Tag Archives: prsa

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

December 8, 2011

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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.

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Don’t be Like Cleveland – How to Succeed Even When Your Star Leaves

October 18, 2011

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When Your Star Leaves
Cleveland sign

Don't be like Cleveland...prepare for when your star leaves

UPDATE: Slides embedded!

We all know the story – local high school star LeBron James joins the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, becomes a star, leads his team to the playoffs for five straight seasons and then “takes his talents to South Beach.” Without their superstar, the Cavs finish the next season with one of the worst records in the league, something my home state of Ohio was very unhappy about!

What if your social media “star” left your organization? Would you turn into Cleveland?

Over the last several years, as social media has become increasingly ubiquitous in many of our daily lives; government, nonprofit and commercial organizations have begun using social media to connect with their internal and external stakeholders. While some organizations have taken a systematic approach to building out their social media presence, many, especially those that were early adopters, relied on social media advocates within their organizations – people who saw the value of social media and evangelized for its use.

We all know the type: the one that others call “that social media guy/girl” that was willing to take risks, challenge the status quo, and sometimes drag their organization kicking and screaming into having a Facebook Page, engaging with customers on Twitter or helping their research department to use a wiki to share knowledge. In my organization, Booz Allen Hamilton, one of those people is Steve Radick, who played an integral part in advocating for building out a social media practice for our clients as well as helping the firm to adopt our internal Enterprise 2.0 site, Hello. In my own work, I’ve helped clients to build social media programs from scratch, making first steps in taking advantage of the latest technologies to engage with citizens, patients and employees for Military Health System organizations and other agencies.

But what happens when your star leaves? What happens when your “social media guru” is promoted and doesn’t have time to Tweet like they used to? What happens when the consultant who has been updating your Facebook Page completes their contract? Or that intern you asked to make viral videos for you goes back to school? How do you sustain your social media program so that it doesn’t rely on the power of one or two personalities that have been driving it forward?

These are some of the questions I’m looking forward to engaging with PRSA International Conference participants in during my session “When a Star Leaves: How to Sustain Social Media Efforts Over the Long Term.” Based on the experience of myself and my colleagues at Booz Allen who have helped to build social media programs with staying power for Federal Government agencies, I will give you some best practices to help you think strategically about how to set up your program to stand the test of time as well as discuss what to do now to prepare for when your “rock star” moves on.

While I’ll have more to share in Orlando, here are five tips you can start thinking about in the meantime:

  1. Plan your social media program as if your star won’t be here tomorrow: Your star’s role will likely change in the next year, whether by their action or because of changes in leadership. Assume the torch will need to be passed to someone else, and plan for it
  2. Structure your social media program to be scalable and future-proof: Anticipate demand for help, for social media across your organization will increase as different departments see how it can be successful. Additionally, think about social media in a platform-agnostic way, creating practices, policies and strategies that are easily adaptable as technologies and trends change
  3. Don’t stop at a star, build a whole constellation of people who understand and use social media throughout your organization: Think about creating a social media coalition within your organization. Identify champions in different departments and engage them regularly in meetings to share successes and challenges
  4. Integrate and normalize social media into daily communication practice across your organization: Digital and social media are integral for communicating with your consumers and valuable for communicating in your organization. Find ways to incorporate social media into your communication, training and performance systems
  5. Make sure your star knows their success will be judged by your organization’s ability to sustain the social media effort after they are gone: Mentoring and nurturing talent is integral to long-term success. If your social media program disappears when your star disappears, your program, and your star, will be seen as a failure

Stick around for the last set of workshops on Tuesday afternoon at 2:15 before you head home (or to Disney) to join me in an engaging conversation on making your social media program stand the test of time. I look forward to talking with you, and will be providing an update of how it goes after the conference. See you there!

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Managing Your Time While Managing Your Social Media

June 18, 2010

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Thanks to Katie Mercado, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on time management and social media at today’s 33rd Annual PRSA Maryland Chesapeake Conference.   I was actually a little surprised when Katie approached as I feel like there’s so much more that I could be doing, more that I could be reading, and more people that I could be meeting.  I often feel like I’m fighting a constant battle against FOMO and HOLI – there’s always another blog I should be reading or another event I should be attending.

However, as I pulled these slides together, I started to notice that I was a doing a little better job than I thought I was.  While I still feel like there’s always more that I could do, I have also learned to better focus my time on what’s important and what will help me accomplish my goals.  Sure, there’s a lot of interesting events, blogs, and tweets that I’m missing, but I’m also very aware of the opportunity cost of trying to do everything – the lost productivity, the increased sick days, the constant tired feeling, the loss of focus.

