Public relations professionals are news and information hoarders. We have to be up-to-date with our current events. When I taught PR classes as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, one of the first things I would tell my undergraduate students was they should select one newspaper, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and find the time every day to stay abreast of world issues. I also explained to them how extremely important it is to read the PR trade publications to stay current with news of the profession. PR Week and PRSA’s Public Relations Tactics are excellent publications. In addition, PR people need to be well informed when it comes to public issues and news that is relevant to their clients and/or respective industries. It’s critical for PR professionals to read, be knowledgeable, and stay extremely well versed about the markets their brands try to reach.
Newspapers and PR trade publications are excellent resources for information, but there are many more conversations taking place on the Internet about your brands and their competitors. You need to know about these conversations. Sometimes you need a good, hard kick in the pants that makes you wake up to the ultimate mind expansion—the desire to try new strategies to obtain valuable information, build relationships, and interact in ways that are unfamiliar. If you find it easy to become set in your process or methodology, read on because you’re not alone and are probably in very good company. Maybe you’ve been doing PR for a couple years, 5 years, or 10 years, or perhaps you’re approaching 20 years, which is where I am today. No matter what stage you’re at, don’t freeze up or feel uneasy and threatened when you hear about new ways people are networking and conversing online and ways you need to communicate to them.
These new methods include
- A great deal of social networking, such as blogging and interacting on Web sites, that enables you to meet “friends” and share content
- New ways to reach groups by employing social media tools in news releases
- Really Simple Syndication (RSS) technology for targeted news and information
- Wiki, as in Wikipedia
- Any other intimidating 2.0 terms you’re unfamiliar with
On the other hand, you might be very familiar with the new media terms, but just haven’t embraced these resources enough to place them into action and have them incorporated into your daily PR regimen. You will discover that there’s a time and a place to use PR 2.0, and after you’ve read this book, you’ll let your new frame of reference tell you when it’s time. You will also rely on your solid training as a PR professional and skills of the past to guide you to great success.
Are You Ready to Be 2.0 Ready?
I remember having this incredibly uncomfortable feeling during a meeting back in 2004. My Sr. Vice President of Client Relations, Dennis Madej, and I had driven all the way to Long Island for a pitch meeting with a small technology company that had developed a load balancing product. It was the first affordable system used for traffic management on e-commerce Web sites for small to medium size businesses. The CEO and Founder of the company said, “We need you to educate us on new media strategies.” At the time, my company, PFS Marketwyse, had been working for a year or so with GLOBIX (Amex: GEX), a leading provider of Internet infrastructure and network services. We also worked for about six years with JVC Professional Products Company to publicize its proprietary technology in a complete line of broadcast and professional equipment, as well as other smaller technology firms, whether they were providers of mobile applications or CRM. We felt fairly confident we would be able to provide this technology company with PR and new media strategies.
Our immediate response to the CEO’s inquiry was that PFS was very tapped into new media with the most current, Web-based media list generating tools and online distribution strategies. We had great contacts with technology publications and we utilized PR Newswire’s ProfNet service, which brought our client experts together with technology editors who were looking for thought leaders to interview for their articles and feature stories. I mentioned we were familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that we’d done Webinars, and we would be able to help them with developing blogs. However, this wasn’t enough. The CEO looked at us with the same question. He still wanted us to educate him on the new media strategies. Have you ever been in this type of situation? When you wished you knew more? We were in desperate need of PR 2.0.
Surprisingly, we won the account because the executives from this small tech firm saw our enthusiasm, knew we were hungry, felt our energy and aggressiveness, and believed our media contacts would propel them to a new level of publicity. They had been “burned in the past,” as so many have, “by PR companies that promise the world and deliver very little.” However, we won the account as a result of our attitudes and an impressive technology portfolio; so much so, that these executives were willing to take the chance on a small agency that wasn’t entirely up to speed on new media strategies, but had a lot of potential. We were honest about our level of understanding when it came to new media strategies and at the same time, as a small PR division of a marketing company, realized we needed a crash course in PR 2.0. There was nothing holding us back except our own sense of complacency. A complacent attitude is dangerous when technology is constantly changing and advancing, and so is your client’s competitive landscape. I knew, and so did my Sr. VP, that it was time to raise the bar. That’s when it hit us; there was so much more to learn, and we had touched only the tip of the iceberg for our own company and our clients.
That’s why this book is so important to all you PR professionals who have had a taste of new media and really want to dig into the latest PR strategies on the Internet. Is this an easy task for the average professional? I’m not so sure about that. It depends on your educational background, work experience, training; and I hate to say this—for some, your age. In my last book, The New PR Toolkit, Chapter 1 discussed the rate at which people accept technology. The group known as the Innovators are “Often young and mobile, the members of this group embrace technology early on and were right there at the birth of the commercial Internet, jumping on the bandwagon with creative ideas.” It’s no surprise that today the Innovators are the first to enjoy MySpace.com, Facebook.com, and the self-made videos YouTube.com offers. Where else can you see a man’s face change every day over a seven-year period and watch a three-minute video on Christmas decorations (specifically a house that lights up rhythmically to music)? The New PR Toolkit maps out the other stages of accepting technology, including the Early Adopters who are less prone to taking risks, but certainly are helping to fuel the growth of new media strategies; the Early Majority—the large group that uses the Internet mostly for e-mail, research, and news; the Late Majority who are very suspect of what the Internet has to offer; and finally, the Laggards, who just as they sound, would rather not be bothered with technology. As a group, the Laggards are extremely concerned with privacy issues and are “lagging” behind. As professionals, we are all different. It’s up to you to determine where you fall on the technology acceptance spectrum and what type of PR you feel you need to offer to the brands you work with.
As you read this book, there are some very different and unfamiliar examples of what brands are doing online and how PR 2.0 has been tremendously successful. There are other examples of brands that backfire with their 2.0 strategies and have a miserable failure on their hands and reputation issues to deal with. I would like you to keep one very important notion in mind during your cruise through the new PR 2.0 strategies: The responsibility of the PR professional is always to communicate with facts, accuracy, and integrity for the brand(s) you represent. If you can abide by this rule and expand your frame of reference to accept the momentous changes in technology and all the Internet has to offer in terms of social media strategies, then you will benefit from this book. Let’s dig deeper into the concept of expanding your frame of reference.