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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Recently I gave a talk at SMU (Singapore Management University) on the future of social media and its impact on businesses. Here is a blog post by Michael Netzley on the talk.

In a nutshell, I see 4 key drivers that will shape the way we work: Enterprise 2.0, Mobile, Content and Video, and finally Crowdsourcing. All of them are related in one way or another.

If you think that only 10 years ago we were dealing with Y2K, that Google was just one and a half years old, that we were excited by the first USB flash drive… We can only imagine what’s ahead, in the next 10 years.

The NY Times got me again.  To say that this is a great read for any marketer is an understatement and it may be worth reading more than once. 

At the risk of violating one of the premises of the article, the section that really struck me from a communications standpoint was a concept the article attributes to Cass Sunstein called “cyberbalkanization.”  Essentially this is the ability for anyone to easily use online and social tools (as well as traditional ones) to surround themselves with news, opinions and ideas that are in-line with their own existing ideas, perceptions and beliefs.  This eliminates the need to listen or learn from anyone that has an opinion outside of your own – this part is towards the end of the story.

While I believe much of this has been around for years via traditional media catering to specific consumer, business and political interests, the future is certainly accelerating the opportunity and dropping the barriers to entry while increasing the gap between opposing views.  Instead of paying for subscriptions or content, I can now get almost whatever I want, free and delivered to virtually any screen I want while mashing it up with any other content I wish.  I’m able to create my own happy little news world – surrounding myself with my preferred bloggers and authors (thanks to my RSS feeds, readers) and my own social networks (that , naturally, consist of likeminded “friends”). It is easy to see how small my world can become and how easy it is to block out the culture, ideas, thoughts and perspectives of those outside of it.

From a technology standpoint, some research groups are working on ways to try and intesect this trend.  Take a look at the Dispute Finder project developed by Intel (Disclosure: Intel is a client) and UC Berkeley – here is a good video of the project as well.  Through a Firefox extension, I’m able to read all the news and views I want, as normal.  But when the Dispute Finder picks up a keyword phrase, I’m presented with the option to hear two perspectives of the story one supporting it and one opposing.

Until this type of technology is available for broad use, we’re faced with the challenge of determining how we speak with people and communicate with them if they’re not even listening or tuning in.  Certainly we need to understand the habits of our target audiences (both online and offline) as well as the technology they use to gather their information – but we also need to be willing to listen to opposing views, learn from them and find ways to apply that knowledge to reaching our audience.  Some of this may be engaging with them in discussion (online or offline) and that it is the beauty and fear of social media.  I also think this is part of the reason we all jump to read the cyclical “PR is Dead” story or the debate about the death of embargoes (search Twitter for #newscartel) or how the media industry is dead (or dying – @themediaisdying).

We should be paying attention, and more importantly, we should be listening and learning.

In early January I posted a blog on the “Top 10 Priorities for Tech PR Professionals in 2010.” I received quite a few comments on the blog itself as well as through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email.

I waited a month and now have decided to re-post it with a single additional priority and some minor changes. The most evident is in the title, now “Top 11 Priorities for PR Professionals in 2010.” I left out “tech” because they are relevant to PR pros across practice areas. I added one priority (thanks to Lucy for the important reminder): “Building Communities”, now priority #6.

Here the revised post:

There’s no doubt that 2009 was a year that (further) changed our job as PR professionals. As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, it’s an all new, ever changing world and we need to learn, move and adapt quickly. But, in concrete terms, what does that mean?

From my point of view (mostly from the agency side) I thought I’d list out the priorities for a tech PR practitioner in 2010. I think they stand for both experienced professionals and people just getting into PR.

One thing is for sure: our job is indeed getting more and more complex, challenging, and fascinating. All three qualities that have kept me in the same business for so many years.

1. Becoming a Content Creator. Technologies and the media environment are making it possible for companies to reach out to their stakeholders directly. PR must lead content creation. Cisco has done that very well for quite some time now, with News@Cisco. IBM is now following with the recent hire of Steve Hamm. I am sure many others will follow. A content strategy is pivotal in any good public relations program.

2. Telling Stories Visually. As PR professionals we need to become better visual storytellers. Read The Back of the Napkin for  inspiration – you can get the new companion workbook to put Roam’s principles into practice on Amazon.

3. Learn how to use multimedia tools. Now that you’ve put Content and Visual Storytelling at the center, learn how to make news using all the multimedia tools available and how to develop and manage an editorial calendar (or hire people who do it well.) We will see more journalists getting in-house to do precisely this. Steve Hamm at IBM won’t be the only one.

4. Get a Room! I mean a media room. Nowadays it is so much easier to have a studio close to your executives or your clients so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. This can be very handy in times of crisis where you want a quick response. In this post you can find specific suggestions on my favorite equipment.

5. Become a social media expert (if you are not one already.) Social Media is integrated in everything we do. PR professionals that are not at least proficient in Social Media, are going to be obsolete before the end of the year. So, don’t rely only on “experts”. Become an expert.

6. Building Communities
Once you create great content, whether you are a b2b or a b2c company, and engage your stakeholders in conversations, you have a golden opportunity: “to build a community for users, influencers, advocates, product champions, experts, partners, etc. around your brand, products or services.” per Lucy’s comment in my previous post. I am sure that in 2010 we will start to see more and more community manager job opportunities in the marketplace.

7. Think 360. Talking about integration, don’t stop at social media. Think about all the communication disciplines. Clients and companies face communication or reputation (or both) challenges. Rarely can something be solved by one communication discipline. PR, AR Marketing, IR, HR (Internal Communication), and in some instances Sales and Customer Service needs to work together in a more integrated way than ever before. My good old friend Sue from the UK call it “hybridise”. “PR practitioners must increasingly learn how to bring in elements from traditionally competitive marketing disciplines.”

8. Develop new services and become more efficient. More for less is here to stay. Now that companies have learned (by necessity) to do and demand from their agency partners to get more for less, why would they go back to getting less for more? For agencies that means providing higher-value services and be more efficient in providing traditional support.

9. Identify the right measurement criteria for your needs. If #8 is true (and believe me, it is), ROI is going to be even more important than before. Flexible measurement solutions, that cost less than 10% of the total investment, will become critical for the success of a Corporate Communication department and for the agency.

10. Integrate your customers in your PR planning. As consumers are co-brand managers, really playing a major role in shaping global brands like Google, Apple and Ford, B2B companies need to work closely with their customers so they can become co-brand managers too. What they say, think or write about will affect your reputation and brand building. A hint? It’s not just about developing and pitching case studies.

11. Understand where influence begins and how it works. Too often I hear that PR is going to die (yawn) because social media is changing the media landscape so there is less and less traditional media. The reality is that PR is not only media relations. The big opportunity for PR professionals is to understand the new “influencer” landscape to a greater detail than before. Understand the ecosystem where your company or client belongs to, and how to engage those influencers and the people who influence them. A colleague of mine suggested that I read the “best book on Influence ever written : Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I’ve just downloaded it on my kindle but since I trust my friend I am sure it’s very good and want it to share it with you sight unseen.

Have a wonderful 2010!

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