06 November 2006

Come the revolution…

Strumpette’s guest columnist is worth a read for all you PR execs wondering where your job fits into the world of Web 2.0 and social media…if indeed it does. It’s from Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations, and concerns the ‘the adoption of corporate blogging and intersection of the enterprise and individual personalities’.

Essentially, the argument goes that corporate blogs are attaching individual personalities to large - and previously faceless – organisations. Consumers engage more readily with individuals, particularly when they share interests and passions, and a good corporate blog can foster brand empathy and loyalty. As Rohit so rightly points out, “The power of the individual voice within enterprises is finding its place.”

Of course, when all the excitement about the potential of blogging first kicked off, many in the PR industry saw it as a huge opportunity: if all these big businesses were going to be blogging, then surely they’d need legions of PR execs to help them create the content, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

As everyone is now coming to realise, what matters in blogging is total transparency, absolute honesty and complete authenticity. Not exactly three concepts that sit right at the centre of PR practice (come on, be completely honest with yourselves. For once). And, as we’ve seen over recent weeks, even those PR agencies that seemed to all of us to “get it” more than most can’t seem to do it right, so what hope the rest of us?

I heard a story recently in which a social media guru advised a large corporate to fire all its marketing and PR people and invest the money in its products. “Get your products right,” he said, “and the internet will do the rest for you.” That might sound like pie in the sky to you, but how far away do you really think it is? Organisations don’t own their own brands anymore…they’re deconstructed on the internet and re-presented to the world as they truly are.

So what role does PR play in this new world if we’re not the ones controlling the blogs (event the corporate ones, let alone the rest)? Rohit again:

“…the filter that a PR team may have applied to enterprise communications is starting to dissolve. As individuals (most outside the PR department) start to develop relationships with customers - it is their voice that has a dialogue. Doing a press release is often not as effective as having a company's most prolific blogger "announce" something on his/her blog - and then point people to it. People trust others more than they trust institutions.”

The worrying part being that most in PR represent institutions, not individuals.

Here’s an idea for you. Pick up a press release you’ve written recently…or maybe an opinion article. Read it. Does that sound authentic to you? If you read that one a blog, verbatim, would you believe it? Maybe you’re the exception…but read through a few of the releases on Sourcewire today and you’ll see what I mean. Is the PR industry good enough to write believable content? Really?

Another idea. The next time you’re asked to write a press release for your client, write it as if you were blogging it, as if you were an employee blogger. Be as honest as you need to be for it to work online; for it not to be pilloried as spam or propaganda. Give it some personality. Believe me, you’ll find it refreshing. It’ll take some guts to ping it over to the client, but explain to them why you’ve written it like that. Explain why press releases don’t work anymore.

Should we be worried? You bet we should. When we see stories about the threat of social media to traditional media we need to recognise the implicit and related threat to PR.

Many of the best blogs are written by professional journalists, so they’ve still got a role to play. Have we?


Anonymous said...

its very easy to forget that 99% of the population probably still don't even know what a 'blog' is, let alone read one on a daily basis.

Having said that, the writing is indeed on the wall - probably. Anyway, I'm off down the job centre....anyone need a lift..?

Kasteera said...

What anonymous said. Plus PR isn't purely about media relations so we should be safe for a while yet

....the world's leading.... said...

Phew, that's OK then. Just when I was worried I was going to have to change my thinking.

Bill Gates, 1981: "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

Kodak, five years ago (probably): "Digital photography? Nah, that'll never catch on. Plenty of life in the old film yet."

15 years ago (hell, 10 years ago), 99% of the population had no idea of what the internet was. Hardly anyone had a mobile phone. Digital TV, DVDs, MP3 players...none of this stuff existed.

How long do you think we've got?