Aug 02, 2012

How Social Media Is Changing PR

On the last Tuesday of each month, ProfNet hosts ConnectChat, a monthly series of Twitter chats exploring key communications and media topics. During a recent ConnectChat, Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, discussed the changing role of PR in the digital era and how we can adjust our mind and skill sets accordingly.

Breakenridge says that with the rise of social media PR professionals need to:

  • Master information technologies as a “technology tester,” including video, SEO, website analytics, monitoring applications, CMS and more.
  • Start dialogue and build relationships through new channels.
  • Strategize to connect directly with stakeholders, especially customers.

Breakenridge notes that being a technology tester is the most challenging new skill for PR pros to master because it requires constantly paying attention to new apps, resources and platforms. “It’s so important to understand use technology the way stakeholders,” she says.

To excel in these new practices, people in the PR industry need to become hybrid professionals, says Breakenridge. This process includes:

  • Moving the best of traditional practices forward and integrating them with digital and social communications.
  • Working cross-functionally with marketing and moving outside of the PR “silo,” which includes learning and applying marketing tactics.
  • Collaborating with other departments too, like Web/IT, sales, customer service, HR, etc.
  • Being flexible and adaptable in a global communications environment.

Breakenridge provides some new roles popping up in the PR industry:

  • Internal Collaboration Generator: knows good communication starts on the inside with technology sharing
  • Pre-Crisis Doctor: plans for crises through new approaches, processes and recovery steps
  • Relationship Analyzer: takes relationships to deeper levels through technology and visualization
  • Master of the Metrics: understands metrics tracked over time and can track them back to executive goals

To successfully use metrics, PR pros must have objectives and know what they are trying to achieve, adds Breakenridge. “It’s important to know what you’re measuring: leads, sales, registration, awareness (buzz), community growth, etc.”

Listen to conversations and identify influencers to drive discussion and systematically map out audience connections, explains Breakenridge. “Understand the culture, critical issues and passion in the community to make better connections. Use crowdsourcing, contests, and promotions for deeper engagement.” She notes that you can use @mentionmapp and @TouchGraph to visualize connections.

Social media provides incredible intelligence, and, when filtered, can help PR pros plan more strategically, says Breakenridge. For example, social media can help companies react quicker to negative situations and crises. “You can strategically engage for more valuable outcomes: leads, sales, registration, better CS, more productivity.”

Social media should move across an organization, says Breakenridge. PR should work with other departments (marketing, advertising, branding, etc.); it should cover everything from social governance and planning to content curation and the monitoring of programs. PR should spearhead social media, but not own it. “Working with other groups doesn’t mean we lose our core purpose; we have just expanded our opportunity!” she says.

Where is PR headed? Breakenridge says PR will:

  • Continue to integrate with other areas and strategize cross functionally.
  • Start incorporating interactive living rooms, touch experience, augmented reality, etc.
  • Gain influence by telling more meaningful stories through technology and educating others on best practices.

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet. Check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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