Media Relations 101 teaches you the basics of interacting with journalists. You provide media outlets with timely, honest, interesting information that’s relevant to their audience. You respond promptly when they ask questions and you follow up when needed to make sure they have everything they need for a story. In short, PR people are taught to help build a symbiotic relationship with journalists and provide them information they can use. You know the drill.
But in this new era of “citizen journalism,” where anyone with a computer can spread information about your brand, is client relations quickly becoming the new media relations? Should PR practitioners counsel organizations to treat customers in the same way PR folk treat media: providing open, honest, authentic information in a timely manner?
A lot of companies still aren’t sure how to handle the onslaught of attention (both positive and negative) social media has allowed customers to give to a brand, let alone give up the illusion of control that they’ve always had. This is where public relations is poised to take the lead. Imagine if companies started listening and responding to customers in the same way PR people follow up with their top editors?
Granted, every company is different, and there are all kind of rules stating what a company can and cannot say at various times. But let’s use this as an opportunity to elevate public relations’ stature within organizations.
Public relations needs to come up with a game plan to advise companies how to spot genuine word-of-mouth movements when they happen, and then know how to capitalize on them. Let’s talk about how everyone — from customer service to sales to senior management — can start to look at client relations in the same way a PR pro would treat his or her top media contact. What do you think? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions as we delve more into this topic, both here and during the PRSA teleseminar on May 6, 2008.
By Geno Church, chief inspiration officer, Brains on Fire, develops word of mouth, buzz, viral and evangelism strategies for the agency’s clients. In his 13+ years with Brains On Fire, Geno has helped build word of mouth into the identities of brands including Fiskars Brands, the American Booksellers Association, National Family Partnership, and Rage Against the Haze (South Carolina’s youth-led anti-tobacco movement).
Join Geno, along with Spike Jones, for their co-presentations, “How to Grow Word-of-Mouth Movements: People Are the Killer App” and “How Sustainable Word-of-Mouth Marketing Can Help Boost Your Bottom Line: Strategies on How to Identify Buzz-building Opportunities for Your Brand.”
I agree strongly that customer relations in the age of new media could take a lessen from tried and true media relations pros (respect deadlines/respond promptly, provide open and truthful answers, go out of your way to answer every question posed no matter how uncomfortable, etc).
That said, I think the headline of this blog could be misinterpreted. The idea that social media practices are replacing traditional media relations is a fallacy. While addressing the general public and masses that use these tools is important, media relations should still be a major component of any public relations program. Word of mouth has existed for as long as people have been able to talk. Mass media such as newspapers, magazines etc are filters through which audiences can chose the topics, entertainment, news approach, etc that best interests them. They provide voices of QUALIFIED expertise and targeted communication that most social media simply cannot acheive (nor were they designed to).
So – great article. I agree with every point here, but we should remember that so-called traditional media still serve very important roles in society, business and culture. For that reason, traditional media relations is here to stay.