Archive | Prof. Development RSS feed for this section

More Than Words: How to Really Redefine the Term “Public Relations”

December 8, 2011

5 Comments

There’s big news in the PR industry as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently announced that they are embarking on an international effort to modernize the definition of public relations. Chartered in 1947, PRSA is the world’s largest and foremost organization of public relations professionals and boasts a community of more than 21,000 members across the U.S. Their current definition of PR – “public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other” was last updated in 1982, before Twitter, before Facebook, hell, even before you had a computer at your desk. Technology has changed a lot over the last 30 years. So to have the ways in which organizations and their publics relate to one another. It’s definitely time for a change.

Adam Lavelle, a member of the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and chief strategic officer at the iCrossing unit of Hearst, agrees. In the New York Times article linked above, he says:

“Before the rise of social media, public relations was about trying to manage the message an entity was sharing with its different audiences.” Now, P.R. has to be more about facilitating the ongoing conversation in an always-on world.”

Unfortunately,  ever since the days of Edward Bernays, PR has had its roots in “managing the message.” PR grew out of propaganda, spin, and manipulation – no wonder we’ve had an image problem for the last 100 years! Too many PR practitioners have become so focused on the message that they have totally forgotten the relations part of public relations. As The Cluetrain Manifesto taught us way back in 1999 (also before social media), “public relations does not relate to the public, companies are deeply afraid of their markets.” From press releases that sound like this and media pitches like this, PR practitioners have gotten lazy, hiding behind words and messages instead of building an actual relationships.

PRSA (disclaimer: I’ve been a member of PRSA or PRSSA since 2000) should take this same advice while redefining the definition of PR. The words might end up being totally accurate and insightful, but if PR practitioners don’t also change their actions, the perception of the industry will never change. I hope that all PRSA members would realize the perception of public relations is about more than words – it’s about actions. And with that, here are ten actions that I’d like to become part of the new definition of public relations:

  1. Instead of spamming my email pitches to massive distribution lists, I will put in more than ten seconds of effort and personalize it to the reporter/blogger/writer/anchor/editor I’m contacting
  2. I will stop being a yes-man for my clients and actually provide the expert communications counsel I’m (hopefully) being paid to provide
  3. I will learn how to speak with an actual human voice instead of the voice of mission statements, brochures, and marketing pitches
  4. I will not forget the relations in public relations and will try to develop real relationships with the members of the media I work with instead of treating them like pawns that can be manipulated
  5. I will stop snowing my clients and inflating my value through the use of ambiguous outputs like hits, impressions, and ad equivalency and instead focus on the outcomes that public relations has helped accomplish
  6. I can no longer be the man behind the curtain, ghostwriting messages and press releases while I hide behind my brand or organization. I will take responsibility for my strategies and tactics.
  7. Regardless of my age, I will recognize that keeping up with and understanding technology is now a job requirement
  8. Likewise, I will stop assuming that social media IS public relations and vice versa. Social media is becoming a much larger aspect of PR and present practitioners with new tools to use, but they are not one in the same.
  9. PR cannot exist in a vacuum – I realize that my PR efforts will be more effective if I collaborate and communicate regularly with marketing, advertising, strategy, operations and other groups throughout the organization.
  10. And finally, I will recognize that good public relations isn’t about manipulating media coverage – it’s about helping an organization create and maintain stronger relationships with all of its stakeholders.

Redefining “public relations” is a crucial first step, but changing the perception of public relations will require more than than words – it will require a shift in the thinking and the actions of thousands of PR professionals. Let’s start modeling the behaviors we hope to instill in all PR practitioners and start taking PR from messages to actions.

Continue reading...

The People I Will (and Won’t) Meet at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference

November 11, 2011

0 Comments

Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston

See you next week in Santa Clara!

Next week, I’m attending and speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara. I’ve attended many social media conferences over the years and have posted several times about my experiences at these events.While the vast majority of people I meet at these conferences are highly intelligent, ambitious, and well-meaning, I have noticed a pattern emerging among social media conference-goers. From Web 2.0 to Gov 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0, I always seem to run into the same people yet miss the people I really want to talk to at these events. Based on my conference-going experience, here are ten people I assume I’ll be meeting (and not meeting) next week:

Who I Will Meet:

The overzealous Director of Business Development. Don’t you realize that his product has revolutionary features not found anywhere else?? Well, that is, until you go two booths down… If you sit down for a demo, you’ll clearly realize that this is the ONLY product with this feature. Just listen for a few minutes and he’ll show you…wait! Come back and hear all about it!!

