[NOTE: I tweaked this after posting it and have just changed the text from the original throughout the post.]
The following are my draft talking points for my talk Thursday in Chicago at the Bulldog reporter PR University. I am not entirely satisfied with the closing poiints and would welcome some more additions. If I use your comments I will credit them to you in my talk.
1. I am a “recovering publicist.” One day, early in 2001, I scrawled “Stop me before I pitch again” across a mirror. …been going to “Pitch-enders” ever since.
2. Was in PR more than 25 years. Worked with tech startups. Loved it. Loved the creativity and integrity of most PR people I knew.
3. I left for many reasons. A few I recall:
- Tech bubble popped. Left no clients, no payroll and a bunch of bubble goo all over my nice Italian suit.
- Role changed. PR went from relationship-building to buzz-generating. Buzz is the last sound you hear before you get stung. PR moise level had become Deafening. Trying to tell a client’s story was like“hollering in a hurricane.”
- At the same time the audiences we were struggling to reach were exhausted from the pitches they had already heard.
- Result: PR image deteriorated. Nasty jokes. Lawyers/PR guys. Screw you in PR talk: trust me. Edelman says: Less credible than lawyers.
4. Environmental changes
- Traditional media went into atrophy. Will be fatal for many. NY Times forecast.
- Relentless rise of blogging, wikis, internet audio video and online communities.
- ‘Kid’s Stuff.’ New generation emerging with Teflon resistance to ads, PR & trad marketing. Don’t read newspapers. More time on YouTube than TV. Listen to more iTunes than radio. Ignore authority.
- Online, people started to ignore marketing. They went back to the way the market worked from the time people were cave dwellers until the 1940s in the US. They influenced each other on what to buy, where to go, listen to, watch and even maybe who to vote for.
- Only one small significant change had occurred. Instead of exercising this influence in cafes and over the backyard fence, we started doing it online.
5. The generation now emerging, the one who will inherit my desktop and my generation in the workplace is now 25 or younger. They are the Online Generation –“Onliners” for short.
6. The overriding question that you need to ask yourselves is what happens when the Onliners come of age, replacing we 60s kids and boomers as we drive off to Jurassic Park to join the other fossils who could not adapt to change? What tools to reach the Online Generation?
- Forget the press release. That won’t reach the Onliners, even if somehow tangible newspapers still exist down the line.
- Forget your sacred list of influential contacts. Those influencers can’t even get their kids to put down their cellphones and come to dinner.
- If this is kid’s stuff, there seems to be a whole lot of kids. Look at the numbers. Over 60 m bloggers, but that’s chickenfeed. YouTube has 100m daily downloads. MySpace 200 million registered users by year end. Facebook more than 1 b photos. 3 m elementary school kids forming global friendships at Club Penguin.
- Onliners are today’s early adopters. Early adopters as most of you know, influence everyone else. You can’t reach them by smiling and dialing, although text chatting would help.
- If you always do what you’ve always done, you will get less response next time than you did last time.
- Political candidates figuring this out. Mayor of DC, governor counsel of Canada, John Edwards, Barack Obama. David Cameron, Three Italian cabinet members. President of Iran blogs as does disgraced congressman Tom Delay. The California Republican Party blogs. So do members of El Quaida.
- Why? Because that’s where the young voters are going and will be found for years to come. These voters won’t stay young. They will stay online and they will be voting for the next 50 years.
6. So once again: How does PR adapt? What is the practitioner’s role moving forward? Does PR even have a role? Is this change a threat or an opportunity?
7. I'll answer that last question first. It’s the easiest and the most ambiguous: Social media is both threat and opportunity for PR. … a threat because there is a fundamental change in the way people are influenced on what they buy, watch, read and listen to. Change is disruptive. When there is disruption some companies rise and others fall. Rarely do they ever rise again.
Social Media is simultaneously an opportunity because PR people are generally great conversationalists and we are entering the Conversational Era. In it, we are transitioning from monologue into dialog. Through conversations you can find out what customers want simply by asking them. You can deliver more popular products just by doing what they tell you to do.
PR also has an opportunity also because advertising is more broken than PR and will take longer to fix. Companies will be turning to PR sooner for more immediate answers. It will be a wise agency who is ready with answers.
8. This Conversational Era has just now begun. PR in 5, 10 & 20 years will have a far more value than it does today—not just for your clients, but for the communities those clients wish to be part of. What's also relevant about the next 20 years is a fundamental shift in the habits of the people leaving the marketplace and those who are preschoolers and young adults today.
