a thoughtful post.

  5. says

    I have a clearer understanding of how PR and marketing meet. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I am using reputation, value and relationship building as key words I’ll be using for my “PR box.” 

    Looking forward to your future post with excitement. I will like to see how I can use this to help startup who may not know the value of PR and marketing or what they can do for a small business.

  6. says

    I have a clearer understanding of how PR and marketing meet. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I am using reputation, value and relationship building as key words I’ll be using for my “PR box.” 

    Looking forward to your future post with excitement. I will like to see how I can use this to help startup who may not know the value of PR and marketing or what they can do for a small business.

  7. says

    Thank you for stopping by to comment (my favourite Nigerian Twittermate), Jesse!

    Marketing PR can be very powerful, providing it’s based on truth and focuses on things that are of interest and use to various stakeholders (including customers and potential customers).

    I know you quite liked my PR Conversations post, “Constructing the Organizational Narrative: PR definition in the making” (which I link to above). If you want to do effective “marketing PR,” simply think in terms of the narrative (company history, people, achievements, etc.). You’ll have a lot more luck “selling” or “marketing” products or services if people like what they see and hear in the organizational narrative. And if they trust it–trust me on that.

    Nice to know that the three pillars of PR will make it into Jesse Oguns “PR box.” :-)

  8. says

    Wow, so much here and in the comments. Not gonna tackle the overall scope of the PR definition, it’s too nice a Saturday to try and I want to head outside. :) I will give a big shout out for the tweetable “IMC .. not all communications is marketing” line in the comments, very good. I’m also of the mindset that almost any interaction with a brand is in essence customer service and PR, but not all is PR. 

    A few rambles, FWIW:

    ‘Transitory’ relationships: WIIFM, that is your customer, your audience or stakeholder. As their needs, wants, interests shift, so to will their ‘social’ attention. Like customer service, you have to think like the other side of the table and produce what they want to hear, what they need to know, what their fingers are searching for.

    What’s the line: ‘we like to buy but we don’t like to be sold to’ – many consumers are that way. When we’ve built relationships with someone, we seek out more info on their business, who they are and what they do – and actually pay attention. 

    Lead, not own; I’m cool with that as I’m not as into the territorial contests and budget fights (though of course, nice to have a little budget once in a while). Much of what I do straddles integrated communications w/ IMC so I welcome valuable input from all sides. I cannot agree enough that all of PR’s eggs should not be put in the ‘social media’ basket, just as PR cannot be limited to just media relations and publicity. 

    What I’ve got to think about is the ‘media social’ re: the active users. I’ve been thinking a LOT about lurkers, the casual fans and followers outside ‘the biz,’ those anonymous clicks and ‘unique visitors’ that may be socially quiet yet drive a lot of this communication and interaction. The ‘media’ consumption before the ‘social’ interaction occurs.. hmm. #thinkingcapon

    • says

      Thanks for your comments, Davina.  (As much as I adore the “deep-thoughts” men, I’m pleased a smart woman finally weighed in!)

      Regarding Sean Williams’ tweetable line, it’s important to know that much of Sean’s career was spent as senior-level counsel in internal communications roles for large organizations, rather than marcomm roles. Ergo, when he’s talking about all communications not being marketing, he’s thinking of both the internal and external (especially PR) functions. Note that I’m a big fan of American Sean’s way of thinking, in general. Between Sean, Toni Muzi Falconi (Italian, and the original founder of both the Global Alliance for PR and our PR Conversations blog) and João Duarte (Portuguese, and most recently head of IC for the huge Enel company), I’ve learned to appreciate the influential role of internal communications in effective corporate PR efforts.

      What do I see as the main role of PR when it comes to customer service? Primarily in a monitoring role, in terms of issues management, then counsel to the CRM/HR departments, if things are seriously going off-track and are making an impact on reputation. (Can you picture a PR person sitting in a call centre? Would that be a good use of her or his time, particularly as effective customer service is its own distinct art/science and skill set?)

