Social media has certainly changed the role of PR pros in a myriad of ways. Clients or employers no longer expect just a book of media clips to show the value of public relations. More and more, communicators are being asked to extend their roles to encompass what might have been described as marketing, sales, and customer relations.
Aside from the titles and tools though, has the real value proposition changed?
In 1987 one of my favorite film characters ever, Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, hit on a very real business truth. “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”
Information sharing is at the core of social media. At a time in the PR industry when access to members of the media is just a mouse click away for almost anyone and a well done blog post can generate as much visibility as a hit on the six o’clock news, PR pros can play a vital role in organizational success based on this concept.
- Assess the information coming into the organization
Begin by listening to what’s being said. What are the messages resonating about your company? Are they positive, negative, or (perhaps even worse) unclear?
Provide your clients/company with strategic counsel at this stage on what the marketplace is really saying about the brand. The speed with which problems can go from minor to a major issue is significantly faster with social media than in the past. Continually listen honestly to understand where you fit in market in the eyes of the public and communicate that with the leadership team.
- Understand the benefits and limitations of distribution channels
Next step, take some time to think critically about old habits and if there is a need to change your approach. As an example, if a controversy were to flare up online, PR pros need to make the call on how to respond. A traditional news conference likely isn’t the fit. Get rid of any habits that are wasted effort.
A Facebook fan page complaint may well be best addressed in a discussion right on the page. But what if the comment is on a third-party blog? Spend time *now* before there is an issue to get up to speed on social channels and how information moves uniquely in each one. Social media communities are not interchangeable and cannot be treated as such.
- Create information to fill a need
This is where the preparation comes together. Once you understand the market perception of your organization and the channels available to you, it comes down to providing the audience with the information they need and can’t get anywhere else.
Rather than pushing out material *at* people, this is the point where PR practitioners can demonstrate their own value by creating unique content that addresses gaps for the customer. Consistently hearing that your company isn’t providing clear guidance on a service? Then try a YouTube video shared socially to walk through those challenges in a simple manner with some personality. Or maybe it’s a well-written post on a major industry blog to address the concerns. The key outcome is solving a problem that exists for the market and in doing so; you will enhance the value of a particular brand.
Gordon Gekko had it right 24 years ago; the most valuable commodity is information. Now go out and share some information that will be helpful as well as advance your goals.