The Director of Social Media/Virtual Collaboration Lead/Social Collaboration Team Leader. The company’s designated social media “guru” – there to find out how to turn their company’s Intranet into a “Facebook or Wikipedia behind the firewall.” This individual is usually well-meaning and excited, if a bit in over their head. On the first day, they’re enthusiastic, ready to absorb whatever they can over the next few days. But by the last day, they’re usually simultaneously overwhelmed and frustrated by all the stories of what’s possible, yet still lack any actionable steps they can take when they get back to their office.

The codemonkey. He’s the guy in the back with all the stickers on his Macbook. Mashups, visualizations, dashboards – you name it, he can code it. Keep in mind that he probably doesn’t actually use of the tools he’s developing, the features he’s working on really only interest the early adopters at this conference, and they probably do more to hinder user adoption because while they look cool, they really just overwhelm people and hinder user adoption because all the average employee really wants are tools that are accessible, fast, and reliable.

The self-promoter. Got his (oddly-shaped) business card yet? Don’t worry, you’ll get it soon enough. He’s the CEO for some new startup or he just got some VC to invest a boatload of money in his company or he’s writing a new book – it doesn’t really matter because he’s going to tell you all about it…whether you care or not. Don’t you realize how lucky you are to get an opportunity to talk to him?

The booth babe/dude.” He or she is always very nice and very conversational, but unfortunately lack ANY details about the company they’re representing. Good luck getting any actual information from him/her beyond a fact sheet, a demo, and someone else’s business card.

Who I Won’t Meet:

The IT Security specialist. Time and time again, I find myself talking with a client about Enterprise 2.0 only to hear that their security guys won’t allow them to install any Enterprise 2.0 software or that SAAS isn’t an option, but very rarely do I actually see any of these individuals at these conferences. Just once, I’d like to meet some ambitious IT Security professional who says, “you know what, I want to attend this conference so that I can learn how to allow our employees to use these tools AND be safe and secure?” 

The Lawyer. The relationship between lawyers and Enterprise 2.0 is tenuous at best. Everyone tries to have as little interaction with them as possible, but when they do have to get involved, it almost always results in a whiny, “do we really have to pass this through them????”  But what if your legal team was actually knowledgeable about Enterprise 2.0? If they knew the success stories and the potential? Have you ever spoken to a lawyer who actually “gets it” and asks you “how can I help?” How refreshing is that?

The Failures. I loved that Kevin Jones was a speaker at the last Enterprise 2.0 Conference and will be there again in Santa Clara. He was among the first people I’ve met at these types of conferences willing to talk about how he failed, what failed, and how he would have done things differently. Unfortunately, these people are few and far between as most people only want to tout their successes, their products, and their features. We all know getting this stuff right is hard – where have others stumbled and what can we learn from them?

The C-suite. Director of Social Strategies, Social Collaboration Lead, Virtual Collaboration specialist – where are the traditional organizational leaders? Where are the CIOs and CTOs? Unfortunately, Enterprise 2.0 still isn’t integrated into the other business units so it will continue to be marginalized. Until we get more actual decision-makers to attend these conferences and learn of the benefits for themselves, we’ll unfortunately continue to have to fight to justify social to the senior leadership.

The average employee. Where are all of the project managers, supervisors, associates, and HR specialists? Where are the people who are actually supposed to be using Enterprise tools to do their jobs? I want to meet more average users and find out what they want from the dozens of vendors who will be present. I want to find out why Cindy, the HR specialist in Omaha refuses to use the discussion forums that her company set up.

Will I meet you at Enterprise 2.0 next week? If you want to meet me, I, along with my colleagues Walton Smith and Jay Leask, will be there all week. Walton and I are speaking on Wednesday at 12:30 in the Expo Hall where we’ll be giving an abbreviated presentation of our webinar, “It’s not the Players, It’s the Game,” and then on Wednesday at 8:45am, David Berry and Jay Leask will discuss how organizations have successfully leveraged SharePoint as a social platform within their organizations in their session “Options for Leveraging SharePoint as a Social Platform.

Continue reading...

Who Are You Working For?

September 30, 2011

9 Comments

What are you working on right now? Can you explain exactly why you’re working on it?

Do you know why you’re spending time writing that blog post? Sitting in that meeting? Answering that email? Preparing that presentation? Do you have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a strategy for what you’re working on?

Who are you working for right now? Your boss? Your company? Your family? Yourself? Do you even know?

