#FlockFriday: an ongoing series of weekly interviews with progressive, intelligent, knowledgeable and insightful communications professionals who want to address the issues in the industry and make a real difference to its reputation and its future. 1 topic, 6 questions, a number of thought leaders…
Danny Brown is one of the most well-regarded individuals on the social web, with an award-winning blog that really must be on your reading list. He’s one of the most insightful and thought-provoking people I’ve met in the field of comms and social media and, as you’re about to read, isn’t afraid to speak his mind and challenge the status quo. DannyBrown.me is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list, as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs. And he’s also a bloody nice bloke!
That’s not to say you ignore client input – far from it. But at the end of the day, they need your expertise. If you’re adding to project tasks because of client ‘demands/suggestions’, and that’s pushing your focus elsewhere, you need to ask yourself if you’re really bringing benefit to the client. They’re looking to you for direction; if you’re not giving them that because you’re doing every single thing they ask, why do they even need you in the first place? They can deal with the media themselves. So… to cut a long ramble short… if you’re not building the right relationship with your client, how can you expect to build the right ones with the media and influencers?
Where PR has always had a decent amount of ‘control’ is how a message is shared, and then reacted upon. With social media that kind of dissipates a bit. There’s just too much going on to grab every piece of reaction about something you’re promoting. That’s not to say you can’t take control, though. While you’re never going to stop a negative view from spreading about you if someone is determined enough, you can still use social media to offer some control of the response. Connect with the influencers reporting the negativity; post video responses to YouTube criticisms; set up Twitter chats to explain situations, etc.
I’ve always found the PR industry to be pretty willing to adapt new tools and platforms (at least, the good ones). So I think it’s more fear of what can be as opposed to lack of understanding. Understand that you can use these tools to deflect negativity and correct inaccuracies as much as they can be used to create these problems, and I think a better understanding will happen all round.
I think it’s a great idea for individuals to learn about new technologies, platforms and other mediums that is going to affect both their career, and how they understand the industry they’re working in. You want to know how something works? Take it apart yourself. Make mistakes along the way (as long as it doesn’t implicate your employer) and learn from them. Then you can decide if the company you’re working for is going to be able to fulfill you professionally, or if you need to be where the really smart people work. Don’t let yourself be restricted by the narrow minds of the currently satisfied.
The downside of this is that agencies are in danger of becoming less effective. The great minds that see the benefits of a combined traditional and social marketing/PR campaign compared to a purely ‘old media’ one will leave. They’ll go where they know their views are in tandem. That leaves the other agency struggling to keep up. And if they can’t keep up…
The plus side is that it’s forcing agencies to look at how they’re developing, both internally and externally. This is leading to more adapting the ‘well, we better take this stuff seriously and see if we can use or adapt it’. That can only mean a better offering for clients, and a more progressive atmosphere for employees. You have somewhere folks want to work, that comes across to your clients. Everyone wins.
The industry is in a weird place right now. Most of the big PR stories you hear are the negative ones, but they’re easy – anyone can criticize. Why not be the PR agency that makes positive news via social the norm? That’s where you can effect your industry as a whole, and help others understand it’s not all bad.
Agencies can help themselves as well. Much of the negativity is built around the premise that PR folks will do anything for money. So stop that image in its tracks. Walk away from the shyster clients that are borderline lawbreakers. Make companies that screw up account for their actions, and be public about it. Call out the crap and only work with the good. Otherwise you’re just perpetuating the view that as long as the paycheck is worth it, so is silence...
But accept that, primarily, we’re after the same results – equity for our client. Let’s understand that; let’s help the public understand that and be less confused. If I’m Joe Consumer, I don’t care that your agency won Award X for PR or Marketing/Advertising. That means nothing to me – all I care about is: was your message relevant and does the product or service meet my need? Get that right, you have my sale.
So let’s just call it what it is – Perception. Heck, if you still want to call it PR, it can be Perception Relations. All that matters is how your client is perceived. Everything else is circumstantial. If we don’t change, and we continue down this PR vs. Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Everything Else, we lose. The client loses. The customer loses. Meld the strengths; reap the benefits of that combined knowledge.
Like This Post? Subscribe to Tribal Boogie