February 27, 2009

Sage advice to the future of PR

Chris AbrahamEarlier this week, I guest lectured on digital PR at the American University and reported on the experience, Public Relations and Communications’ Future is Bright!. I said that I would not write anything nice unless someone sent me a thoughtful email from the class.

Well, I received two nice notes, one from Juliana Serafini (who promises to email me again next week) and one from Kari Elam, who had a lot of great question.  I will not expose her questions, but the long story short is that Kari is writing for music, culture, arts, and society blogs and wonders if that it good enough as a way of writing herself into a smashing agency job in PR and I told her that while it couldn’t hurt, it is also essential for her to go a little further. Well, here is the ’sage’ advice I give to Kari:

Kari, what you’re doing for your current blogs is more editorial writing.  While editorial and column-writing might very well help you with a publishing career in the future — and doesn’t hurt your portfolio — I must underscore the fact that while blogging about music — being a blogger — is super-important when it comes to being a respected part of the community — the “who the hell are you?” factor — there is another more important blogging strategy to pursue if you want to end up in a top-ten national PR firm.

What you need to do in addition to blogging is “meta blogging,” — blogging about blogging! About social media, about new marketing,  about digital PR, about public relations, about advertising, etc…

It is really important to make sure you’re always taking a step back and think not only about the what of social media but also about the why and how.

What this could look like is a blog about your studies of PR at AU and what you’re learning and how it contrasts with what you’re learning at your PR Internship.

If you’re interested in music, society, the arts, and culture, explore it in the context of the Internet, of online branding, ads, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and even television and radio.

How do you see what you’re learning about traditional PR dovetailing into social media marketing and digital PR?  Can you see a continuum?  Can you maybe help the fogies of traditional PR find their way to digital PR?

If you can light the path and maybe even map the way, you’re golden. Move to NYC and start shopping for apartments, you’ll be on Madison Avenue in no time.

However, don’t forget the basics. As a PR consultant, you will be required to know how to not simply consume content (read blogs), not only produce content (blog), but analyze and understand how to conversation works, how best to leverage and participate in conversation, and also how best to manage conversation and manage reputation.

Being a PR professional is about knowing how things work behind the curtain. And, since you are young and “cyber,” people assume that you have a valuable and important insight into the future.

PR firms are beginning to realize that “all kids get the Internet” may be true, but not in the way they thought — that “kids” get the Internet with only the level of sophistication that people from 35-50 get television — as a source of entertainment and information.

So, it is your job to publicly and prove, on a daily basis, on a blog, that you get what’s going on, that you’re current with the movers and shakers, that you have a passion for that space, and also that you will be able to prevent the future from blindsiding your PR VP and your client by keeping on top of technology, social media, new PR, and new and important channels through which you need to use to promote and protect your clients.

Your music blogging and your trend blogging and your other blogging means that you can now think like a blogger and that you’re accepted into the blogosphere — which is an important first step.  The second step is proving you can strategically and even tactically make the Internet work for your clients and your agency.

Not to insult us marketing, advertising, and PR bloggers and blogs but there is a lot of room in the Power 150 for more voices, that’s for sure.  If you start today, you may very well shoot up the list. A new voice is always welcome. Also, don’t be intimidated by what this sort of blogging means.

You don’t have to act out of your focus.  Take what you already love and then just spend some time getting meta on it — spend some time playing.  Spend some time taking the articles you’re writing elsewhere and slice them and dice them a little academically.

Do things like create your own case studies and give away the sort of campaigns you might recommend yourself.  Feel free to critique or compliment campaigns and brands and firms and agencies — especially the ones you’d like to work with.

I swear to God, you can write yourself into this business.  You can write yourself into a very fine career as a PR professional. You’re good as gold if you can prove that you’re both someone who has been trained in traditional PR and who gets digital PR; that you’re someone who gets both theoretical social media as well as practical social media.

And, good luck to you, Kari!

Via Chris Abraham & Marketing Conversation

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Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • Sage advice indeed, Chris.
    In a few weeks I’ll offer some thoughts on the future of journalism, for students thinking of going into the field.

