Three things every PR practitioner should know to succeed in social media

If you were asked to give public relations practitioners the three best pieces of advice about how to succeed in social media, what would you tell them?

I’ve been asked to do that at a PR Agency Bootcamp organized by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. I’ll be appearing with some social media-savvy panellists: Martin Waxman, Mark Evans, Michael O’Connor Clarke and Alex de Bold. So I’ll need to be on my best game in order to keep up with these folks.

As I thought through all the advice I could offer about being successful in social media, I settled on these three pieces of advice.

1)  Be a blogger.

If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you won’t have a stand-out career. You no longer are competing just with the person across town, but with people across the continent and the globe. The age of social media has made it possible for really smart and creative people to project their voice and their identity online – beyond their own local market right into yours. If you don’t raise your voice, they’ll scoop the best jobs and assignments right out from under your nose. Where will that leave you? Probably competing on cost for low value assignments and routine jobs. Competing on cost leads in only one direction – razor thin margins, working longer and longer hours, and burnout.

So, you need to stand out. And stand out in a way that will impress others who may be looking for smart, talented people.

“But,” you say, “I’m on Twitter and Facebook and I have thousands of followers and friends. That makes me stand out.” Well, maybe it makes you stand out as a well connected person and a person who likes to be part of the flow of chatter. But it does not make you stand out as a smart, thoughtful person.

Look around and you’ll realize that virtually all of the people in PR with large followings on Twitter and Facebook also have blogs in which they frequently post content into which they’ve put a lot of thought. Look at people like Steve Rubel, Mitch Joel, Shel Holtz, John Bell, Jay Baer, and Gini Dietrich. Yes, they have thousands of followers on Twitter. But they seed the conversation with intelligent, long form blog posts. That’s thought leadership. And it’s different from being a gadfly on Twitter or Facebook.

Don’t lurk in the shadows. People respect and follow those who have something original to say. There’s no excuse today for being unknown. You a unique perspective on the world. Share it.

And when you do share your perspective, put that perspective on your own place where you can develop your ideas over time. Where people can see your body of thought. Blogs are still the best place for that. You own your blog. It’s searchable. It is a platform for every type of content: text, audio, pictures and video. It’s linkable. If you have something worthwhile to say, why wouldn’t you put it on a blog?

Stand out from the crowd. Be a blogger.

2) Become the new beat.

We are in a constant search for expert opinion. Research is a neverending activity for people who need to write about a subject. So contribute to the body of knowledge.

Don’t think about yourself as someone who’s going to pitch stories to reporters. Think of yourself as a contributing member of a community of interest. Research and write as if you were a beat reporter.

Pick areas that you care about and structure your public relations practice around becoming a member of the expert community. Write about your area of expertise. Share what you know. Become recognized as someone who knows your stuff and contributes real value on an ongoing basis.

As you do this, you’ll find that you attract a following of other people who share your interest. Many of them will have blogs of their own. Some will even be reporters. And as they follow you, you’ll build credibility and trust. When you do talk about a client, you’ll be able to do this (with full disclosure, of course) to a group of people who already care about the subject area. They’ll know you and they’ll listen to you.

This is the future of public relations. Isn’t that better than building your workday around a series of cold call pitches to reporters who are little more than names on a media list?

3) Develop your own sources

There’s been a lot of talk from some people about how they stopped subscribing to RSS feeds or using their feed readers because they now get pointers to the content that matters to them through the people they follow on twitter or via Facebook status updates.

If you’re a serious professional trying to develop a reputation for expertise in an area, you absolutely need to recognize that getting your links through twitter or Facebook links means that others are making the primary judgments about what content you see and framing it in their perspective. That’s lazy and it’s also biases your own thinking. You should make up your own mind about what’s important and approach content from your own unique perspective.

I may see one thing in an article. You may see something totally different. Why? Because we are approaching that content from our own unique perspectives. So if you want to be taken seriously and if you want to be able to generate interesting, original writing, start looking at your feed reader again. Start finding and subscribing to interesting and authoritative voices and read those every day with a fresh eye to what may be in that content. That primary research will give you an advantage over everyone who is dependent upon what others may link to.

Your turn

So there it is. Three things that I would tell a PR practitioner about how to succeed in social media.

Do these make sense to you? Are there other things that you would put ahead of any of my points? Or do you think I’m just plain wrong? Let me know in a comment below this post. I’m always interested in learning from those who are prepared to consider and challenge my ideas. (Maybe that should be a separate piece of advice: Always keep an open mind.)

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms issues Media Monitoring RFP

ccprf-091215The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms has taken a step that we think is an industry first. The CCPRF has issuedRequest for Proposals (RFP) on behalf of our members inviting suppliers to provide Canada`s PR firms with a new approach to monitoring traditional and online media.

Why have we done this?

The world of media is evolving rapidly. Where we get our information has changed. People have switched much of their attention from traditional to online and social media. This also has had significant impact on the industries that monitor where information is published and that measure its reach and impact.

For many years, we’d ask media monitoring companies to monitor media for keyworks or brand names and they would deliver sheaths of hard copy clippings and video cassette tapes (remember those?). Over time, delivery methods changed to fax transmisions, CDs ,email and password protected data archives. But the media that was being monitored remained essentially the same – print, television and radio.