Over the last six months or so, I’ve found myself asking this question of myself more and more. Four years ago when I first started our Digital Strategy and Social Media practice here, I had a seemingly unlimited amount of time – I had no problem with putting in a 9-5 day followed by a 5-9 night. I could do everything my boss asked of me as well as everything that I wanted to do. I could start this blog even though my boss at the time didn’t see the value in it. I could go out and spend my evenings attending Gov 2.0 and social media events even though no one was telling me to. I could work on a proposal throughout the weekend. I could create presentations and accept speaking gigs because I felt it was important to do.

One of these will make you shift your priorities!

But things change. Since then, I’ve had my first daughter (Hi Annabelle!), social media has become more and more integrated into our business, and some of my most talented team members have been promoted into positions with more responsibilities. We now have experts at using social media behind the firewall, social media and healthsocial media and design, social media and privacy, social media and the DoD, social media and emergency communications, and so on and so on.  Each of these individuals has become the “go-to” person for questions and needs in each of their respective areas. While that’s great for them and for the organization as a whole, it has also limited the amount of time they can dedicate to the things that I want us to accomplish as a group. They have to respond to their project managers, to their husbands and wives, to their teams and to me. There just isn’t as much time to go around to do all of the things that we want to do.

As these changes have taken place, I’ve found myself doing less of the work that I’ve wanted to do:

  • Blogging
  • Tweeting
  • Attending Gov 2.0 happy hours
  • Speaking at external events

And doing more of the things that my managers and my company want me to do:

  • Meeting with senior leaders throughout the firm to discuss strategy
  • Reviewing our various project team’s social media efforts and ensuring quality control
  • Participating in client meetings
  • Writing performance assessments

And of course, doing more of the things that my family wants me to do:

  • Turning off my computer until the kidlet goes to bed
  • Spending more time on the weekends with my wife and daughter
  • Making more trips to visit family and friends

As your career and your life evolve, your priorities and work have to change with it. It took me a while to really understand and accept this – I just can’t do everything that my boss, my family, and I want to do anymore. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all. That’s why before I  sit through that fourth conference call of the day or drive downtown for that event, I’ll ask myself, “who I am working for right now?”

Continue reading...

Rest in Peace, Social Media Ninjas

July 14, 2011

23 Comments

Ninja

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Seth W.

Let’s get this straight – a few years ago, you read The Cluetrain Manifesto or Groundswell or one of the other hundred social media books out there, you started reading Mashable, you created a Twitter account, and you developed a bunch of presentations you used internally to help get buy-in from your organization’s senior leadership for your social media ideas. It’s now two or three years later, and you’ve become the organizational “expert,” “guru,” or “subject matter expert” in social media, your social media blog receives a lot of traffic, you’ve championed the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools internally, and you’re managing your organization’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Everything’s going according to plan, right?

Eh….not quite.

Here’s the thing – over the last few years, you’ve probably gotten a few raises, won some awards, maybe you’ve even been promoted one or two times. I hope you’ve enjoyed your rise to the top because I’m here to tell you that the end is near. If you’ve ridden the wave of social media and branded yourself as the social media “guru,” “ninja,” or “specialist,” I hope you’ve got a backup plan in place because what once set you apart from the crowd now just lumps you right in there with millions of other people with the same skills, the same experience, and the same knowledge. A few years ago, you were innovative. You were cutting-edge. You were forward-thinking. You were one of a few pioneers in a new way of thinking about communicating. Just a few short years later, and you’re now normal. You’re just doing what’s expected. You’re one of many. Social media specialists are the new normal. Oh, you were the Social Media Director for a political campaign? Congratulations – so were the other 30 people who interviewed for this position. What else have you done? What other skills do you have? People with social media skills and experience on their resume aren’t hard to find anymore. It’s those people who don’t anything about social media who stand out now.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the end.  Instead trying to be a social media ninja, try being a communications specialist. Try being a knowledge management professional. Try being a recruiter. Try being an information technology professional. Because guess what – THAT’S what you are doing. Instead of talking about how you have thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans, talk about what those fans have helped you accomplish. Instead of talking about the number of blog subscribers you have, talk about how much revenue that blog helped generate for your organization. Instead of talking about the number of members of your Yammer network, talk about how that community has positively impacted your organization’s workforce. Start talking about social media for what it is – a set of tools that people with real professions use to do their jobs. Don’t try to be an expert at using a hammer. Try to be the master builder who can use the hammer, the saw, and the screwdriver to build a house.

When everyone’s a specialist, no one’s a specialist. What makes you stand out now?

Continue reading...