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6th July, 2010

I wrote a rather ranty blog post the other day following an opinion piece on NMA suggesting that social media wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The whole incident got me thinking about the reasons why some people, brands, agencies, marketers etc. find social media so difficult to understand and get to grips with. Afterall, it’s not rocket science and the vast majority of us use it in our personal (and often professional) lives on a daily basis.

I’m more and more convinced that the real reason for misunderstanding social media is that, more often than not, it is approached with an old media/marketing mindset.

Because that is the key challenge for brands. It’s why so many marketing industries have struggled to get to grips with social media. PR runs scared because it diminishes the role of media relations. Advertising is scared because it doesn’t let you buy your way into people’s living rooms. SEO is scared because it is reducing the power of natural search (just ask Google). Direct marketing is scared because it challenges the role of email (and offline).

These however are all worries that can be overcome. PR has a fantastic opportunity to use its traditional skill-set to engage directly with end users. Advertising doesn’t need to worry about a lack of paid-for opportunities on social networks. SEO can add social media into it’s toolbox and influence SERPs in new ways. And even DM or email can link up with social media to reenergize and increase the effectiveness of campaigns.

Social media is just another channel and whether your background is earned or paid media, there are opportunities. But the old techniques and tactics just won’t work. We all need to adapt and learn new ways of using this new channel.

Often however, to get the most out of social media, it needs to be integrated with other marketing forms. This isn’t a new approach. Very few brands do PR or advertising in isolation. Marketing departments exist to ensure that all marketing activity across all channels is unified an integrated to a certain extent (or at least they should). And social media is no different.

So, investing in social media is important and requires new skills and approaches. But, just because of this, don’t silo it, integrate it into the rest of your marketing activities to get the best returns.

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continue reading: Social media: no old media mindsets need apply...

22nd April, 2009

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the online PR debate organised by NMK last night, but I’ve been following the fallout today on Twitter and entering into the fray myself, as well as catching up on the blog posts that are now starting to trickle through.

It looks like it was a good event (as Ian’s always are) that tossed around some interesting arguments.

For me though, I get slightly annoyed by the need to define everything. Often we go out of our way to define something which then loses its meaning or is interpreted in a different way. It’s all just semantics really.

And the jargon of new media certainly falls into this space. It is why PR is so synonymous with media relations and journalism. Why SEO and social media seemingly also exist (or feel they need to exist) within their own spheres.

I’m not saying that specialisms aren’t important but that rather than PR v. SEO v. digital etc., we should be looking at the wider, bigger picture. I’m sure this is how many of our (as agencies) clients see things; the bottom line is everything for them. [And I note that it was pretty agency-weighted last night]

This is what we are attempting to do more and more at Wildfire. We are seeing the blurring of disciplines and are also identifying areas where the traditioanl media aspect of PR is dying very quickly. Our venture into new realms isn’t driven by shiny new toys and networks, but by an attempt to get results for our clients and influence the publics they are attempting to reach.

Now to me, this feels very much like a definition of PR. But, I am aware that it is equally true of other disciplines, e.g. advertising, as this Ad Age article demonstrates.

One thing underlines all these tactics though, and that is establishing a message and conveying this to an audience – and this is something that PR professionals are usually very well placed to do. The conveying might be through traditional media, it might be through engagement or conversation on social networks or it might involve search engines and advertising.

As a PR (and marketing) professional (caveat: who is and has been immersed in digital and social media), I am excited and thrilled by the opportunity the internet and digital affords us practionners and our clients or businesses.It’s refreshing to be able to knock out the middle man, to ‘go direct’.

And in order to achieve this effectively, the more tools we have in our tool box, the more options we have and the more potential we can achieve.

The future is bright. It might not be PR as we know it. It might not be called PR. It might even be called social media and be carried out by ‘social media experts’ :)

But my bet is that no one group will dominate and that there will be plenty of new tricks to learn and plenty for everyone to practice.

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Update:

Lots of chatter about this – here is a quick round-up:
Lloyd Gofton

Peter Hay (PR Week)

Jo-Rosie Haffenden

Rowan Stanfield

Roger Warner

Jed Hallam

Ian Delaney

Steven Waddington

Gerel Orgil

Drew Benvie

continue reading: It’s PR, but not as we know it...