You Might Be a PR/Social Media Redneck If…

23 Mar

(With tongue firmly in cheek and apologies to Jeff Foxworthy)

  • …Getting that big hit in a daily newspaper or national magazine is your primary PR objective

While traditional media relations will continue to play a role in public relations programming, its importance and impact is shrinking at an alarming rate with each new publishing industry announcement of shuttered of operations, three day a week printing schedules and Chapter 11 filings.  Over 120 newspapers have folded entirely (CNN article here).  Anorexic-thin magazines appear starved for advertising.  To compound the issue, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, only 44% of consumers trust what they read in magazines and 34% trust what they read in newspapers.  Shrinking footprint combined with shrinking credibility does not portend well for traditional print media.

The best PR programs today take a broad, holistic view of the various avenues to engage with customers and prospects – traditional media, social media, community involvement, grassroots events – and attempt to do so in ways the customer/prospect respects and prefers.

  • …Your measurement program key metrics include number of hits, impressions and ad values/AVEs

It is fine to include a couple of volume-oriented metrics like number of unique articles or net positive OTS in your program, but these sorts of metrics do nothing to capture the value created by your program.  In order to capture value, we must understand the audience effects or outcomes of public relations programming.  Emphasis on output metrics like these may also be a reflection of a program oriented toward traditional media.  Traditional media metrics do not translate well to social media where the name of the game is engagement and not (just) eyeballs.   Double redneck points if you are using multipliers on impressions and/or AVEs to assign financial value to media hits.

  • …The big social media question you/your department have been asked to answer is “Should our CEO start a blog?”

The problem is this is almost always the wrong question at the time it is asked.  There are larger, more contextual, ones to ask first.  When a company begins to think about using social media, a CEO blog is often the first tactic considered.  The prospective blog can potentially become a solution in search of a problem.

Take a step back and put the prospective blog in context by thinking through the bigger questions first.  What key concepts and terms are strategically important to the company?  Can we develop a thought leadership platform designed to enhance relevance, credibility and authority in key areas?  Do we have anything important to add to the conversation?  Who from our company should be the voice of the company in key strategic areas?  Does this individual currently have authority in this area?  Is a blog a good strategy/tactic to deploy?

  • …Your communications program attempts to control more than contribute

While much advancement in communications theory has occurred since the Transmission and Direct Injection models of the 1950s, the mindset and behavior of many PR practitioners seems trapped in this ‘message as a drug’ mentality.  We want to control the message, manage our relationships and otherwise wield direct influence over our stakeholders.  This command and control mindset is truly out of phase with social media/market dynamics today.  What is needed is a shift away from control toward contribution.  How can you contribute to the conversation?  What content can you provide the community would find of value?  How can we give people a reason to talk about our brand?

As an industry we must become more comfortable participating rather than orchestrating.

  • …You are thinking vertically and tops-down rather than horizontally and non-hierarchical

Many comments on social media posts immediately speak to the wonders of synchronous communication – creating a dialogue rather than a monologue.  While synchronous communication has great value in gathering feedback and creating some level of dialogue, it remains a form of vertical communication.  In social media, however, the world is flat or horizontal.  Every piece of research I have seen suggests consumers value the opinions of other consumers, people ‘just like them’, more than they do companies or media pundits.  The greater value in social media is peer-to-peer horizontal communication, broadly referred to as WOM.  Taking a spin on the old global/local saying, the PR profession needs to ‘act vertically but think horizontally’.

Thanks for reading, Don B

Next Post: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader About Social Media Measurement?

6 Responses to “You Might Be a PR/Social Media Redneck If…”

  1. TLeb April 2, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Don – Great observations and suggestions! From an agency perspective, one of the biggest issues I’ve seen is that we are now trying to use social media as the vehicle to obtain those “big hits” while ignoring the fact that 100 or even 1000 small blog hits, can be considered successful in and of itself. Convincing clients that new strategies, tactics and metrics are needed to develop meaningful conversations with customers themselves (and not only traditional media), is probably one of the biggest hurdles for the industry right now.

  2. JC May 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    Don, I just stumbled upon this post and found it to be right on! I’m experiencing this right now at my new place of employment. I’m working to teach them the value of the over 900 Twitter posts generated around one of our recent events, versus one hit in a well known paper. It really is about changing your frame of mind from just talking to a reporter and calling it a days work!

  3. metricsman May 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, JC. It is hard to assign value to the Twitter posts per se. I would concentrate on showing the linkage of Twitter with event attendance. Fannies in seats is a good tangible metric.

  4. LKinoshita July 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    I agree with what you write about blogs … companies need to have a strong value proposition, something customers and audiences want, before starting one. It’s not about forcing your company into the dialogue, but rather using the winds of conversation, news and trends to shape what two-way value might look like.

  5. metricsman July 28, 2009 at 4:32 pm #


    Thanks for your spot-on comment. I like your poetic ‘winds of conversation’. Creating two-way conversational value is a key as you suggest.


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