PRSA Counselors Academy: Josh Hallett

Josh HallettJosh Hallett‘s session, titled Bloggety, Blog, Blog, provided his audience with an overview of the social media and the tools used to create, view and search content.

Josh began by defining social media as “everything that is said, spoken, written photographed about your organization that is on the internet and that you have no control over.”

He pointed out that the February 2006 Forrester Big Idea report on Social Computing indicated that we have entered an era in which “individuals increasingly take cues from brand loyalists.”

From this, says Hallett, we should understand that, “It doesn’t matter how much advertising I’ve seen. If I hear something from somebody I trust, that’s what I’ll listen to.”

Hallett then provide an outstanding primer on blogs for the audience. His one digression from the orthodox was on the issue of transparency. He objects to the notion of transparency in blogs, suggesting that we can’t have true transparency until you have the ability to search completely into the files, correspondence and circumstances of the blogger – an opportunity we are not about to have.

(On this issue, I can’t agree with Josh. I think that there are enough people out there who know each of us to ensure that any misinformation or omissions would be found out. But, hey, time and experience will prove which view is correct!)

He followed the discussion of blogs with a review of bog search sites (Technorati,etc.) and other social media, including photo and video sharing sites like flickr and youtube.

He challenged the audience to consider why they should care about the people using these services. “Who are these people? And why should I care? Your mother, your sister, your son. More and more somebody you know knows somebody who is blogging.”

Josh went on to demonstrate the relevance to PR of social media by discussing the Sony RootKit debacle and Mark Cuban’s posting of interviews with reporters in order to wrest back control of his statements from the Fourth Estate.

He covered Creative Commons licensing, noting that many bloggers are motivated to share information, not by profit.

Again, addressing the concerns of his PR practitioner audience, Josh indicated that, “Blogs should never be written by the PR department. They should be written by the people who are doing the work.” He offered several examples to illustrate the difference between blogs written with an eye to corporate speak and those written with a genuineness of voice.

He stressed that bloggers can be honest and blunt in their assessments; so be ready for a candid conversation. You must be prepared to take the good and the bad.

In the remaining time, he covered RSS syndication technology (“more and more traditional media are providig RSS feeds”), podcasts, Wikis and Vlogging.

He suggested that, with all of these social media channels and the power of the search engines, paid media monitoring services are becoming redundant. Junior staff can be charged with monitoring the information flows without need of premium services. And the role of the practitioner becomes one of knowing what to do with the information and the social media

He also addressed blogger relations. He advised the audience to be careful to only “send something of interest to somebody you know.” He noted that he uses IM to send information to bloggers. This satisfies their appetite for timely information relevant to their interests. But to use this effectively, you must get to know the blogger you are dealing with.

He suggested that effective use of blogging requires PR practitioners to step outside of their traditional mass audience focus. “Do not think of blogs as a vehicle to get to 5,000 to 10,000 people. Think of blogs as a way to get to 100 to 150 very interested people.”

He also provided some examples of Media bypass – product launches directly to bloggers rather than through mainstream media.

As he wrapped up, Josh suggested that the audience should look at social media not as a technology tool, but as “a communications and search tool — it gives me the ability to find the 10 people in the world who share my passions.”

Finally, he suggested that people should look at Richard Edelman’s remarks about the press release at the Syndicate Conference as a preview of where PR may be going next in its use of new media.

Josh Hallett pitched his session at the perfect level for an audience that included less than five bloggers. About half the approximately 50 people in the room indicated that they use a feedreader. This level of use by senior practitioners suggests that blogging has a distance to travel before it will have penetrated into the mainstream of the public relations industry.

All in all, Josh’s presentation was a tour de force. In 75 minutes, he provided the complete introduction to social media. And even though the presentation ran overtime, no one left the room early. And people kept asking questions. The sign of a great presentation.