Monday, October 27, 2008

New Media, Old School PR

PRSA Detroit--The presenters I've been hearing at this conference with an emphasis on social media all seem to think we need to be told that the communication landscape has changed, that social media is different.

We get that. At least I do. Maybe I'm ahead of the curve and that's why I'm a little disappointed in the presentations. As I told some of the folks here from Amway, they (and others in West Michigan) have already demonstrated the concepts being discussed.

What we need to get is some thoughts on the subject of your actual presentation. Such as, strategy that is unique to social media. In other words, stop dwelling on the tools and get down to strategy.

So, I guess the strategy counsel that emerges from what I've been hearing is this: the fundamentals of PR, such as the RACE process, still applies. It's just that we do it differently in a social media environment, and we can do it faster and easier.

Research involves listening by monitoring blogs, Twitter and social forums. To paraphrase the X Files, the focus group is out there!

As for the action plan, we need to have objectives and strategies that make sense for each PR program or campaign and fit the culture of the online communities we engage. As always, these objectives should be outCOME (about a desired change in awareness, attitude or action in our key publics--and not so much about outPUT--looking at the fact that we have a blog or Twitter account. It's especially important--as always--to not confuse tactics with strategies. A Twitter account is a tactic. The strategy is how, with whom, when you use it in a way that delivers objectives.

Communication translates to conversations--seeding them and feeding them by posting comments on blogs, starting our own, following key publics on Twitter, encouraging key publics to follow us, 'friending' our stakeholders in various online networks, hosting our own networks, etc. In any event, participating in the conversation that will happen whether we talk or not. Listening is also part of communication, as it always should have been if we believe in two-way symmetrical communication.

And finally, evaluation is all about monitoring the quantity of online mentions, posts about you, comments on your posts, followers you have attracted, topics you've introduced that are maintained in social media discussions, share of discussion in your industry, the ratio of positive to negative mentions of you or your organization, and all the action objectives that are met as a result of your social media involvement--such as sales, volunteer recruitment, votes on an issue, donor retention, etc.

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