PR Still Not Getting Social Media

You would have to be a mummy not to have noticed the ongoing and pervasive conversation about what role public relations firms should play in helping their clients understand and use social media. I won’t go into the details here, except to point you to two recent posts on the subject; check out a response to this week’s event at the Horn Group called “Is Social Media Killing PR?” By Jeremiah Owyang and a post by Christopher Kenton called “The Bursting Media Bubble: Is this the death of Public Relations?” Jeremiah and Christopher are quick to acknowledge the continuing value of public relations but hold PR firm’s toes to the fire when it comes to understanding the fundamentals of social media and engaging the public instead of the media power brokers on behalf of their clients.

Public Relations firm’s inability to understand this paradigm shift was highlighted at the 3rd Annual Society for New Communications Research Symposium where Don Middleberg, CEO of the public relations agency, Middleberg Communications, and Jen McClure, executive director, Society for New Communications Research made the following statement to attendees,

“Managing social media belongs with public relations practitioners since PR professionals are story tellers who understand how to build relationships, collaborate, engage in conversations, understand changing influence patterns, and how to communicate with journalists in the channel of their choice.”

Framing social media as “communicating with journalists in the channel of their choice” is exactly why public relations practitioners are failing to provide leadership in the social media space.

Public relations is organized to maintain relationships with reporters and analysts not with customers directly. Influencing the influencers is so deeply rooted in the DNA of PR firms that it is difficult for them to hear what their own research is telling them. Perhaps that’s why only 5% of the 1850 companies surveyed by MotiveLab last summer trusted their PR firms to help them implement social media programs.

Photo Credit: tranchis

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  1. That 5% is likely to rise and quickly, too. The rush of PR firms signing up with Radian6 suggests that many of those firms will suddenly know how to show their clients the results of social media relations efforts. Of course, some not-insignificant measure of those results will follow from “communicating with journalists” because it always does, and nobody will care. Before you know it, communicating with journalists will be a new and important part of the off-the-shelf social media relations strategy/plan. Ultimately, nobody will care whether this it is called PR or MR or SR or Relations R Us because only the results matter.

    I still talk about what I read in the paper this morning, whether I am talking online or in line at the coffee shop.

  2. As a PR professional I do have to agree with your version of some PR agencies. In school we learned the most important audience was the journalist or editor, but I personally have always believed we should go directly to the consumer. As a freelance marketing/communications professional, I tell my clients to look to their local, regional or national communities and then to the internet to reach thier target market. Once we hit our target then we can find inventive ways to lure the media to our event, product or meeting. I appreciate your articles validation with my marketing methods.



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