10 Observations on “Real” Public Relations and Social Media

October 12th, 2012 | Shonali Burke | 47 Comments

truthMonday, Oct. 15, will see me complete six months since I started at MSL Washington DC. I know many of you have wondered how I’ve been doing, and honestly, there’s no short answer to that question (though if you pressed me, I’d say “mostly good”).

I’ve been (am) busy, and tired (oh, so tired!). And a few realizations keep coming to me, as I continue to settle into my new life.

And I thought some of you might relate. So here they are.

Based on my completely unscientific observations of the myriad people I’ve started coming into contact with on a semi-regular basis:

1. “Real” people don’t “do” social media like we do.

By “we,” I mean people like you and I (or, at least, like I used to be), who are on social all the time. I mean, all. The. Time.

Most people could give two hoots about the latest app (though they do care about the iPhone 5), they don’t know who Chris Brogan is, and mostly they think bloggers are pompous asses.

2. The PR world is full of very smart people who aren’t “out there.”

So, if they’re not “out there,” either by blogging, or tweeting up a storm, or engaging in similar online activity… does that mean they should be discounted?

Simply because we don’t see them?

3. There are also many idiot people around. Including in social, and in agencies, and outside of agencies. Including, sometimes, at fairly senior levels.

However… that can be seen pretty much anywhere and in every industry. I just happen to come across those in PR, so I guess that sticks with me.

4. The people who straddle “traditional” and “new” PR worlds are still fairly few and far between. Why is this? Why aren’t there more?

5. Most bloggers blog too much.

People who are not consultants – and that is most people – could care less if (y)our blogs are publishing on a daily basis. They’re far more concerned with the latest episode of the Kardashians. So really, it’s [OK for] you to skip a day or two (or the weekend). The world won’t come crashing down.

6. Smart PR measurement has a long way to go until it’s mainstream.

(So if you’re in/heading to San Francisco for the 2012 PRSA International Conference, I hope you’re coming to one of the measurement sessions, um, such as mine on Tuesday, 8 am PT. Disclosure: as a speaker I get a free conference registration but nothing else).

7. Traditional media relations is still very important in most agencies, and to most clients.

8. Developing skills in areas such as video editing and content marketing is a huge asset.

9. If you don’t know how to do a SWOT analysis, you better learn.

10. It takes a lot to build, and be part of, a tribe. And while one’s co-workers, neighbors, etc., can become one’s tribe, they are not automatically so.

But if you give them the chance, they will.

And to you, my tribe – thank you.

Image: Lanzen via Flickr, CC 2.0

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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40 comments
shonali
shonali

@kandiceferrell Doesn't it? And it basically tells you what your strategy needs to be. Thanks for sharing!

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

Great points and insights. I think it's a good reminder to those of us inside an agency as well, to remember to still make time to connect personally online. I really think it's very important.

shonali
shonali

@Soulati Thanks for sharing!

carlainsf
carlainsf

@shonali Thx for mention! Credibility in marketing strategy requires basic social fluency in core channels + techs - no longer optional!

texascopywriter
texascopywriter

Although I'm not a PR pro, my work is PRs best friend/sister/secret-crush all at once. We handle a LOT of social/digital presence and brand awareness services for the health care field (my expertise) and, recently, the financial planning/management industry (my partner's expertise). 

PR pros (and others of a less-than-appropriate position) frequently approach me with story pitches, asking me to use my network of influence to land their feature (or write one about them) in a pub. The PR pros who follow these tips will get my attention and will have a good chance of winning my enthusiasm for their project; thus, mobilizing my team and extended team to get it done. 

Those that nurture a mutually beneficial relationship with my company and team earn my undying and (probably a bit OCD) loyalty. Those that are pure takers, not so much. ;-) 

Other "PR" pros who have not bothered to develop the skills and habits you list should do so, or brainstorm about a radical career change -- one that doesn't involve too many people... ;-)

shonali
shonali

@profkrg @sophielangford1 @susan_silver Thanks so much for sharing!

shonali
shonali

@LarryEngel Thanks for sharing!

casiestewart
casiestewart

@ShellyKramer @shonali that was a good list.

janemckaycomms
janemckaycomms

I think straddling trad/new media is part of the evolution of the marketing industry and shouldn't necessarily be seen as separate entities but two pieces of the same marketing pie. Any marketing professional worth their salt should be across all channels or at least know how to use them and when to include them in their marketing mix. As with anything marketing, it comes down to where your customers are / who your target audience is. Living in a rural (Australian) area and working for a not-for-profit organisation that works with highly disadvantaged individuals (as I do) traditional print media is crucial in communicating with our audience. 

dbvickery
dbvickery

@RTRViews @shonali A lot can be said in a good list, right?

Lindsay Nichols
Lindsay Nichols

Well put, Shonali! Kudos on being fearless and saying what you think. :)

bdorman264
bdorman264

But, I'll bet they know who Bill Dorman is, huh? 

Yes, there is still very much either/or and I can attest to the people who aren't in social, think it's a big waste of time. 

It's certainly here to stay and you can use it to your advantage should you so choose; but you can certainly survive w/out being as 'in' as our crowd is. 

As soon as I found out I could meet more people this way, I was 'all in.'..............:).

My blog is my conversation and it's my 'vehicle' to reach out to my community to talk. I post twice a week to keep myself on track and stay consistent. If I didn't post for a month, I'm pretty sure the sun would still rise.

All this 'stuff' keeps me in the game to the degree I want to be in it and helps me learn new stuff along the way.

