Archive for February, 2012

The Definition of Public Relations, Google on Privacy and Other Issues

There’s been a lot of buzz of late around the public relations profession. The national Public Relations Society of America is currently undertaking a 21st Century definition of PR, which they’ll likely unveil in the next weeks. They solicited input far and wide to try to come up with some encompassing definition for the widely diverse practice of public relations. (View the current definition of PR here)

But this is only one aspect in which public relations is generating news: Many people are excited about the rosy labor forecasts projected for the profession during the next few years. The US Labor Department expects “employment of public relations specialists to grow 24 percent from 2008 to 2018–much faster than the average for all occupations.”  That is, presumably, good news indeed.

So why is all this buzz important? Well, one consequence, for certain, is that more people are caring about the practice of public relations. And how does this help clarify what’s good PR practice, and what’s not?

While we would certainly be hesitant to pre-empt PRSA’s studied process for redefining the profession, a look at recent headlines regarding some companies and their public relations crystallized a few thoughts about what PR is, about what works, and what doesn’t.

For example, within the past few weeks, two iconic brands—Google and Apple—have been uncharacteristically broadsided by bad PR:  Google, on privacy issues for its data-gathering processes on Safari browsers and Apple for the working conditions at some of its overseas manufacturers and suppliers. While neither company can be happy about such publicity, it’s worth noting that for each company, thus far, the fallout has been minimal. (See final note below) Which got us to thinking—why are some companies brought to their knees over news that’s a lot less damaging than these two companies faced, while other companies are able to withstand major hits and continue virtually unscathed?

Public perception of the companies beforehand accounts for a lot; and what plays a major role in shaping those perceptions—good public relations. Another way that we view good public relations is “stockpiling goodwill.” Companies do this everyday by paying attention to the details of business operations and marketing; correcting errors—proactively, as often as possible; and adopting a consumer-sensitive, if not consumer-friendly outlook. In short, they do the right thing most of the time, they do it willingly, and they’re good a creating feedback mechanisms to understand what their publics want, or at least what they’ll tolerate. (Panera offers the most recent example of this kind of corporate citizenship). So when issues flare up, their credibility helps buffer them from a major public debacle.

So that’s our working definition of public relations: conducting business everyday so that you stockpile goodwill. In the meantime, we’ll continue reading the headlines and looking forward to the PRSA’s consensus definition of the public relations profession.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Google has lobbed an impressive pre-emptive strike to try to contain the damage from its recent bad press. Check out the photo below …

Google's print ad campaign to offset negative publicity regarding the privacy of its searches.

Communications Professionals: Are you on the Sidelines of the Social Revolution?

Make no mistake about it , the Internet and social media have changed the way that we do business. If you’re still limiting your expertise to the traditional models (print, broadcast, and even outdoor), and sitting on the sidelines of the 21stCentury communications revolution, you may soon find that you’re about as relevant to modern life as Stonehenge.
Adam Bain of Twitter discusses the company’s impact and users’ best practices.

When it comes to technology, I’m usually what’s called a “late adopter.” I will spurn new developments until the old technology expires or I am blessed to win something new. So I’m amazed to actually be on the front lines when it comes to understanding the marketing technique and implications of social media. However, true to my nature, taking this deep dive into social media and marketing, I pursued it in the manner I usually do—first through formal study (various seminars and workshops leading to SEMPO, Google Adwords courses for certifications)—then through intense application.

Fortunate for me, according to social & experiential media maven Shannon Downey, and others, I’m making the right moves at the right time. “Like any good revolution,” Downey says, “social media has fundamentally changed how we communicate in a very short period of time.” Even more, she says we are still at the beginning of massive changes. “With emerging technologies focusing on geo-targeting, augmented reality and near field communication, there are countless evolutionary developments in communication headed our way.” It’s thrilling, she adds.

Shannon ought to know. She’s the owner of Pivotal Production, a digital marketing agency serving such clients as Chiquita, Northwest Community Hospital and  Woman Made Gallery. She’s also a digital trainer, adjunct faculty at DePaul University, and a blogger for Crain’s Enterprise. She says there’s been an unequivocal shift in society and today’s media landscape. She spends a good deal of her time, she says, training professionals on how to get on board: “My favorite expression is “Evolve or Die”. Marketers that see the potential and opportunity for innovation and embrace it are, and will continue, to thrive. Those that don’t will die off. Those decisions are being made right now, consciously and unconsciously.”

For other late adopters who don’t quite “get” social media, here’s something to keep in mind: Social media isn’t just a social network. It’s a huge marketplace–and marketplace of ideas–where you can market yourself to both a targeted market and global market, at the same time.

Given all that, what can you do? Here’s a few quick tips on how you might get started:

1)      Be creative. Beyond the everyday uses (updates, personal messages, news and professional networking), think of how you can participate in the seemingly boundless communications arena of digital and social media.

2)      Find a niche.  Think about what you love, and how it impacts others. That’s usually a good place to start. Then think of a platform to best express your passion. (Think Pinterest!)

3)      Get started.  Take the leap! Now that the seed of the idea has been planted, nurture it and watch it grow.

4)      Be active. Commit time everyday to participate and communicate with your audience (remember, participating means reviewing and responding). Like working any job, branding on social media is a dynamic, everyday activity. This is not the time to rest on your laurels. Discover your brand, then work it, every single day.

Follow Our Daily PR News Round-up

Don’t forget to check out our PR news round-up on Facebook. New posts everyday!

Visit us at PRDoctorChicago: http://on.fb.me/JHwHg6

Be sure to comment of “like” on our Wall.

New blog post coming next week!


Follow prdoctorchicago on WordPress.com

prdoctorchicago

Follow me on Twitter