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
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 relations—reputation, 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.
- (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.