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January 25, 2007

The key to social PR: actually using your brain

by Josh Bernoff

Seth Godin and Chris Anderson are among those now talking about what PR should be in the world of social media. Part of this debate stems from a description of something new called the "social media release" or SMR, as described by Brian Solis.

Now an SMR as described by Solis looks to me like an advance on the old-fashioned press release, but if you really want effective PR you need something more. And with due respect to Anderson, the editor of Wired, I don't think the answer is to train your executive to know the ins and outs of social media. (Although if your company wants help with that, call me!)

As a frequent target of PR pitches for the last 11 years -- and occasional helper in development of our clients' media plans -- I think I have a right to an opinion here. (News flash: blogger claims right to an opinion!) Anyway here is the prescription for success.

1. Have a good product (or service, or Web site, or whatever). (I know, PR can't influence this. But more coverage of a lame product just kills it faster.)

2. Figure out what it is about the product that actually improves the life of the customer. And what makes it different. (Gee, this is what marketers and PR people were doing all along. Still valuable.)

3. Approach influencers and journalists that actually care about and know about the topic. This includes bloggers. If it's about TV, talk to Lost Remote. If it's Web 2.0 talk to Michael Arrington. Now these are trivial examples, but if you're a half decent PR person you have to know who these people are in your client's space, the same way you know who the analysts, trade journalists, and business journalists are in that space.

4. Use these press/social media releases, phone calls, personal contacts, emails to get ahold of those folks, hook 'em, and then put them in touch with the executives at the client. Clearly this also involves coaching those executives.

If your metric is how many articles you get written and how many analyst briefings you got taken, this isn't the best way to do it. But that's a stupid metric anyway in this day, since it doesn't reflect the influence of the people doing the coverage on the product's image and sales.

If, on the other hand, your metric is how many influential (= read by your customers) people say interesting (= thought provoking, original) things about your client's product, then this ought to work fine. Becuase the more influential people are saying interesting things, the more reverberation you get in the blogosphere, in mainstream media, in discussion groups -- this is what gets things rolling. Then the PR person has done their job.

So, the long-suffering PR person still has to do much the same job, plus knowing about social media in the client's space, and helping the client with that. That's what I mean by using your brain. Many PR people do have them, you know.

To all the PR people reading this blog -- did I get it right?

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Comments

Brian Solis

Josh, spot on. Wouldn't it be great if the majority of PR professionals were reading these articles?

It seems the only way to reach them directly is to either take the conversation offline or through WOMM.

Max Pichulik

Hi guys,

great article ... i struggle to find material / training / research on Social PR ... any urls? or material?

Being in South Africa, we tend to be 4 / 5 steps behind you guys over the atlantic.

We're transforming from a traditional PR agency into a Social agency and this is really new territory for us ...

Cheers
Max

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