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Are you scaring PR people away from social media?

If you’re reading this blog, I suspect that you “get it.” Maybe you’re not an expert at Internet marketing, but if someone asks you about, you don’t involuntarily drool as you consider your answer. But what about the people that really don’t understand? Are you helping them to take a baby step into the digital waters or are you scaring them away? I have been wondering lately if the way we explain social media to PR people is making them run for the hills, instead of to join in.


When you explain social media to someone who doesn’t get it, does it sound like it’s this completely new, totally cool way to reach customers? Does it rewrite everything we ever knew about public relations? Does it transform the entire PR industry? Does it turn communications on its ear?
To you, that sounds exciting, but to the average PR person, it might be very scary. I mean, who wants to hear that the job that they know, and that they know they are good at, is suddenly changing into something totally different that they don’t understand and secretly fear they will never understand?
Instead, you’ll probably do better with an approach that emphasizes what they already know. No, they don’t understand YouTube, but they might understand what makes for a video that people want to watch. No, they don’t understand blogs, but they do understand that when journalists criticize the company, you should reach out to engage them. No, they don’t understand Twitter, but they do understand sound bites.
If you can reach PR people by starting with what they know instead of what they don’t know, they might be willing to stretch a bit instead of recoiling in horror. Telling people, “You already know most of what you need to know, but let me explain what’s different” is a lot more welcoming and calming than the scary, “Everything you knew is wrong.” Instead of battling the people who don’t get it, perhaps you’ll really help them get it.
Remember that PR people are experts at storytelling. They know what will fly with the audience and what won’t. They’ve spent a lifetime getting past the gatekeepers to that audience, such as the newspaper reporter or the TV producer. With social media, the gatekeepers are other customers who might be willing to pass along a really good story.
Don’t scare off the people who are the best at identifying that story. Instead, make the PR people your storytelling experts, the ones who help the rest of the company operate in public to tell their stories, through YouTube, blogs, Twitter, or any other social media that comes down the road. Social media is PR democratized throughout the company. Don’t throw away the experts before you start.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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