Then the social media revolution hit. And it wasn’t any longer just about whether people were reading content. Social media had enabled people to comment on that content. To share it. To link to it. Suddenly, we had new actions to consider and new things to measure – influence, engagement, social graphs and velocity.

A whole new generation of services emerged. Services which don’t simply enable us to monitor, but also gave us analytic tools to understand and measure the interactions that were occurring and the communities of interest that were forming.

We find ourselves dealing with a monitoring industry that has adjusted to the new environment in different ways and at different speeds. Following what’s going on has become a complex process that can involve setting up dashboards with several different suppliers. And each provides us with a unique view of different things.

Multiple offerings. Multiple methodologies. Increased complexity. Increased cost.

Just as it has been noticed that television advertising prices have not decreased in line with the diminished audiences television delivers, the prices of some of the services we use seem to be increasing while more and more of the conversations that matter occur on media they do not track. Worse, price structures for some suppliers are confusing and vary widely between customers. In fact, it sometimes feels a bit like buying a used car. A game of chicken to see who blinks first.

So, we end up having to pay more for more services, with several of them delivering less than they used to. That’s not good for our business. That’s not good for our clients.

There has to be a better way to obtain these services. This is what we’re trying to achieve.

So, we’re asking the suppliers of both online and traditional monitoring services to propose to us how they could better meet our needs at a fair price. We’re asking them to propose the most comprehensive set of offerings they are capable of. This could include individual large companies who go it alone to monitor both online and traditional media. It also could encourage firms which offer a best in class solution in specific areas to band with others to offer a comprehensive service.

Once we have identified the best offerings, we hope that we’ll be able to compare costs in a more intelligent fashion. Ultimately, we hope to find the provider who offers us the best value.

And because we use these services on behalf of our clients, they too should benefit from the best available services offered at a fair price.

Today December 17 is the day that the bids are due. I’m not sure how many or what type of responses we will receive. But I’m hopeful that the monitoring and measurement industry will provide us with creative proposals to improve upon what we now receive.

I plan to post further about this process, how it turns out and what we learn from it.

Proving PR Works

The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF) is holding a series of thought leader breakfasts to explore topics of importance to organizational communications and public relations. (disclosure: I’m currently the Chair of the CCPRF.)

This morning, the CCPRF brought togetherin Toronto a group of top level corporate communications executives to discuss best practices in communications measurement. The discussion was led off by a panel of measurement experts: David Alston from Radian6, David Scholz from Leger Marketing, Jacqueline Taggart from Watson Wyatt and Alan Chumley from the CPRS Measurement Committee.

What follows is the highlights of the Twitter coverage (hashtag #CCPRF) of the discussion that I captured using CoverItLive. Enjoy.

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms: Measurement

Meet the heads of Canada`s public relations consulting firms

The Leaders of Canada`s PR firms SpeakIf you haven`t been reading the Weblog of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, you`ve been missing a series of video interviews with the heads of Canada`s leading public relations consulting firms.

I`ve just posted an interview with Freda Colbourne, President of Edelman Canada. Earlier interviews include: Trevor Campbell, President of Porter Novelli Canada, Pat Gossage, Chairman of Media ProfileDan Tisch, President of Argyle Communications, and Jane Shapiro, former Senior Vice President of Fleishman Hillard Canada.

Interview with Pat Gossage, Chairman of Media Profile

Pat Gossage, Chairman of Media ProfilePat Gossage, the founder and now Chairman of Media Profile, talked to me recently for the series of video interviews with heads of Canadian PR firms that I’m conducting for the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms.

Some of the highlights of the interview:

What makes Media Profile a special place?

“I wanted a firm I enjoyed coming to work at every day. And I wanted a firm that had a pleasant, accepting and respectful atmosphere amongst its workers. A lot of teamwork. Bringing people up from within rather than parachuting from above. I was much more interested in creating a culture than creating a big, successful firm. The culture is here and the success followed.”

On client relations:

“The other thing we stress is being incredibly attentive to clients. We’re good listeners. Somebody once told me that when you are listening to the client your are winning. That’s been a theory we’ve put into practice and it’s been an important aspect of us winning and keeping clients.”

Advice to young people considering a career in public relations:

“The atmosphere in an office is very important. … It’s whether you want to come to work at a firm and whether the senior people are accessible, whether there’s a mentoring program, all the things that will allow you to build on your skills over time. And stay with one firm, which is very important to all of us in public relations, so that we have continuity with our people. That’s what the client respects. The client doesn’t want to be dealing with different people every couple of years.”

You can view the video of the complete interview with Pat Gossage on the CCPRF Weblog.

A look behind the scenes at Canada's major public relations firms

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms Are you interested in corporate communications and public relations ? Are you curious about the people who advise CEO’s and corporate communicators on the newest strategies and tactics?

If you answer yes to these questions, click over to the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms and subscribe to the RSS feed there.

and in Who leads Canada’s public relations firms? How did they get to where they are? What do they think makes each of their firms special? What advice would they give to young people who would like to pursue a career in public relations?

Next week, we’ll start a new series of video interviews in which I talk with the leaders of Canada’s PR firms about how they got to where they are, what makes their firms special, what advice they would give to young people starting out in public relations and other issues that they think are important to public relations today.

So, if you’re curious about the public relations industry and the people who head up the ‘s major PR firms, subscribe to the CCPRF blog and you’ll receive a stream of biweekly interviews.