      I prefer using stakeholders or publics to audiences. Always. I think it’s important for people in the PR function NOT to assume that any of our “messages” has a pre-determined audience. At best we can hope we are being listened to and suggestions acted upon…but it isn’t a given.
      And, again, customers/consumers are simply one public…although a lot of other stakeholders may “consume” our content. Think of a local community group or government officials, traditional or online media writers doing research, etc.

      I was waiting for one of those Classic Davina lines. You delivered it with, “…territorial contests and budget fights (though of course, nice to have a little budget once in a while).” Thank you!

      Just like I’ve indicated a respect for the marketing discipline, so do I tip my hat to anyone who practices IMC on a full-time basis. Simply put, I don’t want PR to be subsumed by IMC efforts, as I think there’s room for both and that PR deserves its own distinct remit, particularly in the areas where IMC does not play a role (cue Sean’s tweet). And if you DO practise IMC, please don’t say you are in PR. Just like you, Davine, I wish people would be transparent/honest about what they do, rather than donning a PR costume or moniker simply when it suits them.

      I feel like I’ve scored a major victory with you putting your 3hats #thinkingcapon re: media social. Once you’re back from your well-deserved vacation, we should explore the concept further; I welcome (as always) your valuable input. Cheers.

      • says

        It’s part of the 3 hats, PR is part of what I do; there have been clients for which much of my job was internal communications for a franchisee system, or media relations, or image and reputation management as related to branding. It’s the connective tissue, how one thread touches another. A bad customer service issue can turn into a PR headache, or a good service rep can turn an issue into PR gold… as you say, it takes monitoring and working with those teams. Working mostly w/ small biz I see that nothing operates in a vacuum, and the more communications initiates are designed to enhance and support each other, they usually do better. FWIW.

  9. says

    Brilliantly written, Judy. You are eloquent and comprehensive.

    As we have discussed this issue between us with much lively and spirited conversation over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting within myself to quantify my lack of buy in on the “own” vs. “lead” part of your POV. I don’t know that I will do it justice, or express myself well enough, but I am going to try.

    When it comes to implementation, someone must own. Someone must set the standards, decided the employment evaluation criteria, and must fund, approve/veto initiatives. In the current corp structure (&  I am all about changing this, but until it changes, it’s true),

    As a social media person, who never really saw marketing as my deal (although I probably live closer there than PR side), the phraseology you use – in particular this – that PR should “lead” in “determining the communication vehicles and/or touch points for dialogue” is where I struggle. I don’t see PR being social – to imagine that they will determine the touchpoints for dialogue flies in the face of the whole concept of listening and engaging. The audience will determine those points and we will learn to be real with our audience. That is being social and that is not usually the toolset PR folks apply.

    Could you elaborate a bit more re: leading vs owning – would PR, for instance, veto social media initiatives? Would they fund them? If lead means input, everyone should have input, no department any more than another. It’s all a bit confusing, I confess.

    • says

      Hi Vicki,

      Thanks for weighing in.

      The focus of this column is on the intersection of public relations and social media from a business or organizational or enterprise point of view. Ergo, ultimately each organization, large or small, will determine which department is best suited to “lead” the social media efforts. The enterprise itself, of course, “owns” the social media platforms…unless it is “sharecropping” on Facebook, etc. (h/t Valeria Maltoni http://twitter.com/conversationage for that phrase).

      I suspect what is at the root of your unhappiness with public relations taking the lead role is a different understanding or appreciation for what the function can accomplish from a strategic management point of view. From things you’ve said to me in the past, I think you mainly slot public relations in the marketing PR media relations function and/or as the department that publishes a static, mainly broadcasted annual report, etc.

      That’s not how I see public relations, nor is it the role many of my colleagues work in (in-house roles or as agency of record or solopr consultants).

      You can advise your clients about social media any way you choose. I, in turn, can write columns that (hopefully) provide the “business case” for public relations in the lead roles, including strategies and tactics, and suggest qualitative outcomes that can be measured, specifically related to public relations (reputation, value and relationship building).

      Let’s hope for lots of commentary (pro or con), and ultimately let’s let the marketplace decide…. It’s early days in social media, particularly from an effective social business point of view. Maybe you are right. Maybe I am right. Or maybe the answer is somewhere in-between OR somewhere totally different….

      Cheers,
      Judy

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