Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 29, 2008

The Changed PR Landscape – What Works & What Doesn’t

When looking at the changing PR landscape, particularly the presence of new forms of social media, what can PR professionals learn in order to engage rather than enrage social communities? Several examples were shared with attendees via a panel moderated by Peter Himler, President of Flatiron Communications LLC, and including:

Rob Key opened up the session with the advice for PR professionals trying to make sense out of social media and PR:

  • Listen and observe the group you are trying to penetrate
  • Understand the wants, needs, and requirements for entrance into said group
  • Gain trust and credibility by offering something of value when entering

A social network, like a party of new friends, has its own wants, needs and – per Odden – its own written and unwritten rules to be followed. Unless time is taken to listen to what those wants, needs and rules are, and an effort is made to offer something of value based on this information, you will likely be seen as an outsider to the proceedings, unlikely to be involved in any meaningful party conversation, and risk the complete shunning of the group itself.

With the risk in of alienation high when leveraging social media in the new PR landscape, is the corresponding reward equally as rich?  The answer is a resounding, and absolute yes.

As Himler posited in his moderation, stories often start off in very obscure places, and more and more these very obscure places could be a little know social network or forum. More and more, journalists are using search and social networks to find these nooks and crannies when developing facts, contacts or data for articles.

In fact, nearly 91% of journalists polled in TopRank’s recent survey on Journalists’ Use of Search admitted to using search to research stories, per Odden.  Additionally, journalists are oftentimes members of online social media communities – and are particularly active on Twitter where 140 character microblogs can be ideal for scaring up a contact for a story at the last minute.

Knowing that our target – in this case journalists, are leveraging social media and participate in social media communities, what key takeaways did the panel offer to PR professionals?

  • Find out which of your targeted journalists are on Twitter, and build them into your network.  Once trust is gained within this community (see above) you will find it much easier to have results with a 140 character microblog pitch that will actually be read, than a full email pitch that may blend with the rest of the noise.
  • Speak in a language of the people with which you are trying to communicate. Again – spend time listening first before you begin to speak.
  • Realize that this is the way PR is shifting – increasingly from a “push” tactic to a “pull” tactic as journalists find you as easily as you may find them.

With this dynamic shift, should PR professionals worry, or accept, that they are working in an industry that some may say is chasing its own tail in the sense that journalists & PR professionals are sharing and consuming information from each other in the same fashion?

“Luckily, our skills will transfer,” stated Key. “In the end, our new landscape and social media tools are simply taking us back to the very essence of communication.”

Through this changed and more profound landscape, public relations will experience both a harkening back, and rebirth – something very few industries can say.

Lee Odden, cheif executinve officer, TopRank Online Marketing (a digital marketing and public relations agency), has worked on a wide range of Web site marketing projects with companies that include HP, Mckesson and Northwest Airlines. He is a regular speaker at PRSA, DMA, Search Engine Strategies, OMMA, Blog World and Media Relations Summit events lecturing on topics of new media public relations, search and social media marketing, and has been cited in stories run in U.S News, The Economist and PR Week. An active blogger, Lee writes and edits Online Marketing Blog, which is currently ranked #3 on Advertising Age’s Power 150, and is one of the top 200 “popular blogs” on Technorati. He is also co-founder of Misukanis Odden Public Relations.

Join Lee Odden for his FREE webinar, Top 10 Search Engine Optimization Tactics for Public Relations Pros: Help Google Foind Your Releases.

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