MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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“Live the change you wish to see”

This week on PR 2.O, Brian Solis posted a paper he wrote about the impact of social media on PR practise as we know it: The State of PR, Marketing and Communications: You are the Future.

Though lengthy, this is a paper that is more than worth reading – its relevance to our futures in public relations can’t be argued.

The paper examines public relations in its current state,  including all of its shortcomings, malpractices and all of the stereotypes it has inherited over the years. Solis sums this up when he says (and please note I’ve bolded certain parts for impact):

Just ask any executive what comes to mind when you say “PR” and note the common misperception shared by many decision makers. The brutally honest responses, whether you agree or not, will represent more than we’d care to know or acknowledge. The assessments and responses will most likely span from “publicist” to “networker” to “press release” to some fallaciously degrading and sexist stereotypes of what PR people are, how they act, and what they look like. You’ll also summon war stories and bad experiences with PR people and agencies that unfortunately continue to reinforce the current state of PR crisis for the PR industry in general.

Social media offers our profession an opportunity to move away from malpractise and misconception, and a move toward transparency and genuine two-way communication… but this is easier said than done. To quote Solis again, “As long as PR agencies and consultants are profitable as is, why would they reinvent themselves?”

I witnessed this firsthand at my last work term at Harbinger, a successful PR/integrated marketing agency that handles clients such as Unilever (Dove, AXE, Hellmann’s, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s) and Corby (Absolut, Malibu, Havana Club, Beefeater). During my term, the company did an offsite to a social media presentation. During the question period that followed the presentation, it was apparent that my colleagues were not entirely convinced – about whether or not companies would adopt this new vision, how we, as agencies, could quantify our results without traditional media impressions, etc, and why we should make the switch in the first place when most of our tranditional campaigns were perceived as “successful.” For many of my colleagues, who have made very successful careers (and large paycheques) from becoming “experts” at traditional PR, the resistance was especially noticeable.

We, as aspiring PR practitioners on the cusp of graduation with previous field-related experience, find ourselves in an interesting situation – a kind of crossroads, if you will, between the old and the new. In Solis’ paper, he discusses the idea that PR is a dying profession… and perhaps it is. Perhaps the “traditional” PR (which according to Solis has meant, “relying on hyperbole and jargon filled press releases for coverage, spamming targets with irrelevant information, maintaining a superficial and shallow knowledge of the products and industries we represent, and maintaining distant and removed relations with those we wish to cover our stories“) will die as our predecessors retire. This means we are faced with a choice: between ahering to traditional practices, or embracing the unknown and starting to make the shift now.This course has made me feel as though, already, I’m behind when it comes to social media, and in fact has been a bit of a wake up call. It has forced me to think critically about what my career in public relations will hold, and has made me personally accountable to my role in my own development as a professional.

 I think through social media, we are being given a chance to renew the face of public relations. I feel as though we will be able to put so many of the “best practises” that we learn in school to use (ie: ethics, two-way communication, transparency) with the transfer of power that is occuring as more of the public’s voice is being heard through new channels. I feel like it’s beginning to sound cliche, but perhaps we will see the “public” put back in “public relations.”

I find this invigorating, and maybe it’s just because I’m in the bubble that is this class, but I truly feel motivated to be part of this change in our profession. It may be challenging, but I think ultimately it will be worthwhile and rewarding – for any of you that were in Wade Kenney’s Ethics class, I feel like this shift to transparency, honesty and genuine communication will make the pursuit of “eudaimon” that much more attainable.


June 9, 2009 - Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site

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