If I get to a point all the trappings that go along with this are important enough for me to pay attention, I will be ready. 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hi Shonali, it's nice to see that you don't live in the 'social media bubble' like most folks on the social web.

Those who do can't possibly be provide effective 'real world'  strategies and services to the companies they serve.

I LOVED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR OBSERVATIONS!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

I want to have this conversation offline with you...mostly because I've seen the same things and have some to add to your list. When I speak at PR conferences, I'm always SHOCKED at where our peers are focusing their time and energies. It makes me crazy measurement hasn't hit the groundswell at agencies yet (it has on the corporate side) especially because it's so easy to do online. But, you're right about this list. Most don't care what the bloggers say (myself included) nor do they have time to care.

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Adam Toporek

KDillabough
KDillabough

I.love.you Shonali. This is such a great post, full of the gems of wisdom that those of us who spend waaaaay too much time online need to hear. After 18 months of blogging and running as fast as I can to keep up, I'm backing off...using the tools far more strategically...and getting off the hamster wheel of the online world. Oh, I will blog, comment and read...but not so much as before. Cheers! Kaarina

Soulati
Soulati

@shonali Welcome. i see another post of yours, but can't share yet. Too many approved posts backlogged by Triberr.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@texascopywriter Hahahahah!!!!!

So... these people ask you to place *them* in stories... without being your clients? How do you mean - to introduce them to journos, bloggers, etc....? Sorry to be obtuse, I've been at #prsaicon since Saturday & am a little tired, but I want to make sure I understand what you mean. 

And you still made me laugh with the "changing career" comment!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@janemckaycomms I completely agree with you. But there are a lot of pros who either still see them as separate pieces, or pay lip service to the "integration" mantra but treat them as separate. I was just talking about this with @carlainsf earlier today; that if you're going to work in the PR/social communication space, you need to have at least a working knowledge of the channels. So many don't. 

I also think traditional is still very effective, if used the right way. So are other tactics... e.g. I know a lot of folks who work in public health around the world, and especially in developing countries, using storytelling/theater is critical to communicating health messages. It's fascinating!

shonali
shonali

@dbvickery @RTRViews Yes it can. Thank you both for sharing!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Lindsay Nichols I don't think I know any other way, heh! Good to see you here!! How have you been?

texascopywriter
texascopywriter

@bdorman264 Speaking to those who think social is a waste of time. If they think it's a waste of time, then it is -- for them -- because they would not give it the energy and full bore engagement and nurturing that's necessary to reap the extensive benefits of building a social network via these powerful platforms.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@bdorman264 EVERYONE knows who Bill Dorman is. And don't you ever give up your blog, I love it!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Mark_Harai Thanks, my friend! You know what's funny? I miss the bubble. It's a very comforting place to be, though it can also be a very frustrating place to be. 

I agree with you that those who do live in it aren't always doing the most work (or the best work). But I also think there is a danger in getting so lost in the work, that one stops learning. And that really frightens me.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@ginidietrich I want to have this and SO many other conversations with you! You know that I'm heading to #prsaicon tomorrow; it will be interesting to see how it goes there, though I do think that the kind of people who diligently make it to PRSA year after year - like @arthury@mdbarber@bonnieupright to name just a few - are not really the ones with the problem you & I see so frequently.

The blogger thing was eye-opening to me, yet not, yet it was. And you hit the nail on the head when you said they don't have the time to care. That is IT! They really don't. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

@KDillabough This is a big hamster wheel. Part of the reason I thrive here is because of the relationships and part of it is because I have multiple blogs.

Those blogs keep me from getting bored and remind me there isn't a ton of crossover between niches. Some of the 'bigger' blogs are only known within their niche and no where else online, which adds more "depth" to the I am really big on the internet thing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@KDillabough You're at the same place I hit in January. I decided to do exactly this and, while some people really give me a hard time that I'm not at their blogs every day, I try to ignore it because I'm focused on running my business and mentoring my team so they can best service our clients. We're profitable for the first time in four years so I'm cool with people having their feelings hurt because I can't comment on their blogs every day. You'll experience the same thing. Stay strong!

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Adam Toporek

shonali
shonali

@Soulati NP. I haven't been into Triberr in days...!

texascopywriter
texascopywriter

@Shonali LOL! I'm glad I made you chuckle...I meant what I said about the changing careers. These PR "Pros" approach me and ask me to put their client in a story, which is totally ok. It's one of the things PR peeps do. But, the ilk I'm talking about (and I know many other journalists who have had the same experience - some of them top tier in traditional print news) approach us either via phone or email with no real backstory, no angle, and a snarky attitude. 

One of my clients hired a PR person who was charging her $1600 a month retainer. She paid her for 6 months to get her on radio shows, in pubs, talk shows, etc., and she landed one magazine feature in all that time. Our company did the digital branding and SoMe buzz for her national campaign. We got her more celeb involvement in 1 month mostly on pure chance. We aren't PR pros, but we did better than the person my client hired.

rdopping
rdopping

@Shonali @rdopping One of the good ones, then. Good to know.

Latest blog post:

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@ginidietrich I was talking to someone... I forget who, but it's something I cite frequently, you are someone who goes to a lot of blogs, etc., a LOT. So for folks to give you a head time is kinda weird... because you are one of the most responsive people I know (more so than me, and I think I'm pretty responsive). I kinda feel like my "dropping off" the face of the earth somewhat is also a test... I'm going to find out who my real friends are, and who the butterflies are. @KDillabough 

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