Posted by Tom Gable
The blogosphere, Twittersphere and mainstream media are waking up to the fact that the hot new item they fell in love with not too long ago is starting to remind them of infatuations of old. The packaging might be brighter, more exotic and stimulating to the senses. But this hot new item could be a time sink; with hours and days disappearing with little of value to show. Yes, the titillation has been stimulating. But could this hot item simply be distracting us all from more serious, important and strategic activities?
Sound familiar? Remember the first encounter with The World Wide Web and Mosaic (pre-Netscape)? Then came Netscape, email, Yahoo, Google and a million new websites that bragged about capturing eyeballs (but no income), ad infinitum. Many firms, Gable PR included, succumbed to the siren songs of the web. So many pretty new faces are now tired or gone. Is the hot new item – social media – heading for the same fate?
Experts seem to agree that we are seeing the evolution of the social media phenomenon into the development of a commoditized set of tools to add to the PR arsenal for strategic use as needed.
Peter Shankman, of HARO fame, wrote that he would never hire a social media expert, and neither should you.
“Social Media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social Media, by itself, will not help you. We’re making the same mistakes that we made during the dotcom era, where everyone thought that just adding the term .com to your corporate logo made you instantly credible. It didn’t. If that’s all you did, you emphasized even more strongly how pathetic your company was.”
The Sysomos blog offered this guidance:
“In simple terms, social media as a standalone activity is coming to an end. If you are a social media consultant, you need to be really, really good at providing strategic counsel, as well as have in-depth knowledge of the tools and services need to execute tactically. For everyone else, they will need to offer than just social media strategic and tactical services. Instead, they have to offer services that embrace communications, marketing and sales strategies and goals.”
Even Steve Rubel, who grew up being a social media consultant and blogger ubber alles, noted that:
“It was fun while it lasted. But I totally agree that the future is all about integration. We need more systems thinkers who can see the big picture.”
I led a workshop at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy annual spring conference where we discussed PR as the ultimate platform for building image and reputation and social media as part of the tool kit.
The metaphor was PR as the Internet of communications. PR starts with a solid, authentic foundation using traditional methods (e.g. Media relations) and then layers on new applications (websites, email), leverages off other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and connects with people from all angles to move perception and behavior in the desired direction.
The senior PR counselors attending the workshop agreed that the “start” button for authentic PR was strategic planning brilliantly synchronized to support client business and marketing goals. The strategies, tools and tactics can be far-ranging to support building reputation and driving results with multiple target audiences. The obvious basic list included internal relations, pro-active media relations, social media integration, special events, breakthrough promotions, cause marketing, community relations, trade relations, investor relations, speaking engagements, conferences, trade shows, crisis PR and issues management.
In delving deeper into the hottest topic – the social media component – the Counselors discussed media disintermediation and the rise of what was characterized as the PR Publishing House – a powerful emerging force in marketing communications and public relations. Think of PR as content developer for many communications products, all integrated within unified themes. PR pros serve as creative directors. They develop their own editorial calendars and control multiple channels that bypass traditional media filters. When done strategically, the work of the PR publishing house advances education and knowledge, building trust and credibility through authentic conversations in a human voice that build long-term relationships.
What’s next? The gurus noted the end of the social media gurus, which does have a touch of irony to it. The workshop talked about communications at the speed of light and the two-second news cycle. There will surely be new layers of digital tools that drive faster actions and forms of communications we haven’t yet imagined. And it will be up to the PR pros to manage those new tools within a brilliant strategic context.