Technology and the PR Person

I read an excellent article in PRSA’s Public Relations Strategist Magazine (spring 2009 issue) called, “You Are Now Entering Web 3.0.”  I was happy to see that the author of the article discussed Web 3.0 as the next advancements in Web, which is the Semantic Web.  He talked about the language of search and how 3.0 would be incredibly intuitive, so that machines would be able to make connections to provide a much greater depth of information.

I thought it was interesting that he pointed out that PR people would use the Semantic Web to, “Zero in on targeted audiences in a more accurate and efficient manner.”  However, I’m not sure that the “average” PR person has figured out their role in Web 1.0 or even Web 2.0.  There are many professionals who are making clear advances, but we need to make sure that we’re all on the same page.

I think that PR professionals need to be savvy at Web search and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Richard Edelman just wrote a fantastic piece on PR called “In a World of Expression.”  He pointed out the importance of search.  Here’s a brief excerpt from his blog post:

Integrate Search into the PR: Our work must be crafted for optimized search but also for reputational search and social search (since Google increasingly ranks social content from Flickr, blogs, Twitter etc.). We can prioritize media and blogger outreach on the basis of which reporter/person/outlets helps most in search. We can create “embassies” for clients within social networks like Facebook and Twitter so that there is an outlet for suggestions and complaints. Here is our white paper on search and PR.

In Web 2.0, I believe public relations professionals are still questioning their role.  When it comes to helping brands build community in social networks and using social media communications, we go beyond our liaison role with influencers (whether media or bloggers) to take on the following responsibilities:

  • Technology/programming: PR people learn to be proficient in SharePoint, WordPress, and backend content management programs. We no longer have to rely on IT to update and communicate.
  • Editorial schedules: Professionals are working to find appropriate blog topics and provide ideas for the sharing of meaningful resources in communities (both external and internal employee social networks).
  • Content review: Communications professionals are tasked with a brief review of blog content and articles, however, this is not a legal process just a quick observance of content for adherence to guidelines.
  • Comment strategy and counseling: PR people are involved in creating guidelines and policies for the brand community and sharing procedures in the network; counseling on comments often requires how to address certain types of communication outside of the blog or social network.
  • Web analytics: The communications department is tasked with analyzing behavior and the interaction that takes place in the social network. Reports are generated and shared with management.
  • Listening/conversationalist: As Research Librarians, PR professionals learn to listen and identify opportunities for new ways to engage with stakeholders in social networks.

The role of the PR professionals has certainly expanded.  So, for all of you PR pros nervous about the fate of your career, you can take a large sigh of relief.  There’s so much more to do and the good news is that you are seen in many different capacities.  You are seen as even more valuable to your organization as you focus on being the best that you can be; whether it’s Web 1.0, Web 2.0 or as we enter Web 3.0, the Semantic Web.