Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Media wrestles with the traditional world

Have spent a couple of valuable days in meetings with fellow PR professionals and I'm struck by one thing - the different pace at which the power of Social Media is being recognised around the world.

In these meetings, I was eulogising about the benefits that it can bring, about the audiences that it can open you up to, about the cost effectiveness of most of it and, above all from a PR perspective, the measurability that it can add to a PR strategy. But we can't ignore the fact that there are some excellent PR professionals out there who haven't understood the power that Social Media can harness yet, and therefore see it as a possible threat or drain on already depleted resources.

With challenges like how the relationship between bloggers and journalists might work, and how they are going to find the time to respond to the deluge of customer enquires it will surely bring, it's often easiest to just think it's too hard, and not do anything at all.

But I believe that the truth is very different. I wholeheartedly believe that both Social Media and traditional media can happily co-exist together if dealt with delicately. And it doesn't need to take huge amounts of time. In fact, I believe that if the online world feeds the traditional world with stories, it could actually take less time and cost less money.

So, what to do? Do you push ahead and potentially get everybody's backs up or do nothing because of their lack of understanding? I think that the truth stands somewhere in the middle.

As Social Media professionals, we shouldn't just assume that because audiences have an appetite for this that companies are yet convinced. We have to ensure that we are selling the benefits as well as the ideas. Just because we can do it isn't good enough. We need to convince the sceptics of the tangible benefits it will bring the business. This will often involve a small pilot or locally-produced proof of concept rather than a large campaign. And doing what PR has always done best - a softly-softly approach rather than a bull in a china shop.

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