9. Two cautions:
- Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. Not yet. These are transitional times. Moving from Broadcast Era into Conversational Era. The day the physical newspapers die has not arrived. And only a fool would disdain the influence of prominent coverage in say Page One of the Wall street Journal.
- The bigger your agency, the faster you need to move. You move like supertankers at full throttle. You need time and distance to turn around. If you don't start soon, you just might wind up on the rocks.
10. As you take a look at social media consider this phenomenon: Power is moving from the large organization into communities. People who are most generous in these communities are the most influential.
11. Consider also: The online community is nt confined to any single URL. You won’t succeed by marketing to MySpace and more than you would by sending the same messages to the ruling class and shantytowns of Sao Paolo and MySpace is many times larger.
12. Here’s what’s actually happening. People with shared interests from all over the world are bopping from one place to another. The same people are meeting up with the same people at blogs and photo sites. They are downloading the same music and videos. In these virtual spaces, real and lasting trusted social networks are forming. Often people meet online first, then encounter each other face-to-face later. It's like meeting old friends for the first time.
13. I call these groups who are defined by neither geography nor URL Global neighborhoods. They are smaller and more intimate than the huge online communities. They are comprised of people who share diverse passions, on almost any subject: hummingbirds or Hummers, Global warming or urban terrorism, Religious fundamentalism or fundamental paganism. I'm writing a book called Global Neighborhoods, which is about just their relevance to business. The challenge is to be brief.
14. Global neighborhoods work very much like the tangible ones where you live in. You get to know some of your neighbors. The more time you spend there the more familiar you become. Trust builds on neighborhood issues. You know to ask about recommend movies or where to get your car fixed. You know how to avoid commuter snarls and where it's safe to walk alone or not.
Over time, each neighborhood resident earns a personal brand.
Transition:Now, Bulldog folk don’t let you up onto the dais without specific tactical advice. That’s hard for me because I’m more concerned with where you are going than how you are going to get there. But I’ll try to give you a few tips. I blogged about this and got a few tips from people in my own Global neighborhood, which includes a good number of PR bloggers.
- Use your eyes and ears more than your mouth. Start reading the PR bloggers. I read Phil Gomes and PR measurement maven Katie Paine, who spoke earlier today. I also read Mike Manuel, David Parmet, Brian Oberkirch, Joe Thornley, Kami Huyse and Scott Baradel to name a few. They, in turn point me other bloggers and online places that are either interesting or useful to me. I rarely see these people face to face, but I consider them my friends. It starts with just reading, but overtime it evolves. You leave a comment. You start your own blog and link back. You become another node in the global neighborhood. You meet face to face and it keeps getting broader and deeper and richer.
- Learn generosity. I think this goes to the nature of many PR people. But instead of giving fame to clients, news to editors and special promotional offers, this new technology gives you the tools to give insight, information to your global neighborhood. Do not just give information that is useful to your clients. Contribute to the community interest and needs. They will give back and much of that will be valuable to your clients. More important, you will be more valuable to your clients.
- Be a node. Metcalfe’s Law proves that the power of the network is enhanced by each additional node. It sed to be the node was the computer. You are now the node. If you have news, the social media allows you to distribute it without disintermediation. In short, as newspapers and traditional media get smaller and less influential you become the direct distributor of news. You are each part of the newspaper of the future. But remember, the most influential members of the Broadcast Era now closing were the most credible. This is even more true in the Conversational Era.
- Be an intelligent agent. Use the simple search tools that let you find what is written online on topics that matter to your clients. Join those communities, not to pitch, but to hear and see and learn. Look for the most favorable and negative comments impacting your clients.
- Treat the brand as a community. This came from a comment on my blog by Chuck Tanowitz of http://mediametamorphosis.blogspot.com says : “Start thinking about your brand as a community, with the customers, partners, advisers, etc. as members of that community. Once you do that, the tools of PR become about building the community, not simply making announcements. You start conversations rather than shouting from mountain tops.” This seems to me to be great advice.
- “Share, learn and connect,” says Joe Thornley, of Pro PR who reinforces the Cult of Generosity. He adds “You'll get back more than you give. If you listen to what is given back, you'll learn, learn. And if you blend online exchanges with participation in real world events, you'll find you make friendships with people from all over North America (and the world) who share you passion.”
My closing thought: those of you in this room, are part of a profession filled with brilliant conversationalists, people with knowledge and passion. You are more generous than your current image would have people believe. We are entering ‘’The Conversational Era.’
This is your time. Join the conversation. Enjoy.