PR Training Pulse of the Profession Thought Leadership

Not Yet On Board With Social Media? You May Already Be Left Behind

Editor’s note: This is the final in a series of guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2014. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2014, the series began Jan. 8, 2014, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.

I received the following note the other day via LinkedIn, from someone who has apparently been in the business for more than 20 years:

“I found out on a web site called social media today that you have considerable experience in PR and social media expertise. 

“Although I also have an extensive PR background, I up to now haven’t needed to get involved in social media very much. My PR areas of expertise are media relations, writing, research, and special events.

“I have developed many customized media lists using Excel.

“Can I somehow use Twitter also to develop customized media lists using media data that I find from a variety of sources, which I do when creating Excel media lists? If I can, how do I go about creating customized Twitter media lists that include writers’ names, title, media name, email address, etc.

“Also, I want to find some articles/case histories that detail how companies have specifically used Twitter and Facebook to in PR campaigns to boost awareness of products and services,

“If you can provide me with links to such articles/case histories, that will be fantastic.

Any questions, send them.”

I responded that the person in question should read this post, and if he wanted to chat further, he could book a two-hour (paid) consult via my assistant.

To which he asked where he could find the post, and made a snarky comment on how perhaps he should become a “social media expert consultant at that hourly rate,” as it’s more than he’s “ever received in PR on hourly basis.”

***

When PRSA asked me to author a guest post on the evolution and elevation of social media, I was wondering how I could do so without stating the obvious: that social is here to stay, it’s not just for the “kids,” and if you haven’t gotten on board that particular bandwagon yet, you should start dusting off the old drum kit pronto.

Then I received this note. And it seemed to me to illustrate exactly how our industry needs to evolve vis-à-vis social media and the elevation thereof.

Clearly there is a sizable group in the industry that is still grappling with social, while grudgingly realizing they need to learn how to deal with it. Despite my irritation at this interchange, I sensed that the arrogance (“Tell me everything I want to know! Do it now! Free!”) and snark (“Whaaa? How do you get away with charging that?!”) were layered on top of confusion and, perhaps, fear. Because while this gent and others of his ilk may see the writing on the wall, clearly they don’t like the story it’s telling.

Social media cannot be elevated from the tactical to the strategic if it continues to be boxed in or silo-d. While its evolution has been breathtaking—a day does not go by that I don’t marvel at what a remarkable time we live in, to literally see technology change the world, minute by minute—it must be invited to sit at the family table, not banished to the kids’ corner.

Public relations practitioners of all stripes must understand this. They must start to respect what social brings to the table, even if they choose not to make that a core part of their business offering. They must start looking at public relations in an integrated and measurable way, because that’s the only way it will be regarded as an integral business function.

That means a genuine desire to learn, grow and engage, resisting the urge to make digs at those who’ve taken the time and trouble to at least be in step with today’s world. That’s what I hope to see happen, and our industry take larger strides toward, in 2014.

 

Shonali Burke was named to PRWeek’s inaugural top “40 Under 40″ list of US-based PR professionals and is considered one of 25 women that rock social media. As President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc., she helps take business communication strategy from corporate codswallop to community cool™. Shonali is also Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University, and publisher of the popular PR and digital media blog, Waxing UnLyrical. The Washington Business Journal recently named her one of 10 CEOs to follow on Twitter… follow their advice by finding her @shonali.

3 Comments

  • I agree with your opinion on this topic. As a college senior business major concentrating in PR, I have had an abundance of experience with using social media. Many PR professionals who have been in this field for years did not grow up using social media and are not always aware of the numerous benefits that it presents organizations. Technology is constantly changing and the way business works is changing right along with it.

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