Over the summer, we re-visited "The Cluetrain Manifesto" as part of the KaneCo book club series, and the authors' foresight on how the century-old public relations industry will be affected by the internet (now social media) got me thinking about the notion of making news to tell the public, versus telling them a story.
I was reminded of a conversation that I had more than two years ago with a public relations professional who was livid over the fact that her beautifully crafted news release announcing the outcome of a big event was trumped by bloggers and Twitterers who broke the story before the release had a chance to cross the wire.
This is reality. And, in the spirit of Cluetrain, a reminder that the PR industry continues to struggle with understanding how to communicate in a medium that it can't control.
With few exceptions, [the news release] describes an "announcement" that was not made, for a product that was not available, quoting people who never said anything, for distribution to a list of people who mostly consider it trash.
And, my favorite quote:
An editor would rather insert a crab in his butt than a press release in their publication.
Storytelling provides context and understanding for our message...Anything else is just information.
Taking the previous example - instead of staying up until the wee hours of the night to hit "send" on the release, what if she had spent some time earlier that day asking reporters, specifically, what type of story they'd like to tell about the event and provided them with unique content and sources that allowed them to tell the story that their readers would remember (and share with others)?
News will occur, and be published, with or without a news release. And, with social media, it happens in real time. Every individual on social media is a publisher, and has the potential to provide a third-party endorsement to their followers.
Public relations then, becomes about telling the story. About filling in the blanks. Telling the part that the public didn't see or hear for themselves.
It becomes about engaging with that community who cares so much about your brand or your event that they are talking about it on Twitter and in their blogs the moment that it happens. It's about encouraging that excitement, listening to their thoughts and ideas, and finding additional opportunities to continue the conversation.
Public relations in today's world is not about beating the Twitterers and bloggers to the punch. It's not about news, or making news - it's about focusing on the public and the stories that customers, and potential customers, can identify with.
And, as far as I'm concerned, that's the way we should have been doing it all along.
I’m a consultant, strategist, author, educator, and speaker with more than 30 years of professional experience. I’m passionately curious, fairly sassy, kinda dorky and seriously good at what I do.