Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 29, 2010

PR and Social Media Continue to Evolve

Looking over a few graphs on MarketingCharts, I noticed one that highlighted the top social networking websites and forums as of September 2010. Of course ,Facebook was #1, followed by YouTube, MySpace and Twitter. I thought I would see LinkedIn among the next most popular, but it was at the bottom of the chart. Instead there were networks I was less familiar with, including Tagged, MyLife and MocoSpace. It feels like every time we blink, there’s an announcement about a new platform, advanced technology, changing consumer behavior, new and exciting applications for our smartphones, better functionality in Enterprise 2.0, and the list goes on. We’re seeing change each and every day.

Public relations is connected to these changes, as we watch how consumer behavior and technological advancement affects the markets and media landscape. We feel the shift too. As a result, we’re constantly evolving communication methods. Our organizations must keep up with the best ways to meet the needs of stakeholders. We’re the communicators, the strategic thinkers, who guide communication (internal and external), and the storytellers who now customize and help to socialize business news. These shifts in behavior, brought on by the onset of new technology and peer-to-peer networks, will definitely keep us on our toes. We must learn new strategies to reach our constituents, understand the continuing advances in technology and find better ways to implement and measure our programs.

The year 2011 will be the year to dig in deeper to all of the changes. Although we are still evolving, we can’t just touch the surface anymore. I presented a webinar for PRSA on November 16 that discussed social media and the PR R(e)volution. I put the emphasis on the “e” in “Revolution” because now it’s our own evolution and ability to embrace and implement the change we’ve experienced. We have to become the champions or the change agents to help our brands. We have to make the change work for our organizations and forge ahead with new communication systems, even though we are faced with changes every day.

What does it mean to dig in deeper? It’s taking everything you’ve learned a few steps further. Here are examples (touching upon big areas of focus) of moving the needle:

Strategy and Planning
Not only planning our external social outreach with clear objectives and measurable goals, but also using this time to evaluate social media policies and the types of interaction and engagement of employees who will participate in social communications. It’s also figuring out how we should communicate the value of social media so that employees help to support overall organizational goals, as well as reach their departmental goals. We need to figure out the best ways to communicate, motivate and get the organization, as a whole, reaching goals together.

Internal Social Computing
We must uncover new ways to use internal social networks and computing sites to increase employee communication and collaboration. Are we able to dig in deeper to understand the platforms, technology and how to work with IT, so that technology better facilitates human interaction? In order to have communication flow through internal channels, we have to create strong internal programs, which translates into a greater knowledge of the dynamics and functionality of technology. Marrying the communication with great technology may lead to better internal communications, employees who feel they are well-informed and teams of people working productively and even cross functionally on projects.

It’s time to customize and to roll up our sleeves to find the best monitoring platforms that allow us to gather information about our brands, the market and to better understand the groups that we want to reach. There is no one-size-fits-all platform, and, in some cases, these platforms offer excellent resources but not a full package to suit a company’s needs. For example, there are platforms that are excellent for trending topics, monitoring daily conversations and uncovering influencers. But, they don’t give you a full picture of brand and content sentiment (for your own organization as well as your competitors), have the reporting functions that you need or accommodate your budgetary requirements.

An area that has always been critical to our communications programs, measurement isn’t as cut and dry as we would like, with respect to social media. Digging in means measuring beyond the “likes” and the “friends,” and understanding the difference between Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Participation (ROP). When you can curate and share content that makes your public behave a certain way, and that behavior turns into a registration, membership or a sale, as a result (tracking from click through to conversion), then you have ROI.

However, ROP is important, too, as it leads to awareness, perception, authority, education and a number of factors that provide value to a brand. If PR people can map out the measurement, making each objective measurable, then we can keep expectations in check and be able to measure the different outputs vs. the outcomes, and how each one has value for the brand.
If 2011 is the year to dig, then what will you be doing to take charge in your organization to move the needle and to help champion a smoother and more seamless process?

Deirdre Breakenridge, president and executive director, communications, Mango! Creative Juice, an integrated advertising, marketing and communications agency, is also an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she teaches courses on public relations and interactive marketing for the university’s Global Business Management program. Her books include “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” “PR 2.0,” and “Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy.”

Join Deirdre for her webinar, “Creating a Social Media Policy to Fit Your Organization: Develop Guidelines to Lessen the Risk” and “How to Create a Social Media Plan: Build Community and Brand Awareness Through Strategic Social Communications.”

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