This is the third of God knows how many parts on the issue of how PR can adapt to changing times. You can review Part 1 here and Part 2 here. For those of you who prefer the speedy version, in Part 1, I argued that PR is and always has been a business based on relationships rather than smile and dial tactics. Blogging changes that because there is no longer a small elite band of influencers as there used to be. We are now all influencers with the power to spread information worldwide in a very short time and this poses a challenge for PR practitioners.
In Part 2, I advised practitioners to abandon command and control message tactics and facilitate communications between clients and the blogosphere. Part 3 tries to show that the opportunity during these disruptive times, is greater for smart PR people than is the threat. Sometime in the last month or two, blogging reached its tipping point. Businesses are no longer dismissing the blogging phenomenon and, except for a few believing readers of Forbes magazine, they are no longer even angry. They just want to figure out what to do about it and how to fit it in to existing corporate boxes and processes.
This is tough. Blogging is not confined to departmental walls. While it is most often relegated to marketing, where it can serve as the department's most efficient tool, it is bigger than that. Blogging has begun to show its value to product development, recruiting, business development, customer support, training and just about everything else except maybe sales, where employees actually get to go out and meet face-to-face with customers and prospects.
Business blogging's transformational nature is more easily viewed from the perspective of customer, rather than company positioning. Blogging is a tool to can help companies move customers from the edge of the organization to their rightful --and more valuable--position at the center--where products, services, strategies and policies are determined based on what they really want, rather than what a company thinks they should want.
Blogging is the power tool of this emerging customer-centric corporation. It is causing a great deal of disruption and some PR people will be unable to adapt to the changes. But others have begun to realize that there is a great deal of opportunity here, a good chance for PR to become more important rather than less and in this new role, flourish rather than follow last century's village blacksmith into oblivion.
But if you are a smart practitioner, like an increasing number of PR operatives are becoming, you will see this revolution as an opportunity, not to diminish your business but to vastly expand it. Here are some tips to what you can now do. Together they can make a PR operative a facilitator in new ways. Here are a few tips on what to do. Some are redundant with what I wrote previously, but they are offered in a slightly different context:
1. Get over Command and Control PR. It is very yesterday and it won’t be coming back, and besides like Shel Holtz, told us in the book, "You never were in control." Business may be just fine today but it won't stay that way. Tactics cost too much and deliver too little in return. Even that nice placement in a national publication like—oh say Forbes—just doesn’t have the impact for your client that it used to have. And such media placements no longer generate the gratitude with clients that they once did. Once you see the truth in this, it will have a liberating feeling. Ask the many blogging PR folk who are today having more fun even as they become more effective on behalf of their clients.
2. Get into the blogosphere. Okay, you can toe dabble for a while longer, but it's time to get immersed. Swim around. Listen to what people who can impact your company have to say. Change your headset from one-way to two-way communications. Be the eyes and ears for your clients. Use the blog search tools that give you the radar that will protect them from sneak attack and let you be the hero who averts a potential crisis from becoming one. Preserve customer loyalty by helping your clients hear their voices and respond accordingly.
3. Start Blogging now. Talk about who you are and what you know. Tell stories that interest others and when your clients have a role in those stories bring them in. As a blogger, other bloggers will come to know you and if you earn it, they will trust you. When they do, they will want to give your clients a little boost from time-to-time. Collaboration is part of blogging's DNA.
4. Get your clients blogging, or podcasting or video blogging, whichever fits best into their culture. The conversations have already started and they need to join it. Don’t write their blogs, for them but become their blogging buddies. Fill them with advice. Point them to interesting bloggers. Serve as their sounding board. Only review their blogs on rare occasions when a second opinion is really necessary.
5. Use the Harry Truman Rule. Speak plainly. Teach clients about transparency, showing fallibility. Teach clients to talk about what's really happening with candor. Their readers will become the support system. They will also become your customer evangelists.
5. Be seen in the physical community. Every city in the US and a great many in Europe have more than one blog-related event every day of every week. Attend some. Meet people who are part of this and develop the same sort of relationships that you have already established with other influencers to you client, her or his market, products and services. The better they know you, the better they will trust you, if they find you to be trustworthy over time.
6. Evangelize blogging. Find the content that is relevant to each department in the company and keep feeding them social media content that may be useful to them. Teach them the best way if commenting when they want to and teach them how to use the search tools themselves.