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Are We Missing the Next Big Thing Because of Our Twitter Obsession?

Enjoyed a giant lunch covering every conceivable food group with the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America today. The luncheon speaker was Beth Harte of Harte Marketing & Communications. She had presented a morning workshop along with Twitter freaks Richie Escovedo and Terry Morawski from Mansfield ISD on how public relations counselors can use social media tools to achieve measurable PR objectives.

I grabbed my camera and asked Harte to walk through what she thinks are the most important points for PR professionals to consider in this rapidly changing environment.

At this point — about five years into the social media adoption cycle — I can’t help but feel that there aren’t too many more original thoughts on the subject. The PR pros who haven’t yet emersed themselves in social media have to be making a conscious effort NOT to do so. I mean, my 78 year old Mom is now on Twitter and plays card games with gamers around the world on Yahoo when she gets a break from caring for my 102 year old Grandma. If you are behind the adoption curve from my Mom you really must be trying to not advance in PR.

So my point is that everything I just heard Beth say is fine, but I worry that it’s not pushing us forward. And it’s not just Beth — it seems to be everyone who is out there speaking to PR groups about social media. I don’t hear anyone showing those of us who have a cursory level of involvement in the space anything particularly new. It isn’t new to suggest that we need to plan and have objectives and measure results on the back end. It isn’t new to suggest we need to know who we are engaging and be authentic. Anyone who has been involved in a grassroots effort knows the importance of connecting with influencers in a genuine way.

So it starts to dawn on me that this isn’t about the technology. It’s about PR fundamentals. But I am telling you: IT IS ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY!

If the PR community intends to annex the social media space, we can’t just say that we are social media counselors and then suggest that all the rules we’ve always followed still apply going forward. They may not. Do we really need to spin our wheels examining the tone and frequency of every blog post that mentions us? To what end? I say go ahead and engage. Just like if you overheard a conversation about your company or product on a street corner. Listen and then offer your two cents. Connect! No need to over-think it!

Of course more information is always better than less, but the constant push by PR pros to slow down the process in the name of strategy inevitably diminishes the magic that comes with embracing spontaneity. You can be strategic and spontaneous. We do it all the time in issues management and crisis response. Just because you are making decisions on the fly doesn’t mean that they aren’t rooted in strategy.

Do I really need to assess if taking a camera along for a tour of a client’s facility and posting the videos on YouTube will deliver results? It doesn’t cost anything extra. And yet, how many PR folks have a video camera in their bag? How many have a basic understanding of video editing?

If you haven’t noticed, folks, the media is US. All of us. So if you want your stories told, go ahead and tell them.

We have to constantly push forward and examine how new technologies can be used. For instance, we need to understand the emerging world of cloud computing, which some suggest will radically change the way information is generated and shared in the coming decade (disclosure: I represent Mezeo Software, developer of the Mezeo Cloud Storage Platform). We need to better understand crowdsourcing and collective problem solving.

We spend so much time obsessing about Twitter that I am certain we are completely ignoring the NEXT Twitter. Whatever the next big thing will be is probably already in use. We’re oblivious because we’re all patting each other on the back for starting a Twitter account and updating our Facebook status.


EDIT: Beth Harte has posted
a great response on her blog. Just to be clear, this wasn’t intended as a critique of Beth’s presentation. It is a reflection on the PR / social media relationship.

Read the original blog entry...

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Dan Keeney is the president of DPK Public Relations, which represents PULSE, The Aldridge Company, Schipul - The Web Marketing Company, Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication, ERHC Energy, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Arocha Hair Restoration among other companies. Specialties include helping organizations increase their positive visibility and establish and strengthen relationships with influencers in their markets.

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