Top 5 Reasons B2B PR Practitioners Should Embrace Social Media

Posted By on May 13, 2009 | 9 comments

paigepictureToday’s guest post is by Paige Holden of BlissPR. Bliss PR specializes in creating and promoting thought leadership, using a variety of public relations and marketing communications techniques. They help their clients develop points of view, predictions, trend commentary and insights, positioning them as experts in the media and category leaders in their markets.

Top 5 Reasons B2B PR Practitioners Should Embrace Social Media

If you’ve seen any B2B public relations professionals recently, you may want to give them a gift certificate to a spa treatment or at least a pat on the back.  They’re feeling more than a little shell shocked.

I was, too.  Social Media is just beginning to hit B2B PR and our industry is scrambling to find our footing and help our clients. But it’s time to stop stalling and start learning.  Here’s why:

Traditional media is dying. It’s not a secret that traditional media is either dying or going online. This presents a slew of new challenges for public relations practitioners who rely on the media to help communicate clients’ messages. In our firm, we don’t throw splashy events or launch exciting new products. We clarify and refine complex stories for niche audiences. With business publications folding, our small universe is getting smaller and, unless we find new ways to communicate, we won’t be sustainable.

Know the news before it breaks. News breaks faster online than anywhere else. When the plane crashed in the Hudson River, the story was discussed ad nauseum on Twitter before it even hit television. Monitoring breaking news for my experts is a huge part of my job. I find that Twitter, and other networks, keeps me ahead of the media time curve.

Networking online is more efficient. PR is an industry fueled by networking, but who has time to go to out every night? Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs, there is no excuse to be a stranger. Every day I touch base with peers, thought leaders and the media which helps me not only develop stronger relationships, but also become a smarter professional.

Social media belongs in the PR bucket. Public relations professionals have an opportunity to learn it, embrace it and start building services around it before another industry steals it. There has been some debate over which “bucket” social media should fall into, but I adamantly believe public relations should own it. Sure, the implementation is different, and it does get “techy” at times, but social media is first and foremost a communications vehicle. The principles inherent in using social media – creativity, transparency and responsiveness – are the same philosophies that we use in PR every day.

“Tribes” have replaced traditional audiences: As Seth Godin explains in his new book, the online community is actually composed of millions of smaller groups of “tribes” – people who are passionately devoted to their own interests. Whether it’s shoes, personal finance or accounting law, there is a group of people waiting to be found and activated. Understanding how to serve these new communities must be part of every PR professional’s “tool kit.”

Counseling nervous clients. Clients see social media as a PR tool, so they will ask you about it.  Because clients are likely nervous about social media, it’s important to “get” it before you sell it. Unfortunately, market demand for social media has incented people into selling it as a service before they are ready, which is not only dishonest, but it can also yield poor results that will send clients packing. Surely let your clients know that social media is all about testing and learning, but you shouldn’t be mastering the basics on their dime.

What do you think…what’s holding you back from using social media tools? Or do you have some “getting started” lessons you can share with us?

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  1. Kyle
    Agree with tribes. The interconnectedness of social media allows like minded passionate people to form communities. It's already there. No more 'mass market'.
    I think social media is associated with PR because right now the big trend is monitoring (what are they saying about me) and famous stories about the cost of not monitoring the conversations have been well publicized. To some extent, customer service too as we can witness with comcas and others.
    However even today, it's used beyond PR. SM can't belong to just one organization. SM belongs to PR if the objective it helps to achieve is a PR one. But it will belong to other part of the organization for other type of objectives. i.e: if product marketing want to supplement the info they get from focus group by tapping the relevant SM communities, will they have to go through PR? Nope in a flatter world, they'll go straight to the source because they can.
    As companies start to realize the value of SM above and beyond the CRM scenario, it will affect all parts of the enterprise.
    It's the case for any new steps forward; first it starts in a subset of the enterprise like smartphone/mobile email. At the beginning only execs got them. Then it's spread to everybody. SM will be the same.

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    • Good morning Laurent and thank you for posting a comment. You make some really great points about the different uses of social media and the departments that can, and should, tap into online networks. It does depend on the usage (I greatly admire Zappos and the work that they have done with customer service online). But I think that PR is adapting to address this shift – with the access that social media provides, the lines between PR, customer service, marketing, etc. are blurring and I think the PR execs who get it right (and there is a lot of work to be done) will master this change for several reasons.

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      • Paige, good morning and I agree with some of what you said. As a matter of fact, I was yesterday in a meeting with some PR execs and they were exactly talking about adapting their function to the change (not knowing how yet though ;-).
        Nevertheless, they're already many companies embracing social media outside of PR. Sun microsystems, soon to become Oracle, has 1000 of active bloggers, so does Microsoft and so on. They hang online with their natural community and in a way, are probably generating much more conversations than the respective PR functions in those companies. Now there's a need to provide governance, policies, measure etc….and PR can definitely be at the center of that. It reminds me of manufacturing 15 yrs ago. There used to be a quality group as part of the production line doing a final check. Than manufacturing became so complex with suppliers, product complexity and so on…that the model became out of date. The quality department became instead a thought leader, a policy maker, an architect of quality.

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  2. Thanks for the link and an interesting article. May I add a few words of comment.

    Yes! big business can and must – to an extent – embrace social media. By 'to an extent' I mean that a) the enterprise world has to learn how to play by the rules b) embracing social media means a lot more than just playing around with twitter. It means that they have to believe in it, live and breathe the stuff so to speak. As a rule, you don't embrace social media if you are a standard average company (Seth Godin would call that a 'meatballs' company is his 'meatball sundae' opus) and then suddenly pretend that you have to act openly and be socially responsible and stop treating people from the top down. It's just the other way round. You have to change first and then use the tools that social media is putting at our disposal.

    Having said that, not all companies can do that (some will always sell meatballs, that's the only thing they are good at, some will go on selling meatballs, but will open a small 'sundae parlour' on the side, and some others might change completely, but it may not be always appropriate).

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  3. Hi Ygourven,

    Thank you for posting! I wholeheartedly agree with you. Big business needs to learn how to play by the rules. They also need to learn how to fully embrace new media. Kudos to the practitioners out there who can successfully lead the way!

    Have a good one,

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  4. Hi Paige,

    I agree with all your statements. Especially, your comments about PR firms owning social media. I worked for a web design firm in Dallas who tried (and continues to try) to offer social media marketing. They hired a "guru" to set up the social media operations and initiatives for the company. Within one month their first social media marketing client fired them. The reason being is that the interactive agency could do the implementation but could not strategically guide them on their message and the correct niche markets within social media to target. My new company has got it right. We are looking to partner with PR agencies to do the implementation of social media and interactive initiatives. I know I am preaching to the choir, you should rename your article, "Why PR Agencies Should Own Social Media". As I am typing my response my old agency is moving away from their core competency of design & development and more into Social Media and gearing up with interns instead of professionals to do the work.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Hope,

      Thanks for posting – I enjoyed reading your feedback and I fear that your experience is common. I think "partner" is the perfect word. Partners will be needed to help with the implementation, but the strategy and the messgaes should really come from PR – it's what we do every day!

      Happy Friday,

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  5. I think that credit card companies have every right to charge you the fees they are for not paying for your debts. I have no ambivalence when I state this because I think that the American consumer needs to learn responsibility. You should always be able to pay for what you buy when you get the bill or else you shouldn't be buying it. I think that Obama is doing a horrible job in office and is unjustly trying to monitor every aspect of the American populations lives. He is turning our country into a communist country when we really need to be closer to anarchy which was how this country was started.

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