Wednesday, 12 March 2008

PR 2.0 bloggers, and the use of Social Media strategies

I find it interesting how the Social Media PR bloggers, most of them working for companies selling related services, use their blogs. When reading it becomes obvious that many posts aim to push for clients or business that they, the bloggers, themselves are a part of. However, the content is not just about the specific interest-to-be-pushed, but part of an informative context regarding a topic. So despite that, I would say most, visitors know that the blogger has an agenda, the material which is presented is often good information on the topic and, at its best, both helpful and insightful; in other words of mutual benefit. Also while discussing ways of utilizing the opportunities that new technology and Social Media brings, the bloggers uses/utilizes those very techniques/approaches in the way the information is presented. Apart from the content of the message, the actual message in itself and how it is presented, also gives one insight into the overall topic area of how to utilize Social Media.

So is it commercial hype and self-interest, why should anyone implement Social Media strategies?
I believe that Social Media can be used, when executed efficiently, to ‘plant’ (links to) information at relevant/strategic positions to increase the targeted publics’ likelihood of pulling our information. In many instances (like when international prospective students are searching for postgraduate courses) it is very difficult, and I would say inefficient, to have a PR strategy which mainly involves pushing information to the public. Being present/visible at strategic places where the public is likely to pull such information, and through Social Media provide a high degree of ‘findability’ of one’s customized information (like a university website), seem to be a much more valid approach in many cases. If the communication and information-acquiring behaviour is changing among various (both consumer and business) stakeholder groups in society, it appear natural that the PR communication strategy and relations with these groups must adapt.

An example
As far as I know, none of the friends I have (who are apart of the same generation as me) are subscribing to any newspaper. As we get older I doubt most of us will start buying newspapers. That does not mean that we (my generation) are uninterested in news or current affairs, but we acquire it in a different way. News websites with written articles, video and images are widely used instead. An online article may trigger an interest to find out more and lead to pulling of information through a Google search or from a relevant forum or a related video on YouTube. This form of information-pulling-behaviour is one example of why a Social Media strategy may be necessary for a company. Another example is of course the same type of information-pulling-behaviour performed by journalists when researching, or trying to find, a story.

The playing board is changing
The use of this Social Media form of PR approach/strategy, adapting to new information-pulling-behaviour, is certainly not applicable in all campaigns or to reach all stakeholders. However, to say that it is just hype or the same way of getting things done but in a new fancy wrapping, I think, is showing ignorance to the shift from a pushing- to a pulling media climate that fundamentally changes the playing board upon which we as PR practitioners operate. What do you think?


Breeze said...

While I agree that the PR field has to adapt to new technologies I tend to go along with those that approach things with certain reservations. I vividly recall the hype as the all-embracing solution of things. I think the PR field’s main concern today is not whether to reach people through push or pull technology but how to reach certain age groups at all. A mix of approaches is definitely needed. and while I think there’s a certain shift towards new ideas I still believe that there’s an ever growing need to honour the basic values of the human touch.

Mattias said...

I agree that a mix of approaches is necessary and that an interpersonal more ‘intimate’ relationship with key stakeholders is ultimate when achievable. However, in certain contexts, and to be able to reach specific publics at all, I do believe online strategies are an essential tool. As an example: according to an Outsell study, over 51% of IT professionals report that they get their news from press releases in Yahoo and Google news over trade journals. For a PR practitioner trying to reach that (giant) public, not to incorporate online strategies in their campaign, would probably not be a very wise approach. The same goes for reaching the vast amount of people who nowadays read specific forums or blogs to make purchase decisions, find information or news concerning specific interests etc.

I don’t think anyone is claiming that Social Media and online strategies are all-embracing solutions for all problems, but I do believe they are an increasingly important tool for PR professionals in combination with other approaches to reach the desired results.

Sherry said...

Hey Mattias, well done last week! It is a very interesting topic.

Stuart Bruce also posted the topic of "Measuring social media is easy, evaluating it is difficult".

He doubted the effectiveness of evaluating a PR campaign by using AVEs and he criticised it is still being used by some lazy PR practitioners.

His main argument is online groups might be only half of the whole target group. That is, you could not say the campaign is successful by just monitoring online group since a lot of people have no access to internet or online groups could also discuss the issues regarding to the product or services offline.

Another point is we need to make ethical decisions and to be honest to clients.