Al and Laura Ries said it best in The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. They just didn’t take into account the idea that social media would come along and obliterate the practice of traditional public relations as we know it.
PR started out as a way to talk to the public, the stakeholders our brands were interacting with. And then, seemingly all at once, our publics started talking back to us, and then they started talking about us, whether we were involved in the conversation or not. Thirty-four percent of all bloggers (more than 200 MILLION blogs exist right now, and more are joining those ranks, every day) post reviews about the products and brands they use, and that doesn’t count the bloggers who are courted to write product reviews. The average person (the ones who used to care about what the newspapers, radio, magazines and television said about products and brands) cares more about what their social graph thinks about products and services than how Google ranks them.
These are big numbers. These are important statistics, and ones that traditional PR people have got to start caring about.
Social media is not a fad, no matter what you, or your clients, think. It’s not going away, and the entire movement is only going to get bigger, stronger and more powerful.
So, what do you, as a PR person, do about this tidal wave known as social media? Easy. Be a sponge. Soak every single thing up you possibly can. Learn everything, every platform, every single way the public interacts. Apply your traditional knowledge and the way you know people converse and share information to the new social medium. When you really break it down, there’s not much new about this “new communications” tool. Sure, it’s all online now. Sure, it’s one to one (even if it is one to many) versus the one to a million that traditional media used to provide. That does not really change the fact that your job, as a PR person, is to get people talking about your client’s brand, your client’s newest widget, whatever.
People haven’t changed as much as they want you to think they have. They still talk to each other about what they like, and more importantly, what they don’t; they still talk about your client’s brand. The only difference now is that you can search for what they’re saying, and respond immediately, rather than not knowing what’s going on until something explodes.
Social media is really not as big and scary as many of the old school, traditional PR and media people would have you believe. It’s just a new way for the public – our true audiences – to receive our information and use it in a new way. Social media is that traditional water cooler, or better yet, a cocktail party. There are a bazillion conversations going on at any one time, and you, as a PR person – that person in the cocktail party with the information, who knows things – has the pleasure, and responsibility, of dipping in and out of these conversations, correcting information where necessary, adding to the conversation where appropriate and observing most of all.
So, what are your responsibilities to your client? Observe. Listen. Pay attention. Much as it was a few years ago, when you hired a media monitoring service, only now, there are a ton of free services that allow you to keep up with what people are saying about your clients every day, on every service.
Despite the media drama surrounding social media tools like facebook and twitter (and, come on. We all know how that really happened, don’t we?), it’s simply not as scary as you are led to believe.
Yes, you will need to change the way you monitor chatter. Yes, you’ll need to learn a few new tactics for your tool box, but overall, things are simply not as dire as we are lead to believe.
This article, written by Colleen Coplick, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.