360DigitalInfluence

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Tarek Lasheen

by Tarek Lasheen
Category: Technology

‘The Social Media Revolution’ a phrase that has become ubiquitous over the past few years, is being used by people all over the globe. The fast-paced life we lead has created demand for easier and simpler communications. Consumers are no longer passive, but rather active producers of content. There is no doubt that the Internet is a wondrous creation, but what has generated an unexpected leap in web activity and really taken it to the next level can all be summed up in two words ‘Social Media.’ continue reading

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!

Being a Denver Nuggets fan, I was recently reminded that Mark Cuban has said some off the wall things.  Having said that, he often provides some very interesting and thought provoking ideas on the world of social media.  His recent post in late May “Who Cares What People Write?” is a good example of the latter.

Cuban shares some interesting ideas around “Outties” (content creators that fit into professional “Outties” as well as amateur “Outties”) and “Innies” (who are “passive consumers of web writings” or consumers who “read watch and listen to the professional “Outties” and ignore the amateur “Outties”").  The idea being that professional “Outties” are generally established, branded sites with strong/large readership and amateur “Outties” are people looking for an audience (commenters, retweeters, reposters, etc.) who are creating content to be discovered.  Read his post for the full scoop and he closes with a pretty interesting wrap up of the concept…

The moral of the story is that on the internet, volume is not engagement .  Traffic is not reach.  When you see things written about a person, place or thing you care about,  whether its positive or negative, take a very deep breath before thinking that the story means anything to anyone but you.

It was also a concept expanded on by the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Senior Fellow and Director, Center of Digital Media Freedom Adam D. Thierer.  Adam’s blog does a nice job of framing Cuban’s thoughts and adding some additional parallels to them around Power Laws as well as Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory.

I think the one area that is not captured in either blog is the importance of recognizing the conversation that is happening — whether they are driven by the professional or amateur “Outties.”   While I agree with Cuban that volume is not engagement and traffic is not reach, but I also believe that all comments, re-posts, link backs, tweets/re-tweets, blogs expanding on a topic or theme, etc. (like this one) are part of the conversation that is taking place.  The collective conversation is the piece that matters for brands.

A simplified example of this would be to search for your brand on Twitter and see what’s being said.  One person with 15 followers may be saying something that may be able to be dismissed, but if 10, 20 or 50 people with 15 followers each are saying something, after you take your deep breadth, it may be worth taking a closer look and joining the conversation.

The role of communications is indeed changing and how we think about creating or sharing a message is something that needs to be considered.  I think this is one of the key reasons companies are starting to act more like publishers or content providers — to ensure anyone (either professional or amateur) can participate in their story, share it and share their perspectives on it.

Regardless of which outtie you are thinking of or the innie you are trying to reach, always consider the importance of helping foster conversation through your communications initaitives.

One of Banksy's Public Works in New York City

One of Banksy's Public Works in New York City

A few months ago I had a chance to check out a book of Banksy’s art.  At least for me, I consider it art, others may consider some of the work graffiti or vandalism, but that’s a different discussion.

In the book I was flipping through there is a quote from Banksy stating, “Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use.  Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

While very much focused on advertising – billboards, poster-boards, etc. – and brought to life by some of Banksy’s public works where the existing Ads were altered, I think it holds true to the online world of communications today as well.

More than ever, companies in the tech sector (and others) are acting as publishers and the sheer amount of vendor generated content in the form of blogs, videos, photos, slideshows, podcasts, etc. are almost unavoidable. Whether you are creating a video, shooting photos of an event or just publishing your latest white paper, its important to keep in mind that the minute you share it online - your message is now open to the world at large to ‘take, re-arrange and re-use.’  This is a trend we call Socialized Media and is permeating not only vendor Websites but industry publications as well.

In many cases the opportunity is present for someone to interpret, analyze and share opinions and perspectives on your content — so the concept of re-using or re-arranging may take many different forms.  In short, the job of creating and sharing is the first step, the ongoing conversation and engagement around the content is what becomes even more important for you to be a part of. Have you thought through what you’d do if / when a competitor responds publicly to your content or a mashup being created of your content or are you even prepared to track and monitor that conversation?

In many cases, how you respond or don’t may say as much about your brand as the original content itself.

To use Banksy’s words, in the evolving world of communications, there is a fine line between throwing rocks at someone and throwing a rock WITH someone - so they realate to and become part of sharing your message.

I am personally extremely excited to start this blog not only because it will be a platform to share our thinking and engage in conversations with a broader community but because it will be really broad. In fact we have contributors from our Tech Practice from all around the world: from San Francisco to Singapore, from London to Sydney, we have people coming together with a common, global passion. Not, it’s not soccer. OK. It is soccer. But it is, mainly, Hi-Tech PR.

In this venue we will share what we see in the world of technology PR and beyond. We will talk about trends, ideas, things we stumbled upon, questions we might not have an answer for (and maybe you can help us.). Experiences of working with colleagues from other practices and disciplines. What’s changing and happening in the different markets: locally, regionally or globally.

We didn’t want to have the point of view of just a few senior PR professionals. So I am particularly thrilled to have members at every level be contributors. Fresh air. A different perspective. Young. Old. Experienced. Opinionated. Thoughtful.

We want to make it easy to have conversations with our clients, competitors, industry leaders, students, fellow bloggers and not just among ourselves. We would love to see a lot of content, ideas and participation.

Join the conversation. Throw us a Tech PR Nibble!

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