“The Roman philosopher Seneca may have put it best two thousand years ago, ‘To be everywhere is to be nowhere.’”
Competition for attention and loyalty
As I’m writing this column I’m distracted by the CBC Radio morning program, The Current, interviewing a Facebook policy and communication staff member from Washington, DC, detailing one of its newer social initiatives of making use of the online platform for organ donations.
Would you stand by for a minute? This is quite interesting. And the segment shouldn’t take that long….
Thank you. As I was saying…oh, wait. I just realized I’ve received more email correspondence from an Edelman staff member in Melbourne, Australia, Katie Sheppet. She’s proposed a (PR Conversations) interview with John Paluszek (past chair of the Global Alliance of Public Relations and Communication Management) in relation to his upcoming World PR Forum presentation. What’s really cool about this is that John is a senior staff member at a rival PR agency (Ketchum). When it comes to global best practices regarding public relations, it’s great to see marketplace competition is a non issue. Plus I’m pleased it’s our international, collaborative online property earmarked for the narrative.
At PR Conversations we’ve staked out a unique position and global credibility in a competitive niche of the blogosphere, in spite of the fact that our posts are not mere snippets, list oriented or public bashing and lashing items. We’re the deep-thinking PR blog. We’re the PR blog many professors tell their university students to read, most recently by the UK’s Philip Young who is currently project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy at Campus Helsingborg, Lund University, in Malmö, Sweden.
(Sorry. I got distracted waxing eloquently about PR Conversations and its ethos. Have I mentioned we launched in the spring of 2007? Meaning we have a decent history and SEO component to draw upon for our reputation, credibility and ongoing narrative….)
In my email, I also see some shoutouts and +1s from Google+, regarding a Big Data article in the Wall Street Journal I shared. Then there are reminder tweets about one of my favourite Twitter chats. Do I have time to play a part, given that this column needs to be finished?
And so it goes.
Each and every day individuals and organizations need to make deliberate choices about where and when to spend online resources and time, particularly in regards to public relations.
And a reminder that I’m talking about long-term and consistent organizational narrative, in regards to “reputation, value and relationship building,” not simply short-term marketing campaigns or online advertisements aimed at bloggers, etc. Ergo, if you are an advocate of integrated marketing communications, which really does not have much use for public relations beyond “marketing PR,” I must be honest and say that my column, which focuses on the intersection of public relations and social media for business, probably is not the best place for you to spend time.
Although I aim to provide original ideas and opinions for your use, per Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, this column’s typical narrative is probably too long, detailed and complex for many of your distracted attention spans. #justsayin
If working memory is the mind’s scratch pad, then long-term memory is its filing system. The Shallows
Carr’s Pulitzer-prize-nominated book, The Shallows,is frightening in revealing how those of us who play an ongoing, active role in social media unwittingly are having our brains’ neurons rewired, meaning it’s increasingly hard for most to dig deep into information, especially for long periods of time. When is the last time you read a book or a newspaper from cover to back?
The staccato quality of our hyperactive online world is in many ways a huge challenge for any social business wanting to make both a “working memory” and long-term impact regarding brands. There’s a great analogy in The Shallows about how adding to long-term memories is akin to filling a bathtub using thimblefuls of water.
The long-term ROI of social public relations
If you are a business owner or executive looking for the public relations ROI of your social enterprise, regrettably, it might take a crisis—whether online or off, self or externally imposed—before you realize the true value of your social gold (narrative) investment. During a crisis, attention directed at your company will be razor-sharp in its intensity, not at all distracted.
If your strategy (Why and What) has always been thoughtful and anticipated numerous scenarios, being online works to your public relations benefit:
1. For the timeliness of communication in a medium well-situated for frequent updates and engagement.
2. Because of the SEO component available to media or other interested individuals wanting to search the “never forgets” Internet for proof points as to your company’s history and integrity and ongoing communication and relationships with various stakeholders and publics.
Choose the right platforms for organizational narrative snippets
I continue to believe social media is a wonderful business complement, including enlargements and enhancements, to an integrated communication strategy for public relations.
