PR and web 2.0: some initial reflections

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The emergence of Web 2.0 and social media has created a platform for participation and a new set of tools for communication: blogs, microblogs, podcasts, wikis, social networks and virtual worlds. People are creating and sharing content online as well as reading it citizen journalists are taking news dissemination and analysis into their own hands while consumers are forming online communities discuss and critique products and brands. But what does this all mean for PR and aspiring practitioners?

For one it means less reliance on journalists and traditional media channels for broadcasting messages to mass audiences and increasing engagement with communities. Of course traditional PR still has its place but needs to be integrated with new  for maximum impact. For example, although the press release continues to be effective in reaching certain audiences (if the news is worth hearing), the social media release has the potential to breathe new life into an old communications format by creating interactivity and context through use of multimedia, links and comments.

The emphasis is now on dialogue rather than monologue – engaging with online stakeholders and influencers directly and on a human level, without the corporate polish associated with traditional comms. Brian Solis, in the social media manifesto, calls it “putting the ‘public’ back in Public Relations”.

In harnessing the interactivity of the web 2.0 platform and social media, PR can now realistically claim to provide two-way dialogue and mutually beneficial relationships. Perhaps the transparency it brings will loosen associations with propaganda and manipulation and go some way to making the profession more ethically sound?

Or maybe I’m jumping the gun…

Regardess of this, for students and young practitioners social media means working in familiar territory. Many of us are more practiced in the art of online conversation than we are in producing press releases or other traditional PR copy. I see the paradigm shift to PR 2.0 as an opportunity for digital natives like myself to add value where more experienced practitioners can’t.

That said, I’m no social media expert (yet!) and there are plenty out there who are. I’m consistently impressed at the depth of knowledge that the PR professionals (old and young) possess on such a new subject and the enthusiasm they show discussing it.  Social media is still in its infancy and its influence will continue to grow as more people around the world use it: those in the industry that don’t keep up with developments are likely to become irrelevant in the near future.

And one more thing: having new tools doesn’t necessarily make our communications relevant and engaging to audiences. It’s all well and good being able to master the tools, but another to understand the social processes behind it all and I believe this will be the key to success.  I look forward to the challenge…

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About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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4 Responses to PR and web 2.0: some initial reflections

  1. Ian Green says:

    Hi Tom,

    This is a good start given your ambitions for a career in PR . However, a few of us oldies also get the Web2.0 thing. I’m 45 this year and have been blogging for five years, Twittering for three and running social media campaigns for our clients for six years!
    What surprises me is how little is taught at the university PR courses about social media and how many students are not blogging about.
    But good for you!

    Ian

    • postmodernpr says:

      No I agree Ian.

      I didnt mean to imply that none of you old timers get it: I realise that people like you are leading the charge and setting the bar high. However, I’m sure the majority of practitioners your age are not as social media savvy as yourself.

      I was just saying that students and young PR pros, if they get involved, have a chance to gain extra skills that others higher up the ladder may not have and therefore be more highly sought after. Like you say though, it will only happen if its taught and encouraged at universities. It’s great that we do it at leeds met on my course, but as far as I know its not taught there at undergraduate level.

  2. mpr4wireless says:

    Good point. It should be much more encouraged across other disciplines two. This is the world we live in and social media is not only for marketers or PR pro. First, I believe that the divide between digital natives and immigrants is increasingly narrowing. See the number of ‘old timers’ using social networks. I just got to know that one of my friends ‘good old chap’ over 50’s has joined BEBO!
    Secondly, I can’t prove that but that’s my theory, most of young folks out there your age are using social media only for leisure, not for work. For instance,How many on your facebook friends or mates use it for work? How many are in Linkedin, ecademy, have published on Wikipedia, have got a blog, have recorded podcast or videos on a regular basis and so on? Still ‘digital immigrants’ on the lead there! Still a see your point there are a lot of people in the industry not using it…

    • postmodernpr says:

      Anderson,

      Good point about young people using social media mainly for leisure: I don’t know many who publish any sort of content online. To be honest, my use is still very much rooted in leisure, but hopefully thats going to change.

      In terms of your mate on Bebo, I don’t think he’ll find much common ground with the users unless he’s a business user trying to connect with the teen market.

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