PR 2.0: R(e)volution 2

SMR Social Media ReleaseIn November, I’ll be moderating a panel at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego with several noteworthy authors.  I’m really excited to have Joseph Jaffe (Join the Conversation), Ariel Hyatt (Music Success in Nine Weeks) and Juliet Powell (33 Million People in the Room) joining me for the panel session.  We will be discussing the topic PR 2.0:  R(e)volution.  As a Public Relations professional, I’ve found the word “Revolution” or “Revolutionary” to be over used.  I guess it’s because of the many news releases I’ve seen over the years that have talked about, “Our revolutionary or groundbreaking brands, products and services that will change your business, industry and the world.”  For me to place Public Relations in the same sentence as the word “Revolution” – this is no ordinary shift for the profession.

If you were asked the question: Is PR 2.0 a Revolution or Evolution of the PR Industry? What would you say?  For me it’s part Revolution (radical shift) and part Evolution (gradual change), thus the distinction: R(e)volution.  Let me explain.  For years, consumer behavior and the media landscape has been shifting.  Consumers gradually took more control of their communication and decided what information they wanted to gather, organize and then share with their peers.  For years, brands didn’t have the control over communication that they thought they had.  The shift also occurred as consumers decided where and how they wanted to find their news and what sources they trusted, which caused the movement from mainstream news gathering to receiving content from the new influencers/bloggers.

Technology has also evolved over the years to support more advanced communication, resulting in the 2.0 collaboration that we experience today.  But, the Web 2.0 platform didn’t happen overnight.  For years, the technology has advanced from news groups, user forums and the early web logs to the blogs and social networks that we rely on today.  A good example of evolution that the PR person can easily relate to is the long overdue facelift to the news release.  We started with the traditional release, began enhancing it with SEO and then incorporated multimedia (video and audio).  Finally, we have a new shiny object, the Social Media Release (SMR) that contains social network sharing tools and community building capabilities (housed on a blog platform).  These changes happened over the years, even though for some industries it may appear to have occurred over night.

So, what’s the Revolution? The Revolution is in the approach:

  • In public relations, we typically relied on the third party credible endorsement.  Although this is still important for us today (working with bloggers, journalists and analysts), our brands now have the ability to connect directly with customers and to use new social media tools that allow them to humanize and customize their stories.
  • The technology is revolutionary to our industry as it allows us to listen in ways that we could never before, with a bottom up strategy rather than a top down broadcast method. One-to-one and one-to-many communication replaced one way messaging (allowing for participation in the form of conversations).
  • The manner in which we distribute our news has completely altered for breaking news offering us new choices whether it’s mainstream, through bloggers or directly to our customers.
  • We have easy access to new social media tools and applications that we can learn, use and experience daily.  We can use these resources to help our brands build community for better relationships with their stakeholders.

One of the most important changes that we see today, to further illustrate a Revolution, is how the role of PR person has changed from facilitator/handler to influencer/champion.  Today we are listening, connecting, conversing and educating through our networks.  The information that we share is that of a person who is a market expert, social media expert, web marketer, viral marketer, customer service representative and conversationalist.  In my last post I mentioned the liaison.  We are still liaisons in many ways but we are also making our own connections and championing our own roles (securing a seat at the boardroom table).  We are rebuilding our reputations in our companies as well as in our industry.  These are major strides that did not happen as quickly, or perhaps not at all, in years past.

I don’t think that PR 2.0 happened overnight.  As a matter of fact if you talked to Brian Solis (@briansolis), Shel Holtz (@shel), Todd Defren (@tdefren), Chris Heuer (@chrisheuer), and many other professionals who were there championing social media from the ground up, they would tell you that PR has been evolving for years.  However, the approach, the platform, the ability to communicate successfully through social media and to measure the value of the conversations in a whole new way, well that’s a revolution that we’ve all been waiting for … and, if you ask me, it was long overdue.

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