David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

The Importance of Vision

I saw this post the other day and it reminded me of a leadership course I went to years ago which was probably one of the best courses I ever went to. A key part of the course was the importance of an organization having a vision and they used the example of NASA having a fantastic single defining vision of “putting a man on the moon”. It was a vision that was tangible, relevant to everyone in the organization, memorable and most of all it felt almost out of reach. All key attributes of a compelling vision.

The reason I mention this is it made me think of our organization and the degree to which we are driving change through the organization, asking everyone to embrace ‘2.0 thinking’ in everything we do. When people ask ‘how do you make Social Media scalable in an organization’ (link to previous post), the answer lies in not only helping the organization visualize a future where digital thinking is embedded in every facet of the business, but most importantly making it relevant to everyone by helping them see what the future looks like, whatever their role.

We have yet to encapsulate the impact the PR agency of the future will have on our people and on our clients into a single ‘putting a man on the moon’ statement, but regardless, it is a pretty exciting time to be running an agency right now. What we need to think about is what do we want our clients and Biters to be saying about us in 2012? But maybe more importantly, what do we want our clients’ customers and partners to be saying about us in 2012?

Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, , , ,

The Two Most Common Questions

There are two questions that I keep getting asked that point to a common problem. The questions are: Who owns Social Media? How can Social Media scale?

Both of these seem perfectly reasonable questions. Indeed they were questions that came up again at our BiteBash in San Francisco last night. The ‘how can Social Media scale’ question is born out of the challenge in keeping track of and responding to all that is going on in the social web. I then thought a bit more about the question and decided that it is a rather strange question if you consider social web as a channel of communication. It is a bit like asking, how do you get this ‘telephone’ thing to scale? Or how do you get this ‘email’ thing to scale?

The way you do it is to prioritize the people you talk to. Let’s face it, not all people are equal in terms of the priority they get. You certainly wouldn’t expect the PR team to talk to all stakeholders from customers to the media. The customers are sent off to the customer service center or sales. The business partners should be put in touch with the partner relations team. The media should similarly be handled in an appropriate way. In other words everyone is looked after but by the right department in the right order.

Social Media is no different. You can’t and shouldn’t respond to every tweeter. You can’t respond to every blog post. You need to pick your engagements. Our role is to help companies identify the most important points of influence in the conversation and prioritize them accordingly.

And the second question: Who owns Social Media? This isn’t a new question given it was debated at length at the Social Media Club in October and again in AdWeek, although the original article seemed to focus on who owns it within the marketing function (interesting but not, in my humble opinion, the right debate for organizations).

Again, it is a strange question when you think of social media as a channel. It is like asking who owns the telephone or the web. In fact the web is a good example because initially the marketing department owned it because it was an online brochure. However, now every function uses the web as a communications channel or even transaction channel, in the case of sales. Social Media is no different. The communications function is often at the vanguard of how this channel can be used. However, over time, all functions within the organization need to embrace the tools in same way that the customer service team embraced the phone, then the web/email, and now Twitter.

It was refreshing last night to hear David Weiskopf of Charles Schwab talking in such pragmatic, grounded terms. Let’s face it, it’s just a channel of communication, nothing more nothing less.

So the answer to both of these questions lies in social media being embraced across the whole organization and embedded within every function from customer service to HR to marketing to sales and even finance (that one needs a bit more thought!). Our role as an agency is to not only be at the vanguard of how the channels can be used and help prioritize and engage with the right people but to act as consultants who advise on how Social Media can be embraced across the whole organization because of the reputational impact that these tools have. In its own way, this is pretty exciting because all of a sudden we become advisors to the broader business.

Filed under: Communications, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , ,

PR Must Expand Into Online Marketing

Jeremiah Owyang produced an interesting piece earlier today asking what will happen to PR firms in a recession based on research among 200 PR agencies. I must confess I am not surprised to see that a small majority of firms are predicting that PR budgets were smaller than they were in fiscal 2008, but then if you if you look at any operating cost, I would be surprised if this wasn’t pretty much tracking the downward pressure on all operating costs.

Having said that I think cost reductions fall into two categories: reducing costs because in this climate ‘you can’ and ‘you need to be seen to’ and then there are those companies that are having to reduce costs because ‘they must’. I wonder what if the PR budget reductions are greater or smaller than comparable ad budgets?

I both agree and disagree with the second point Jeremiah makes when he says that “things don’t look too rosy for the PR industry.” If you are a traditional PR agency doing the same old stuff then I would be worried. However, if you accept that the world has changed and embracing social media is neither an option or an add on to your traditional offering then the world looks rosier.

By putting social media at the centre of what we do, we have a fantastic opportunity to extend our remit more broadly into the world of online marketing. Far from being gloomy, as someone who has been involved in the PR industry for 20 years and who has always embraced technology, the future for the industry has never been more exciting.

We just need to get through this economic trough first.

Filed under: Marketing, , , , , , ,

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