David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

The Professional’s Dilemma

I am not sure if I am the only one, but I do struggle with what I use various different social networking tools for. Do I accept certain people to be friends on Facebook? Do I Tweet about what I am doing at the weekend when I know that most people who follow me only do so for work-related reasons? Do I accept friends on LinkedIn and if so, why?  I am sure my friends would be thoroughly uninterested in me referencing the latest social media news in my Facebook status.

We all know that work and home lives are converging as work practices become more flexible and as so-called millennials become an ever increasing proportion of the work place population. Consequently, it is only natural that our use of different communications channels becomes increasingly blurred. On top of that, if you look at how leadership philosophy has changed, it is now considered to be just as important for people to know you as a person as it is for you to be able to make the right strategic decisions.

Against this background, I must confess to being somewhat surprised by an article with Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn in the Sunday Telegraph, in which he blankly refused to answer some fairly straightforward questions such as: what is your favorite holiday destination? favorite car?

I certainly understand the need to keep some elements of professional and home lives separate, but equally it is important to know a bit about the personal story of people behind the business. I think LinkedIn is a great tool and I use it fairly heavily for work. However, it struck me as odd, the CEO of LinkedIn, taking the ‘social’ completely out of the ‘professional social network’. Maybe LinkedIn really is that serious a business? With a valuation of $1bn, it is obviously doing something very right.

Filed under: Communications, Social Media, Technology, Trends, , , , , , ,

So Who Are the Real Experts?

Last week we completed the second of a couple of pitches for social media work where we were pitching against an eclectic mix of agencies; some PR, some digital and some more known for their measurement services. The decision makers were similarly from varying backgrounds. Some were from the web team, others from the PR team and some from the social media team. 

The whole process of putting together the presentation was fascinating because we suspected that the digital agencies would pitch ‘building a shiny object’ on the basis that “if we build it, they will come”; the competing PR agency would pitch engagement with existing audiences in existing channels; and the measurement company would probably do loads of data analysis up front and at the end, but were unsure what they would do in the middle.

What struck me more than anything during the process was that it was a futile exercise arguing the rights and wrongs of the different approaches because a successful campaign will probably comprise all three elements which is why we are seeing so much change in the overall agency landscape right now. Last week saw another raft of announcement as Voce acquired a web firm.

In going through this process, what occurred to me is that there are an awful lot of people claiming to be social media experts (very eloquently argued here by Brian Solis), but the real experts in my mind are the ones that are communications experts who can transcend channels and disciplines. Having a social media expert who understands how to use Twitter or Facebook is a bit like having an expert who understands how to use the telephone (you get my point – it is just a channel). However, a communications expert that understands how to use the power of multiple channels (both old and new) in tandem is really valuable.

And the result of the pitch? I don’t know yet. But it did have me leaving the room thinking…I wonder what background the social media experts were from? Are the real social media experts not the ones who are the real communications experts?

 

*Also on Bitemarks

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

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, , , , , ,

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