PRs must reshape the profession

public relations

Book review
Putting the Public Back in Public Relations:
How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR
Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge
Pearson Education, 2009. 314 pp.

The Problem: PR has slipped into complacency. Many PR practitioners still blast news releases and spam everyone with pitches. The same old tired marketing ethics and tactics.

The Opportunity: Social Media allows PRs to overhear relevant conversations. They can adopt a less-is-more, focused, and human approach to share information.

We PR people can embrace Social Media (after we’ve participated as a person and not as a marketer).

Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge wrote Putting the Public Back in Public Relations “to show you how to take advantage of the socialization of media, whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in the communications industry for years.”

Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, a PR and New Media agency. Breakenridge is president and director of communications at PFS Marketwyse.

We now have an opportunity to reshape a worn and beaten profession and transform it into something much bigger and more meaningful, they say. PR 2.0 can thrive in today’s ever-evolving and highly competitive online social climate. Although the technology is new, the principles driving the New PR movement are not foreign; they’re rooted in customer service, the social sciences, and community participation.

These conversations that we can listen to, and eventually participate in, take the form of videos, podcasts, bookmarks, blog posts and comments, tweets, pictures, reviews, meetups and events, and news aggregation. PR needs to follow the authoritative dialogue, wherever it takes place.

One of the most important tips of their book: To be a true member of the online community, you must humanize your intent and story, and learn how, where, and why to participate. By doing so, you abandon top-down engagement and embrace one-on-one interaction.

The way to succeed with New PR is to become a reliable resource of information and knowledge for those who either directly or indirectly affect your brand’s success.

Technology is important, and there will always be new tools. But even though the tools continually change, PR professionals will always start the conversation, facilitate that conversation and then, of course, monitor the conversation.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking platforms encourage communicators to condense our stories into a focused package that is specific to each community. This, the authors say, is how we put the PUBLIC back in Public Relations. This is how we start to reshape a 100-year-old-history that has coasted along without resistance until now.

Other tips:

Rather than creating profiles on every popular social platform and befriending everyone across the networks, first identify meaningful conversations, comprehend them, then feed that collective insight back into the organization for positive change.

Measuring the frequency and tone of conversations is the new frontier for PR and marketing, with many solutions launching even now.

Who we are today is not who we will be tomorrow. Embrace the changes outlined in this book and remain open to future learning and growth. Transcend traditional roles and exemplify the new hybrid of Public Relations professionals.

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