public relations

Flacky Goodness

Finished reading this by CNET blogger Charles Cooper. He takes a look at how press releases, especially those that are stacked with easily searchable words, are showing up higher and higher in online searches. It’s a great story, I highly recommend giving it a once over when you have time.  One of the ideas I liked to mull throughout the article is the idea that the mainstream media is becoming increasingly marginalized, and how organizations can take advantage of that.

Cooper starts the article with a scenario familiar to many public relations professionals.

A few years back, representatives from the Industry Standard, Wired, and Upside were invited to a public-relations gathering to talk about how they decide what to cover. After they finished their prepared remarks, a young woman in the audience stood up to ask a question.

“You talk a lot about tricks and tips on what we should do,” she said. “But I’ve done all that and I still can’t get you to cover my clients.”

The reporter from Upside recognized the opening and rammed a Mack Truck right through it. “Ma’am,” he replied, “you need better clients.”

With the slashing-and-burning of media outlets staffs in recent years, the role of information dissemination is falling more and more on the shoulders of public relations professionals. Reporters are leaving the industry, if not in droves than in a drove-like fashion. One of my mentors works at a branch campus of the university and has told me for years that he would send articles to the local paper and the editors would copy them almost verbatim into the edition.

Thanks to the lowering technological barrier for content creation, at the same time that these reporters are leaving their industry (and interestingly moving into ours), companies, or individuals, are starting to take advantage of the media gap and becoming their own media outlet. Bypassing the mainstream media filter to advance your messages are becoming more advantageous in the information era.

One thing to keep in mind, as really good domain names continue to vanish into the cyber-ether, what will the future of your web browser look like.  It doesn’t seem like this connects to social media, but one possibility for Firefox 5.0 could be removing the http address bar and replacing it with a google search bar.  Then you could type in what you wanted to find, instead of a traditional web address, and your browser could point you in that direction – lessening the need for a “catchy” Web site address.

There are a lot of tools to be used in this endeavor, I’m partial to social media tools (blogging, podcasting and video blogging) because they are quick to use (once you’ve got the hang of it) and they provide a more authentic, conversational voice when you are dealing with some of the various public audiences you want to engage with. Sometimes, a preplanned written piece won’t work to communicate successfully with your target audiences, you want to just sit down and “talk” with them – especially when you are dealing with a crisis. You want to be able to show emotion with your audience, and you can’t do that with pre-planned talking points at a press conference. This is one of the strengths of working in social media.

The Little Rock presentation revolved around the idea of your company becoming a media outlet – that the best media organization to promote your company, engage with your audiences, help defuse a crisis, and become more authentic and transparent with your internal and external audiences.  Public relations professionals should start looking at these social media tools and ask how they can integrate them into an online newsroom model of communications, and how that model fits with their overall public relations goals.

The next step in my research might be how organizations can integrate more Web 2.0 tools and other Web working ideas to work in these media away from the office.

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