(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
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