This post first appeared on the nextcommunication blog on June 16, 2008.
I am reading Groundswell by Forrester Research’s Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book is easily one of the most intriguing professional books I’ve read in a while. According to Li and Bernoff the groundswell is:
A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.
While I don’t particularly care for the name they chose to describe the social media phenomenon, I do appreciate the terrific insight and research they’ve provided.
One graphical representation from the book helps explain the Social Technographics® Profile in the form of a Ladder to represent consumers’ social computing behavior categorized by participation.
The social participation rungs in the ladder are (from bottom to top): Inactives, Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics, and Creators with explanations of each. The authors provide various samples of profiles to help drive home the point that different people come to you and your company or organization at very different levels of social media participation.
The POST Method
- Assess the social activities of your People;
- Decide what Objectives you want to accomplish;
- Plan your Strategy for changes in customer relations; then
- Decide on the suitable Technology or technologies to meet your goals.
I was struck by something so simple, but could have serious implications for those interested in social media if forgotten:
The POST method starts with “P” for People.
If you don’t have your people, (audience, stakeholders, customers, community, or any other term you use) your social media strategy will be much harder to effectively implement and accurately assess.
To often Communication/PR practitioners are presented with the challenge of adding a social media to their communication efforts and they jump straight to the latest and greatest social media technology with buzz.
I am all for jumping in and experimenting with social media mainly because you are more credible if you’ve experienced the various forms of social media. This holds true even if you outsource.
However, I caution (from experience) that your community participation assessment should come first.
If the biggest sin in social media is inaction, then I think the biggest mistake is not knowing your people.
The PR industry took an unfair hit from legal analyst Andrew Cohen of CBS related to former White House Press Secretary’s new tell-all book. In his report, Cohen accuses PR professionals of making a living on untruths. He even calls out PRSA’s ethics:
Apparently, an industry the very essence of which is to try to convince people that a turkey is really an eagle has a rule that condemns lying.
The Public Relations Society of America states: “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent…” This clause strikes me as if the Burglars Association of America had as its creed “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”
Show me a PR person who is “accurate” and “truthful,” and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.
PRSA wrote a response to Cohen that warrants repeating as many times as possible:
Dear Mr. Cohen,
Contrary to baseless assertions, truth and accuracy are the bread and butter of the public relations profession. In a business where success hinges on critical relationships built over many years with clients, journalists and a Web 2.0-empowered public, one’s credibility is the singular badge of viability. All professionals, including attorneys, accountants and physicians, aspire to ethical standards, and public relations professionals are no different, always striving for the ideal.
For public relations professionals, engaging diverse and often skeptical audiences requires top-flight skills in communications, creativity and even persuasion, but a trust once lost cannot be regained. Unemployment, contrary to your opinion, is reserved for the professional who has lost his or her credibility.
Read the full letter to Cohen on PRSA’s Web site.
We are encouraged by the immediate response by national PRSA and the opportunity to reiterate the ethical standards to which we should all adhere. It is unfortunate that high-profile situations become media fodder that is then used to paint wide brush strokes over an organization with professionals that seek to reach out and be effective communicators.