PR doesn’t stand for “please retweet”

In a recent blog I suggested that Social Media is changing the way businesses and individuals communicate, live, laugh and love. But the article, Social media changes everything – including the marketing department, suggested that the organisation most affected was marketing. The marketing world is being turned upside down. It works less and less to attempt to ‘lead the conversation’ the company’s products. Marketing needs to ‘join’ the conversation as Chris Taylor says.

This would be a great time to put focus on one area of marketing that has probably changed most, and changed forever. That is PR, whether it is done internally or by an agency. PR seems to have lapsed into a comfortable place right now. It once was all about schmoozing enough journalists to get enough press releases published, and now it seems intertwined with Twitter. Perhaps it’s time to look at what PR actually stands for (and doesn’t).

PR = press releases

As Seth Godin eloquently says it, people tend to act as they are measured (and rewarded), and looking at a metric explains a great deal about behavior. The metric for PR was column inches. Some rags (newspapers) or mags (magazines) were considered as ‘better’ column inches, such as the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal. But the simplistic view was that any mention was a ‘score on the door’. This is massively expensive, especially with the explosion of blogs diluting the impact of the rags and mags.

The current approach requires talking to journalists to understand their copy dates and editorial needs, creating or rewriting articles, briefing journalists and hoping the article or a soundbite from the article gets used, and then praying that the intended audience happens to read the article. Schmoozing, or as TechCrunch put it in The Reality of PR: Smile, Dial, Name Drop, Pray.

Contrast this with a blog or video that gets tweeted and retweeted around the world with potential thousands or millions of the right people seeing it. But to do this the content needs to be topical, worth watching or reading, very well researched and written, and not overtly pushing product. It needs to be promoted by putting it in places where it will be picked up rather than being pushed.

The upshot? It is a new way to do things and greater creativity…two significant barriers to overcome.

PR = Please Retweet

Sadly some PR agencies have latched onto Social Media and see it as  a free extension to their normal press release blast. Every article is tweeted on the client Twitter account with the hope that it will be retweeted by the followers that have been collected (or bought). Sadly, that is not how it works and has diminishing returns.

PR = Public Relations

PR agencies need to go back and look at what PR stands for; Public Relations. It is a two-way dialogue (relationship) with the ‘public’. Social media is the perfect vehicle to remove the friction from those conversations and allow them to happen at scale. But to do that the PR team need to start producing content that is work having a conversation about and politely join some of the relevant conversations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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Categories: Innovation, Marketing

Author:Ian Gotts

Founder of Elements.cloud, tech advisor, investor, speaker and author. Runs on Duracell. Based in San Francisco and in a 747. Elements.cloud, is the business analysis app designed to support Salesforce #AwesomeAdmins. 100% cloud, it is tightly integrated into Salesforce. Use the free core capabilities to capture business processes and embed them inside objects, with single sign-on.

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4 Comments on “PR doesn’t stand for “please retweet””

  1. September 12, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Enjoyed reading this, I totally agree with your viewpoint here. If only more companies understood the opportunity that social media opens up for their PR function. Whilst there will always be a place for the ‘old way’ the social web allows companies to take far greater control. By creating intelligent / entertaining / informative and ultimately sharable content they can reach audiences directly – and without having to please the traditional ‘gatekeeping’ journalists… Sadly the opportunity is currently being squandered as many companies still feel more comfortable counting clippings.

    • September 12, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Content was and forever will be king. Some things never change, regardless of technology…

  2. September 20, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Couldn’t agree more. And I agree with Chris’s comment above. It’s important that the PR company make sure that what they are placing align with the clients goals, objectives and strategies and it’s not placement for the sake of placement. Showcasing that they are a leader in their industry is key to gaining trust, credibility and authority.

  3. January 10, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Thanks for a great post, Ian! I no longer work in PR, but practice it every day for my sole proprietorship as both the “agency” and the client. One of the most heartening aspects of the internet, especially Twitter, as a communications tool is the way it opens up pathways to genuine conversations with followers around the world. Businesses could all benefit from re-framing their approach to communication so that it is more personal, creative and authentic. They need to think about Twitter as a opportunity to build community, not simply acquire followers. This requires two-way communication (engagement) and following and sharing motivated by common interests, fields and purposes instead of monetary gain.

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