Blog Panel – Part 1: 2009’S Biggest PR Lessons Learned

Blog Panel – Part 1: 2009’S Biggest PR Lessons Learned

This is the first post in a series of three for a blog panel I’m participating in with Krim StephensonJohn Sidline, and Frank Strong.  All four of us will blog on the same topic on the same day.  This first post is on the biggest lesson we learned this year for PR (and marketing).

Looking back over 2009, I think it’s clear that social media has been a huge factor in changing the PR landscape, and along with that came several valuable lessons.  One of social media’s biggest advantages is its ability to energize brand advocates while listening to the market at large.  I’ve commented several times throughout the year about how important it is to not only participate in social media, but to observe (or listen) as well.  Learning how to do this and strike a good balance between the two is an important lesson to help improve PR campaigns and strategies.

Say you’re pitching your client’s product in a certain way, trying to amplify a specific feature you feel is most beneficial, but the buzz on social media is that other features are actually more important to consumers than the one you’re trying to promote.  This is useful information to tailor your pitch and maybe even redirect your campaign strategy.

The other key lesson we’ve learned from social media is the value of transparency.  This is a hot topic that many have written about like Matt DickmanGini Dietrich, and Beth Harte, just to name a few of the ones I’ve followed.  We strive to achieve a transparent approach in all our PR and marketing activities, but with social media, it has become that much more important.  We’ve all heard the old saying that perception is reality, but never before has reality been able to influence perception to the extent it does today.

If a product has been hyped as the latest and greatest, but users have found out it really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, the world is going to know.  With everyone tweeting, posting, and blogging about their own thoughts and experiences, the truth is going to come out, but more than that, it’s going to be everywhere and completely accessible.  People know that and expect nothing less than the truth.  Our PR strategies, therefore, need to be as transparent and honest as possible.

Social media is no longer a fad.  It’s here to stay, and these lessons are just two of many that have helped shape the public relations industry and will continue to do so over the coming years.  And by continuing to listen and be transparent through social media, I’m sure we’ll learn many more lessons to help grow and direct our campaigns and sector as a whole.

See what the other panelists are saying on their blogs about this topic:

The next post will be published on Wednesday, December 30th, on how the biggest lessons we’ve learned in 2009 (this post) will shape 2010 and beyond.  Stay tuned!

Definitions From Questions, It’s All In How You Ask

Definitions From Questions, It’s All In How You Ask

Last night, I attended a lecture given by Jim Fleming, S.J. at the Boston College Club on the results of a recently completed survey about the religiousness and spirituality of students at BC.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get on my soap box and preach about religion, but what I did find interesting is how some of the questions were posed.

Instead of defining the two terms, religion and spirituality, up front and then asking the students how they perceive themselves in light of those definitions, they worked the other way around.  The survey asked the students how religious and spiritual they thought they were, without defining the terms, and then used the rest of the questions to go back and define the two words.

To use another example to illustrate this process, let’s say a PR firm wanted to conduct a survey on what transparency means in social media.  Without defining transparency upfront, the survey would ask how transparent the respondents think their actions are in social media and use the subsequent questions to see how industry professionals would define the term.  So, if a respondent said they considered themselves to be very transparent, and then answered the following questions:

Based on these responses, the firm conducting the survey can asses that transparency in social media can be defined as someone who reveals their true identity, writes their own material under their name, does not have a ghost writer, and reveals when they are talking about one of their clients.

While the answers to these questions may seem obvious, there is great potential here to glean far more insight into the actual practices people conduct in their everyday lives and see how it relates to the broader question.  It’s validating the “practice what you preach” methodology.

Another way to look at it is that maybe “transparency,” or whatever term you’re evaluating, is not the correct word.  Perhaps someone thinks they are not very transparent in their social media activities, but answered in the same way as the respondent in the questions above, which are clearly transparent actions.  Is there a reason such respondents would shy away from the term transparent, or could there be more indicators of what makes a person’s social media actions transparent?  Recognizing these trends as a participant in the survey is also very interesting and makes people more self aware of their own actions.  Maybe this would give such a respondent the opportunity to say, “Oh, I guess I am transparent in social media.”

It’s all about how you ask the question…