The changing rules, and pace, of information dissemination pose challenges and opportunities for PR practitioners. This was the topic of discussion at a Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) North East briefing today which was attended by 20 PR students and Comms professionals at the Euro Hostel in Newcastle, UK.
It was hosted by Stephen Waddington, CIPR Council Member and co-founder and managing director of Speed who told the story behind his new book “Brand Anarchy: Managing Corporate Reputation.” He looked at how individuals, organisations and governments need to take action to regain control of their corporate reputation, as well as the story behind co-authoring the new book, which the publishers describe as “a survival guide for anyone concerned what others think or say about them.”
I saw via Twitter that Hanif Leylabi was on his way to attend the session this morning and I asked him to write a guest post for Diary of an internal communicator to share his impressions about what he heard. Hanif is a Masters Public Relations (PR) student at the University of Sunderland, and graduate of the University of Leeds with a BA in Politics and Parliamentary Studies.
He has experience in non-commercial PR, having worked as an Events and Communications Assistant for a non-profit organisation based in London. Hanif also has experience in political PR having completed at internship as a Junior Member’s Assistant to a Member of the Canadian Parliament. You can read his blog here. Over to you Hanif…
‘Brand Anarchy’ – Why PR should move with the times
The past two decades in media have been marked by two key trends: the decline of the press, and the explosion of online content. More recently, the social media revolution has further altered the media landscape, propelling user-generated content up the consumption hierarchy. While some organisations have embraced the changes enthusiastically, many have not. According to a 2011 report by Professor Michael Wade just 37 per cent of European firms surveyed had any social media presence.
Stephen Waddington cited some figures from Ofcom which showed that the amount of content viewed in a day, is 150 per cent of the number of hours in a day. This is largely due to ‘double screening,’ when people engage with more than one medium simultaneously. Despite the fact the press is waning, the desire for media consumption is becoming more insatiable.
Changing the accountability
User-generated content has also radically altered the playing field. A YouTube video uploaded from a smartphone can go viral while the newspaper printing press is still in motion. User-generated content has also changed the way organisations can be held accountable. Wiki-leaks is a good example. The room for spin and half-truths has narrowed, as active publics become more empowered to expose bad practise. Organisations must, therefore, develop robust social media strategies in order for their PR work to be fit for purpose.
A particularly useful topic of discussion was the way PR practitioners can use social media analytic tools to their advantage. The principles of knowing who you are talking to, what motivates them, and what they are saying about you, can be applied to social media as well as they can be applied to traditional media. Tools such as hootsuite, crowdbooster, and klout, allow you to do just that. PR professionals are therefore well placed to use social media intelligently.
What happens if you ignore it?
The most interesting part of this morning for me was the discussion around the consequences of not embracing new medias as they emerge. The latest International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Trends Barometer survey, from May 2011, shows that 94 per cent of Consultancy Heads who responded claim to offer social media services. However 75 per cent of clients did not believe that social media was inherently part of PR. It seems an uneven embracing of social media across the PR industry has weakened the bridge between the two in the eyes of third parties.
Stephen finished by saying that many clients ask ‘what is the return on investment for investing in social media?’ It is up to PR practitioners to convince clients that social media is a must have, and that it works best when part of an integrated PR plan. This can only be done if PR professionals themselves are enthusiastic about social media. This doesn’t mean consigning traditional PR methods to history. Millions of newspapers are sold daily, and will continue to for some time. But it does mean embracing change, as an opportunity to stay on the cutting edge of technology and creativity. I think this is where books like ‘Brand Anarchy’ can act as important tools for professional development.
Post author: Hanif Leylabi
Thank you again for writing this article Hanif. Sounds like this morning was a lively one and that you got a lot out of the session. Are you planning to go to a conference, training course or talk that you think other Comms pros would benefit from reading about? If so and you’d like to write about it, please let me know and you could see your article on my blog. Feel free to comment below or contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.