The slides below reflect some of what I’ve learned over the last few years as well as some of the tips and tricks that I show my colleagues and clients when they’re first getting started in social media.

Time Management Strategies for Social Media

The key takeaways that I wanted the attendees to walk away were:
  1. Not information overload but filter failure – There’s always been too much information for us to ever possibly consume. The only difference now is that the gatekeepers (book publishers, TV producers, etc.) who used to act as our quality filters are gone.  We have to now set up our own filters.
  2. Self-discipline is needed – All the technical tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t have the self-discipline to turn off Twitter every once in a while.
  3. Social media saves time too – Don’t just think of all the ways social media is going to take up too much, think of ways that social media can save you time too.
  4. Have a goal – Is it helping you accomplish what you want to accomplish?  If not, then why are you doing it?
  5. Spend some time up front and set up your filters – Spend a few hours up front to save TONS of hours later on.
  6. It’s not about the technology – Ultimately, your best filters aren’t technical – they’re human.  They’re the ones sharing the links, blogging about the topics, and speaking about the issues – find people you trust and respect and use them as your filter.
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So You Just Graduated and You Want a Job

November 14, 2009

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Last week, I attended my sixth or seventh Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference, dating back to my years with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) while I was in college. Indeed, the fact that PRSSA co-locates their national conference in the same city as the big kids conference is one of the reasons why I think it’s such a good event. I also recently participated in a panel event put on by the Georgetown chapter of the the Social Media Education Connection (SMCEDU) where we talked about social media with a group of Georgetown students.  Between these two events and my involvement with SMCEDU, I’ve spoken with a LOT of very bright, very ambitious, and very enthusiastic students.

Talking with these student reminded me of a recent post I did for the PRSA-NCC blog, “I Just Graduated and I Want a Job in Social Media.”  So, to help those students I’ve met recently, including: Renee Goldman, Yu-Ching Chiang, Heather Richey, Brooks Cooper, Jen Dryer, Courtney Wilson, Mike Hayes, and many others I’ve met over the last few weeks, I’m reprinting that post here:

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Are you "digitally prepared" for a job?

For the last few months, I’ve been talking with a lot of new college grads about their college experiences, jobs, and careers.  When I tell these eager young professionals that I’m a communications consultant who specializes in social media, I usually get one of two questions: 1) What does that mean? or 2) Seriously? How do I get to do that?

To address those of you who would have asked me the first question, I help my government clients develop and implement communications strategies and tactics so that they can better communicate with their employees, other government partners, the general public – essentially with any of their stakeholders. One way in which I do this is through the strategic use of social media tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

However, the second question has been much more popular and has led to the most interesting conversations.  So, for all you new college graduates out there looking to get a public relations or communications position that involves social media, here’s a little primer:

DO include links to your blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter profile or any other social media site on your resume. Employers want to see things that you’ve written and how you use these sites.

DON’T forget to make use of the privacy settings on these sites.  Your future employer WILL Google you, not to try to find incriminating pictures, but to get a better idea of how you use social media. Using Facebook to organize your local PRSSA chapter is very different from using Facebook to invite your friends to a kegger. It’s all about balance – most people realize that you have a life outside of work.  That’s ok.  Just make sure that’s not all you’re about.

DO some research on your potential employer and discover what, if any, social media presence they have.  If you’re applying for a government position working with communications or social media, you better be able to tell me that you at least know what GovLoop is.

DON’T try too hard.  I don’t want to do a search on you to discover that you joined Twitter a week ago and you’re following every Booz Allen employee you could find or that you’ve just joined 26 different PR-related groups on LinkedIn in the last few days.  Just be you and be authentic.

DO be ready to walk me through the steps you might take if I told you that I the CEO of a company and I wanted to start a blog.  Hint: if you tell me that you don’t have any experience with doing that, you’re probably not going to be interviewing much longer 🙂

DON’T overvalue your social media skills.  Social media, while hot right now, isn’t always the answer.  Make sure that you have a solid understanding of communication principles because we can teach you how to use Twitter – it’s much more difficult to teach you how to successfully build a communications strategy.

And last, but certainly not least, please DO a Google search for your name.  What shows up?  What doesn’t?  Remember that this is the new first impression.  If you aren’t completely honest about your skills and experiences, it’s really easy to track your digital exhaust and find out the truth. So, what kind of first impression do you want to make?

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