For an industry that has argued so hard to play a leading role in shaping social media strategy, PR seems to have a tough time defining what social media PR is, and more specifically, in articulating how the role it wants to play fits in at a strategic level.
We’ve been there too; sitting in front of a potential new client, talking about how the shift in consumer behaviour around media consumption has fundamentally altered the landscape for PR teams, looking up from some scientific–looking presentation, only to notice a pair of glazed eyes staring back. Bullshit induced, sudden-onset cataracts.
The problem is, that in its mad rush to re-invent itself, the PR industry started to ask the wrong questions. Instead of saying “how does this set of changes affect what we do?” the industry started saying “what can we do to take advantage of this?” And in doing so, we started trying to do new things rather than trying to do what we were already good at, differently.
“We’re talking about PR, but with more & better insight going in, more flexible (and consequently better) delivery coming out, and with much much better measurement available on a fraction of the budget that it used to cost.”
Being a social media PR agency, or at least using that phrase to differentiate what you do from other agencies, should not mean moving away from traditional PR expertise. The challenge for agencies who want to describe themselves as “social” is to demonstrate what that means, without trying to be something that they’re not.
At Wolfstar we define “social media” as any media experience where a consumer’s social network plays a significant role in framing that experience. Crucially, this is a definition that does not pull us away from the expertise that is at the core of PR practice; helping brands to better interact with the media and build a narrative that resonates with the right consumers. At every stage along this process, social media plays a crucial role, but the process itself has not changed. Insight & analysis – creative interpretation – content – measurement, rinse and repeat
Ten years ago (when I started out in PR), this process might have started with some demographic information, customer surveys and a forward view of company priorities over the time period in question. This would have lead to a strategic overview of how the consultants think the proposition should be framed, how the messaging might work and how this could be made real through some form of content (news stories, stunts, thought leadership etc.). The measurable effects of the programme would then be collated (theoretically) and fed back into the insight phase, things would be adjusted and the process would begin again.
Today, that process is not so very different. In fact, the only differences are the number and availability of “insight sources,” (including social and search data) the number and availability of delivery channels (influencers are far more diverse) and the number and availability of tools for measurement. The bit in the middle, the expertise & the value is identical. This is fundamentally important.
When we talk about social media PR, we’re not talking about some hybrid digital dark art. We’re talking about PR, but with more & better insight going in, more flexible (and consequently better) delivery coming out, and with much much better measurement available on a fraction of the budget that it used to cost.
This is an immensely powerful offer, and, if the industry would just realise it, it’s the reason why those who have been predicting the death of the industry for the last few years are just plain wrong.
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