Some Traditional PR Firm Bashing — Served Cold And Well-Deserved
There’s a lot of buzz about how the social media revolution is over, how social media experts and agencies are no longer needed and how working in the digital space is no longer a frontier in any way.
Personally, I’ve been longing for that day when we stop treating “social media” like some sort of alien matter.
It’s a good thing that so many out there thinks that we have all this social stuff down now. And I understand why some of the traditional PR firms are in “empire-strikes-back-mode”; too many non-strategic “experts” have been taking up way too much space on behalf of solid and experienced communication experts.
However, as the establishment starts to get with it, they tend do so with a vengeance.
It’s time for a reality check.
1. You Might Be Experienced, But You Still Have To Learn
Solid and experienced communication experts that felt that their knowledge and expertise was left behind as the digital communication revolution picked up the pace should be reminded that you were all told what was going down. You were told to get a RSS reader. You were told about SEO. You were told about social media logic as opposed to news media logic. You were told that PR must be more visual and engaging. Heck, you were told that economy were changing.
All these “gurus” and “experts” were given the time of day because you were too proud, too fat, and too happy to remember the first rule of consulting — listening. So stop whining and get back on the learning curve, because things are still progressing. Otherwise all of those channel experts will get that precious communication expertise down as well, and then where are you at?
2. Give Good Advice, Not Just Advice You Can Give
Most generalist advisors will always say that generalist advice is way better than specialist advice, and vice versa. Unless you find an honest advisor to rely on; an honest advisor will tell you straight if they are the right person for the job or not.
A good generalist advisor never hesitates to advice the client to bring in a specialist and a good specialist advisor never hesitates to advice the client to bring in a generalist.
Good advice will always be good advice. A PR firm should remember that they are specialists themselves; in our brave new networked economy, marketing is at a point where we need crafty bigger-picture-people, not bickering one-stop-shop-people.
3. Just Because It’s Digital, It Doesn’t Mean You Can Wing It
Yes, relations are best managed by the companies themselves. This is true for social media relations and community management, but it’s equally true for traditional media relations. But PR is expensive and time-consuming and sometimes some things can be outsourced with a better result than doing everything in-house.
It’s all a matter of focus and making the right priorities for your business, which is the baseline of all strategies.
Why should this line be so difficult to see in social media relations? The agency are experts in messaging and influencer networking and with that knowledge they help their clients to establish mutually beneficial relationships. How can’t you see this working for social media relationships?
4. Now Isn’t The Time To Sit Back And Relax
We do already have specialized agencies within PR.
Investor relations firms, crisis communications firms, internal communications firms, event firms, etc.
I would say, as a rule of thumb, that the the more solid generalist in-house PR a company has, the greater the need for specialist competence on project basis to keep the edge and stay ahead of competitors.
As actual online spending is becoming habitual, this is not a good time to sit back and relax.
I saw it as my duty as a PR generalist to stay ahead of the clients’ learning curves as the media landscape changed and also—I happened to find blogging to be fun.
5. Doing The Wrong Things Can Really Damage Client Brands
Going back to letting traditional PR firms start Twitter accounts and branded Facebook Pages and leading workshops on how to “talk” in social media sounds to me like a very unwise strategy.
Because it’s now things are really starting to happen. We’ve gotten pretty used to socialize on the web, but we’re only beginning to see how the Money Web is emerging. Will companies really be willing to focus on trivial nonsense activities now when the money is actually entering into the picture?
Just the other day I was part of a email conversation with a large, premier PR firm discussing blogger outreach and I almost fell off my chair.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was all about “Spray & Pray”.
FMCG brands and young online business startups together with a couple of large tech savvy companies are truly doing amazing stuff, but that’s not thanks to these firms, that’s thanks to them knowing what to ask for because they simply live and breathe social. Plus some specialist help along the way.
6. We’ll Get The Taxonomy Right, Eventually
Yes, the idea of a social media agency… A couple of years ago I argued internally that we should stop calling it social media PR, basically since we didn’t say radio PR or television PR. I simply wanted to call it digital marketing.
But then an older and much wiser colleague of mine reminded me that our clients were referring to it as “social media”, and that we must embrace their language if we want to make ourselves understood. I think that’s a fair point.
But in time, change will come.
Social media agencies will be called interactive agencies, digital PR agencies or just plainly, digital marketing agencies. I think there will even be firms for community management and content agencies.
Whilst traditional PR firms have been focusing heavily on reaching and convincing as many new individuals as possible, I think it would be healthy to focus more on the existing fans instead (see my Jerry Maguire moment). With say 1,500 die-hard brand fans, any company could change the world.
So, it’s time to embrace those consumers who actually give a damn.
7. Just Be Honest And Do Good Shit
Few things irritates clients more than having agencies side-by-side who cannot work well together because of petty bickering.
Like my friend Joakim Jardenberg always says, “be honest and do good shit”.
Doing honest and good shit for clients must come first, whether they need specialist help or not. And if nothing else, just take my word for it when I say that there are so much more you can accomplish in social media than just setting up social media accounts and filling them with corporate BS.
For several years now, I’ve been fighting a good fight to give Swedish PR a better name, and while I’m quite sure I haven’t gotten through to many of those who are in control now, I’m equally sure that I have reached PR students, PR schools and PR talents of tomorrow.
The students are already showing different skill-sets and as long as they are influenced by good industry ethics based in the idea of helping each other out, I’m sure even Swedish traditional PR firms will get that well-deserved positive reputation we’ve been debating for so many years now.