It’s been a bit of a mystery to me why the public relations profession as a whole hasn’t been more at the forefront of utilizing social media strategically. The other day I read a post in Ragan’s PR Daily titled “13 reasons why PR should lead social media efforts” that shed some light on this puzzle.
The author, Elizabeth Sosnow, is managing director of BlissPR. You can read the reasons she believes PR is better suited than sales, advertising, human resources, etc., to be in charge of an organization’s social media efforts here.
She talks about how PR people are storytellers; how we build content; our training to empathize and converse with different audiences; our skill at earning and keeping attention; our ability to be sensitive to reporters’ needs, etc.
All this is true, but in my opinion she misses the bigger picture.
Social media is about engaging audiences, and that’s why PR should be front and center in social media efforts.
We need to focus on talking with people, not at them. Conversing with different audiences is as close as Elizabeth comes to this in her list, but to me the real strength of social media is the way it enables us build relationships and enhance trust in ways that other mediums can’t match.
Social media allows us to start or participate in conversations with individuals we might otherwise not reach. We can answer questions, solve problems, have constructive debates and gain a better understanding of issues and concerns from the other person’s perspective.
The hallmark of good public relations has always been two-way communication. PR is far more than telling a story, grabbing attention and being sensitive to bloggers and reporters. Each of those is important, but effective PR goes beyond making pitches and connecting with others. In a word, it is interactive.
Social media gives ad agencies and small businesses unparalleled ways of communicating one-on-one with customers, prospects, influencers and other interested parties.
As David Meerman Scott writes in his excellent book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, “…what all the new Web tools and techniques have in common is that together they are the best way to communicate directly with your marketplace.”
But if we are too busy pushing our story or point of view without actively listening and having a genuine dialogue, PR will take a back seat to other disciplines that are willing to do so.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.