Introducing the exception that proves the rule...
Here's an American speaking sense! A snippet from an interview with Brian Solis, the man behind the PR 2.0 blog (not the James Warren one, obviously...though we reckon he'd probably agree with much of what Solis says). We couldn't have put it better ourselves...
"Many PR people don’t even read the trades that matter to the companies they represent, let alone participate in social media. Social PR does not take the place of traditional PR – and nothing beats relationships.
"I speak about this subject quite a bit, and the only way to get the PR industry to listen is through shock therapy. Why? Because PR people have a horrible reputation that’s in the same boat as lawyers and used car salesmen. Yet there’s little done to correct it outside of the PR echo chamber.
"In the game of social media, PR is not invited to the party. This is because PR, as a whole, is believed to be incapable of engaging at any level that requires believable engagement. After all we are spin doctors. We don’t get it. We can’t write. We like adjectives. We are simply spammers of information and not at all able to speak to influencers (or the people formerly known as the audience) because we’re too dumb to understand what we’re talking about and why it’s important. And, we try to always control the message.
"All this because as an industry, we have not done a good job of PR for PR. Therefore I encourage those who really want to learn, to participate without an agenda, to help change this dreadful perception.
"It’s critical that we understand the infrastructure of social media and respect it in order to participate in the dialogue. And more importantly, if you don’t have the expertise to contribute from a professional standpoint then don’t bother. And I’m not talking about PR, I’m referring to their understanding of the product and market related to the company you represent."
This, to me, is issue no.1 for our industry moving forwards. We talked about it a couple of months ago in a rather gloomy look forward to 2007...how social media was supposed to be the thing that truly brought PR to the fore; that allowed us to demonstrate our expertise as communicators. But it's not happening, because we just can't allow ourselves to let go of the message.
No doubt there'll be a few who'll post comments telling me that we're over-reacting, and that nobody reads blogs or listens to podcasts anyway so it doesn't really matter. But of course it does...social media isn't going away and - in different guises, sure - it will be increasingly influential in all markets. But, once again, as an industry we're going to let a great opportunity slip through our fingers.