Are we really influencing our audiences?

My stack of new books from Amazon.com had arrived! I am now flipping through Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae and Brian Solis & Geoff Livingston’s Now is Gone.

Meatball Sundae

Both have some really interesting points about new media and new media marketing. Since I have not finished reading them, I shall reserve any comments for now. Both are definitely worth reading!Recently, I’ve observed that some PR folks have decided to completely ignore / not get involved with the new media, leaving them in the hands of the community managers. I am not saying that’s right or wrong, I am just considering what it means for us, as PR professionals, to only care about getting what our clients or companies want us to say to our “target media”. Do we, at some point consider what our CONSUMERS are thinking, saying, commenting, wanting, needing from our company?

A recent chat with a PR friend made me ponder more as she pointed out that, “UH! It’s so hard to CONTROL bloggers, sometimes, they get their facts all wrong and refused to hear us out..”

Another girlfriend commented, “Why pre-brief bloggers? Why even bother talking to XX business magazine? I just want to get this story out in 3 key dailies and i get my REACH! It’s just too much effort and trouble to talk to XX business magazine and YY trade media because their reach is so much lesser…” 

There are some truths in each comment but something tells me, we are moving backward rather than forward. I realised what happened to many PR people. We are extremely busy folks, sometimes we get so bogged down by work, we become very reactive and we just keep on doing doing doing the same things, hoping for different results. We forget about exploration, learning new tools, new communications strategies as we move on into a new technological era.

At times, we are so narrow-minded. We are given a set of “key communications statements” from our clients or our corporate communciations department and we follow them so strictly, we forgot that our consumers and the media are not stupid to believe a  set of statements that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but us.

I realised I am trying to make several points here. I guess, what I am trying to think through is, as much as I believe and blogged quite extensively about how PR folks should always go back to basic and get our messaging/ foundation right before we move on to new media. On the other hand, there is frustration with PR people who are too afraid to move on and get too engrossed in trying to make sure that they have coverage in the 1 or 2 newspapers (that might have readership of 200,000) but is that enough?

Some XX company might have a full page coverage in The Sunday Times (Singapore’s most-read broadsheet) last week but I was on the plane, my boyfriend was sick and slept through the day and my brothers were out and not touched the papers. So, even though we might be the target audience of that XX company, we missed it.

So, explain to me… how is the excuse of targeting only 3 key media every time we have news announcements (because they have the most reach) ensure that most, if not all our target audience (consumers) read about our announcements? How is that making an influence? How is that moving the needle, making an impact for the business you are in?

My good friend and a fantastic blogger, Melvin Yuan recently stated in his blog post…

In the same way, PR professionals could never master the craft of Influence because our tools for the task were ineffective (think press releases, articles and events) and our measurement was flawed (think size of news coverage and the ad-dollar equivalent). Both never did translate to direct impact and measurable results that businesses really need.

But today we have the right tools (think blogs, micro-sites, e-mails, search engines etc.), the right knowledge (in search, digital storytelling and social media), and better ways to measure business (not communication) results (think click-throughs, readership and online decisions).

We have what it takes to communicate directly, track and measure results effectively, making Influence as much a science as it is an art.

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6 thoughts on “Are we really influencing our audiences?

  1. Yes, but I think you are right. It is easier to run then to engage, and most pros don’t have the gumption to do this the right way. Thus, we are in for more bad PR…

  2. i have a copy of meatball sunday too, it’s the second book on my reading list -)

    fact: it is hard to control bloggers and what they say.

    fact: it is hard to control journalists and what they say

    blogs offer a micro-target, audience specific, easily searchable audience source. And they have something that is lacking in mainstream media, that “biased, honest-to-goodness what i really think about this” that arguably provides a stronger influence than mainstream media.

    something is wrong with our media industry, if your friend thinks its easier to ‘control what journalists say’. in both cases, it should be equally difficult. have we become pampered by certain idiosyncrasis of our own industry?

    great post Pris, social media goes a long way, and the fact of the matter is, we cannot control what bloggers are going to say.. we can guide conversations like moderators, but if our products don’t stand up to stringent public scrutiny, that makes us more accountable to the publics we serve -)

  3. Very well put, Brian. A good PR person should be able to put together great information to help the journalist or blogger to understand what he / she is experimenting with (be it a product, a concept, a new company strategy). Hopefully, a good blogger/ journalist should be able to do enough homework to understand what he/ she is writing about to share a credible, ideally an unbias write-up for the readers’ consumption.

  4. Your PR friend wants to control bloggers? Heh, that’s the foundation for failure already. I guess PR is about managing media and comms. But bloggers… they’re not media. They’re individuals who write on the web. Bloggers respond to relationships, not controls.

  5. Sorry for hopping onto the wagon so late, but here goes….

    I think that there is way too much urban myths and legends surrounding how both bloggers and journalists work. These require clarification and bringing them to light.

    For a start, I agree that nobody can control what either journalists or bloggers say. However, one can manage the outcome to the best of one’s ability by applying the right principles in fostering professional relationships, as well as understanding what drives or motivates them. Information – the right kind – is certainly a key motivating factor, as well as timeliness.

    The other point is that we have become far too fixated with channels and platforms, be they in traditional media or new media. Seth Godin’s point (and I have just started reading Meatball Sundae…haha) is that we should be obsessed with our ORGANISATIONS and PRODUCTS first before looking at how we should spin the yarn for different platforms. If we want to align ourselves with social media networks, then our organisation and our people must be aligned to them too. At the same time, we should ask ourselves if our products are really suited in the first place for a blogger preview.

    On Ivan’s point, I tend to both agree and disagree. Bloggers are individuals that are usually not motivated by a pay packet, although there is recently the rise of professional bloggers (including those dudes who died on the job) who are paid on a per word basis. However, they can also be convinced to do something positive if given the right reasons. I don’t subscribe to the view that all bloggers are like cowboys who shoot their mouths off at the heat of the moment.

    In the same vein, not all journalists are as easily manageable. There will be those who have an agenda to pick, and they will find ways and means to weave in that streak of vigilante journalism into their articles despite your cajoling, negotiating and win-win-thinkingisms! Still, there are ways to get them on your side if you can convince them.

  6. Your first comment scares me a bit, “PR professionals not wanting to engage in the social media world.” The new social media world opens up so many doors and opportunities for us, and to work with our clients to experiment and try new things. Down under we’ve been lucky to have clients that love trying new things – a good example is our first YouTube video competition which had nearly 100,000 views in one week – and 15 video entries. (You can check it out at http://au.youtube.com/user/LEONALIVEINSYDNEY).

    But back to your article, for me the social media world provides us with so many more ways to engage and communicate with consumers, to have a great dialogue and to entertain and have fun with them. I definitely understand some people’s fears about jumping in, but there are some easy baby steps that can provide assurances along the way and show how much fun it can be.

    It all does go back to some core PR basics – what is the message, why should people care, how can it be relevant and where do we engage people that is part of a natural conversation. I hope more of us jump in to try out this new world, my bet is everyone will have a refreshed approach to tackling challenges and learning new ways to have fun in the process.

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