But it does have limitations, not the least of which is the stretching of resources and all of the distractions inherent in the medium, which I illustrated above. Again, I was inspired by The Shallows in choosing theword “snippets” for this column title.
To understand my inspiration, insert “company” or “organization” (and think organizational narrative) in place of “books” in these paragraphs:
…. But the inevitability of turning the pages of books into online images should not prevent us from considering the side effects. To make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it. The cohesion of its text, the linearity of its argument or narrative as it flows through scores of pages, is sacrificed. What that ancient Roman craftsman wove together when he created the first codex is unstitched. The quiet that was “part of the meaning” of the codex is sacrificed as well. Surrounding every page or snippet of text on Google Book Search is a welter of links, tools, tabs and ads, each eagerly angling for a share of the reader’s fragmented attention.
The great library that Google is rushing to create shouldn’t be confused with the libraries we’ve known up until now. It’s not a library of books. It’s a library of snippets.
Referencing my Bytes history
I already devoted an entire column to the idea of dividing up social media responsibilities and platforms—with an eye to relevancy and healthy content—to various company departments in my Nutrition Byte.
To enlarge the idea and relate it to this column, I believe some social media platforms are better suited to marketing promotions and campaigns over corporate communication and public relations. I don’t think it’s by accident that a lot of social media “crises” happen on Facebook, where there is less opportunity for the host company to engage in a sustained organizational narrative or attract individuals wanting to research and truly learn more about a company beyond its products or services. People tend to drop in to participate in contests, Like some initiative, vote on a topic, sign a petition or offer some opinionating. It also appears to be the go-to place to vent, even if for a short-term bellyache about customer service. At best it’s a snippets platform for both proactive and reactive public relations, often of the damage-control variety.
Deliberately designing my column’s narrative
In introducing my Bytes from the PR Sphere column more than a year ago, my goal was to build an online and searchable body of knowledge regarding various relationships and roles of public relations in social media, in particular those that went beyond marketing or media relations. Each column is stand alone, but it is also an ongoing narrative, weaving in and out, updated for timeliness, demonstrating some best practices case studies, etc. From the second column onwards, I’ve referenced one or more of my past columns, because these really are building blocks for a comprehensive approach. I also occasionally insert snippets of information or even full names and links into Twitter chats.
I stand behind what I’ve written or adjust the information in later columns, as I change my mind. That’s the advantage of research and deep thinking, as well as relatively timeless communication and information—it tends to be distinctive.
If you make your organizational narrative and social public relations thoughtful and consistent, you will garner:
- credibility and trust
- long-term memory; and
- search engine optimization
It likely won’t be fast and it likely won’t trend on Twitter or LinkedIn. But it will be a solid body of online work that won’t be missed by those relevant individuals and companies who are interested and searching.
Plug “Byte” into your favourite search engine and let me know which of my columns turn up on the first few pages. You see, my choice of that word was deliberate, as is the use of it in every column title.
It’s the quality—not the quantity—of attention
In a recent #hbrchat about his regular, go-to resources, Steve Cassady indicated some well-known publications, as well as “a few blogs my Scoop.it [newsletter] follows.” One of those blogs is Windmill Networking and I know that some of my Bytes have made the cut, including last month’s Journalist Byte. When I thanked him for the inclusion, Steve responded:
You have great content to share and [it] also helps broaden me with my general business.
Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to read and share, as well as incorporating into your consulting practice ideas gleaned from various Bytes columns, particularly in a very distracting environment!
We should all have ever-so-gratifying Steve Cassady readers and connections in our online lives, especially when it comes to social businesses.
1. Who are your social PR (Steve Cassady-type) champions?
2. How are you gaining mindshare and attention in this staccato, ADD online world?
3. Have I convinced you to shift your focus from short-term campaigns to longer-term memory and a solid body of knowledge, for public relations credibility and SEO purposes?
I promise that if you comment, you will have my full attention. I will carefully think out my response, as a thank you for reading this Distraction Byte in its entirety, rather than simply in snippets.