It’s not exactly ground-breaking for me to say that public relations is evolving, and that PR pros have to adapt with it in order to stay relevant. Nor should it come as a surprise to anyone reading this that, as a result, chaos is rife within the industry as agencies and individual consultants alike try to work out what’s going on with digital and social media and where they need to focus their efforts and their careers.
With Social Media and Public Relations, Deirdre Breakenridge outlines perhaps the clearest explanation I’ve yet read of exactly how PR is evolving and what that evolution means. She provides not only a detailed analysis of how disciplines and roles are changing, but suggests eight new practices that challenge PR people to take control of their own destiny and to make time to adapt their working methods and learn the new technologies that will see them flourish. And she does so in a structured and actionable way that acts not as a lesson in theory, but as a tangible reference guide that is extremely compelling.
The Technology Issue
The focus of the book is on working within today’s always-on, real-time, data-driven communications environment, and making the most of the technologies that exist to enhance and drive the public relations and social media process. The eight areas Breakenridge addresses include policy, analysis, collaboration, reputation management, measurement and learning technology, and for me at least, the last of these gets to the real crux of the issues that the PR industry is facing.
Practice #3, the PR technology tester, explains why PR pros themselves have to constantly trial and adapt new tools and platforms rather than seeing this job as the digital or social media guy’s responsibility. It isn’t. Every single person working in PR should go into every single day with their eyes and their ears open to new technologies; they must stop being lazy. As Breakenridge herself says: “When you get into the routine of practising daily technology habits, you quickly learn that there are tech tasks you can accomplish yourself without the help of a web or IT person. When you’re empowered to roll up your sleeves to learn technology, it’s a rewarding process.” The only thing I’d add is that the empowerment has to come from you.
Breakenridge talks extensively in Social Media and Public Relations about social media being a strategic discipline, and about the need for PR pros to step up and start treating it as such, not as a tactical add on. Practice #6, the relationship analyzer, explores this in more depth, delving into an absolutely fundamental part of relationship building and management that is often missed by PRs. There are many horror stories out there of PR campaigns that have dived into social media with a ham-fisted approach expecting immediate results because that’s the way it works with traditional media. Well if you haven’t cottoned on yet, social media is different, and this chapter acts as a great guide to developing a strategic approach to any social media outreach programme.
What I particularly like about Social Media and Public Relations is the action-based way in which it is structured. Having read it you’re left in no doubt not only about the direction you need to take things (your company or agency, your clients, your career), but what you need to do in order to get on the path. Whether you’re new to the PR industry or a twenty year veteran, there is something in this book from Breakenridge’s extensive experience that will benefit you. “The day you started using the internet was the day you became more strategic and less of a PR paper-pusher”, she says. “You should begin right now with your own technology research and experimentation.”
You can pick up a copy of Social Media and Public Relations on Amazon.
Disclosure: I was sent a free copy of Social Media and Public Relations by Deirdre Breakenridge.
Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.