You’ve probably heard me say this before, “One of the best parts about participating in a webinar is what comes after the presentation. It’s the Q&A portion!” Of course, there’s never enough time to answer everyone’s questions. So, I always try to answer what didn’t get a response, here on my blog. I’m answering these questions, from the Vocus Webinar: PR Planning Considerations in 2010, in a two-part blog post, with the part one below:
Q: I teach PR at a college. I feel like I’m a horse-and-buggy expert teaching students how to drive cars! Some of the skills are the same, but others are so new, so changing, even as we speak! Of course, they need to know how to write a release, identify audiences, and set a strategy. What advice do you have for training the next generation of PR professionals?
A: This is such a great question because it hits right at the heart of the PR person’s new role. I believe when training the next generation of PR professionals they will need to understand and embrace a new PR approach and how their roles and responsibilities will increase.
Through social media communications we have the ability to help our brands connect with so many different stakeholders in web communities, including customers. The way that we tell our organization’s story is different and we can no longer use a traditional broadcast message; one-way communication and “the one story fits all” is not welcome in the social sphere. Now, we can show our brands how to target, humanize and customize their business stories for different communities and to reach new influencers. It’s also a big change from solely relying on mainstream media and the credible third party endorsement. Although we will still rely on the media and build relationships with bloggers (our new influencers), it’s really important to also listen to consumers and to make direct connections with them. By becoming a resource (whether it’s to answer your customers questions, provide them with tips or expertise, teach them how to properly use a product or to hear their gripes and work toward a solution) you build a stronger relationship.
As a result, PR people are looking at social media strategy through a different lens. Yes, we are still conducting research, identifying our target publics, working on strategic communications and measuring results. However, we are also monitoring and tracking conversations and listening on behalf of the organization (becoming more of a customer service role). Suddenly, we are research librarian; listening closely and reporting back to our brands in order to fuse this information into our organizations. Communications can’t work in a vacuum. We need to share the knowledge with different departments to evaluate the information and to formulate the proper feedback and insight to the community (the brand’s participation or engagement). As we listen and observe, we also become sociologists and cultural anthropologists. We’re studying the dynamics and interactions of community members, learning what matters to the people driving those communities and observing what is considered accepted behavior.
Our roles also increase when we create social media content, work in new technological environments, learn to integrate strategic communications with Web 2.0 and viral marketing and measure engagement and participation in new ways. And, as we continue to focus on listening, we can become conversationalists, engaging in web communities and actually becoming the people we want to reach. As we learn more about participating and making connections that lead to strong and valuable relationships, we become better equipped to help our brands take the same approach.
The next generation of PR professionals has all of these new roles and responsibilities to look forward too, especially as PR takes a lead role in strategic social media communication.
Q: We have been under attack by a small group who have posted false and defamatory information on forums, blogs, etc. Should we respond directly via our website?
I always think you should take the time to get the correct information posted on your website or within a community to clear up any false or inaccurate information and you can also rely on the rest of your community to provide supportive communication on your behalf.
Sometimes, it’s a judgment call on how much effort you should invest into a group of people or an individual who is a deterrent detractor. Every situation is unique and I would have to review the history to make a proper assessment. However, not knowing your particular situation, as a general rule of thumb, if a customer or customers band together because they are unhappy and should their requests go unnoticed, they will often take it to the blogosphere. In this case, you should always reach out…perhaps outside of the social network, if you can contact them by telephone to move them back into your happy community once again. If there is the opportunity to change someone’s opinion and return their opinion back to goodwill toward your organization, then it’s worth the time and resources. However, in the case of the deterrent detractor, you should evaluate that person’s authority and credibility. If this person is just providing entertainment value for those that listen for the sake of controversy, but not really influencing anyone, then they don’t require your time and attention (if you know they will never be a part of your camp again).
I’ll be answering a few more questions in my next post and I hope that you will share your answers to these questions or any comments you may have. And, if you participated in the Vocus Webinar: PR Planning Considerations for 2010 and you had a question that wasn’t answered, feel free to post it here on my blog for all of us to review and respond 🙂