  • I would love to read that, especially since my buddy is a new journalist at the FT and I am sure he would appreciate your sage advice.

  • Great article Chris! I am just starting out in both blogging and investigating social media (although I have always been a Facebook addict of course!). Since I’m learning about social media I decided to blog about my learning curve. I’m starting at the basics and analyzing and defining things. Your post reminded me that I need to make sure I focus on the theoretical as well as the practical! Thanks.

    • Well, if you don’t mind me quoting myself in my own article, but being an expert blogger, and expert Facebooker, and even an expert Twitter doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you’re going to be a good social media consultant or a new media maven:

      It is really important to make sure you’re always taking a step back and think not only about the what of social media but also about the why and how.

      And then…

      However, don’t forget the basics. As a PR consultant, you will be required to know how to not simply consume content (read blogs), not only produce content (blog), but analyze and understand how to conversation works, how best to leverage and participate in conversation, and also how best to manage conversation and manage reputation.

      Being a PR professional is about knowing how things work behind the curtain. And, since you are young and “cyber,” people assume that you have a valuable and important insight into the future.

      PR firms are beginning to realize that “all kids get the Internet” may be true, but not in the way they thought — that “kids” get the Internet with only the level of sophistication that people from 35-50 get television — as a source of entertainment and information.

      So, it is your job to publicly and prove, on a daily basis, on a blog, that you get what’s going on, that you’re current with the movers and shakers, that you have a passion for that space, and also that you will be able to prevent the future from blindsiding your PR VP and your client by keeping on top of technology, social media, new PR, and new and important channels through which you need to use to promote and protect your clients.

      It is very important to understand “broadcasting” and “the business of publishing” as opposed to just watching TV and reading the New Yorker or US Weekly.

      It is about having deeper, strategic, and tactical thoughts. Does that make any sense?

      Good luck to you!

  • Great article Chris! I am just starting out in both blogging and investigating social media (although I have always been a Facebook addict of course!). Since I'm learning about social media I decided to blog about my learning curve. I'm starting at the basics and analyzing and defining things. Your post reminded me that I need to make sure I focus on the theoretical as well as the practical! Thanks.

  • I’m on the National Advisory Board for Drake University’s School of Journalism and we struggle with the future of journalism and monetizing careers. We recently had a panel discussion on re-inventing careers in journalism. More questions than answers.

    • What sort of solutions do you have for them? No matter how few, what are some of the answers you have been giving? This is a rare time when the shackles have been broken. Mind you, a degree in PR and a degree in Journalism are not wasted. J-school teaches many important things, including process and connections. Traditional media, communication, PR, and journalism is never wasted. The trick is learning how to evolve.

  • I'm on the National Advisory Board for Drake University's School of Journalism and we struggle with the future of journalism and monetizing careers. We recently had a panel discussion on re-inventing careers in journalism. More questions than answers.

    • What sort of solutions do you have for them? No matter how few, what are some of the answers you have been giving? This is a rare time when the shackles have been broken. Mind you, a degree in PR and a degree in Journalism are not wasted. J-school teaches many important things, including process and connections. Traditional media, communication, PR, and journalism is never wasted. The trick is learning how to evolve.

  • Des Moines is home to Meredith, publisher of Better Homes and Gardens and many other publications. The Des Moines Register has gone from a nationally regarded newspaper to a shell of that. The fallout from the economy has put an unusually large number of journalists on the streets. Many of whom have spent 20 years in the same job…their entire career. I encouraged them to become more familiar with business. For instance, I think there are opportunities for freelance journalists to write blogs for CEOs of large companies as a way to communicate with employees and sales forces. Many CEOs prefer a personal communications person rather than working with internal staffs for confidentiality reasons. I also counseled them to consider becoming an entreprenuer. I employed a writer once who took $40k and opened up UPS package store. He's done quite welll. Better than he would have as a writer. I encouraged them to read. I was amazed when I asked how many were reading something that would help their career. Very few.