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Social Media and Public Relations: Deirdre Breakenridge Interview II

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on Dec 6, 2011 9:45:00 AM

This is a 5 minute read.

Deirdre Breakenridge: Social Media and Public RelationsDeirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, continues her conversation with me about Social Media and Public Relations. If you missed Part 1, simply click on Social Media and Public Relations: Deirdre Breakenridge Interview.

[You also have the opportunity to listen to her upcoming webinar with Vocus on December 7, 2011 about the 8 Techniques of the New PR Champion.]

Deirdre  has recently announced her latest book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” due out in early 2012.

In this segment of my interview with Deirdre Breakenridge, we explore PR + Social Media Transformation and #PRStudChat.

C.B.: Deirdre, which companies do you see doing the best job marrying communications and technology?

I’ll give two examples that immediately come to mind. 

On the consumer side, Starbucks has done a terrific job marrying communications and technology. The company created an online community, MyStarbucksIdea, where their loyal brand enthusiasts crowdsource ideas, evaluate the ideas of their peers and they are heard by their favorite coffee brand. It’s also a collaborative network where Starbucks fans can also review recent and the most popular ideas from other enthusiasts, and to see what ideas are “in action.” As of this writing, there were over 27,000 product ideas for Starbuck’s coffee and expresso drinks. The size of this number illustrates how Starbucks has an extremely active network of passionates; people who are a great source of information and idea generation for the Starbucks brand.

On the B2B side, IBM did a terrific job empowering their own employee workforce to use social media and to participate in communities with their peers globally. IBM’s social media business model provides trust, empowerment and the right tools from the top down to meet the enthusiasm of employees who have interest in social media, want to participate and have the right tool selection. IBM’s social media model also relies on social media policies and governance to guide employee participation.  Through the use of great communication and technology, IBM has successfully created many collaborative social networks for employees and alumni. They also created a community exclusively for bringing together different minds and varying perspectives to discover new solutions to long-standing problems across industries and geographical borders.

C.B.: What are the biggest objections you encounter to transforming PR and embracing PR + social media?

Most objections are due to time constraints and a lack of resources within an organization. 

However, as more consumers embrace social media and it increasingly becomes mainstream, PR professionals and their brands will have to provide communication that’s for the people and about the people.  Consumers want to be in control of their news and information and they want to gather, organize and share it as they see fit.  It’s not what a brand wants to say, and the canned broadcast messages carry very little meaning. 

Rather, communication must be customized and highly meaningful for its recipients.  There’s an opportunity to capture not only your audience, but also your audience’s audience.  Therefore, PR professionals have to put aside their concerns about change and embrace a new approach.  Of course, with any new approach comes a new mindset and changes to an old process, which is definitely a big obstacle with respect to rooted culture in many organizations.

C.B.: What advice would you offer professionals wanting to make PR + social media happen in their organizations?

My advice to professionals who want to make social media happen in their organization is not to immediately abandon the traditional and what’s working.  Take the best of traditional and move it forward to forge new paths that lead to deeper interactions and better relationships with customers. 

Be a champion of PR and social media and don’t let the company obstacles stop you from creating a winning PR and social media program.  Show executives just what social media can do for the organization, if it’s done the right way. 

If you need a grass roots approach to adapt social media in your organization then find some other social media enthusiasts and start showing your executives the best practices that lead to positive results.

Get some small benchmark wins to prove social media success. And, always remember that you can crawl, walk and then run when it comes to integrating social media into your company’s communications initiatives.

C.B.: You have been heavily involved in #PRStudChat. How did that get started? How has it evolved?

#PRStudChat is a wonderful community effort joining PR professionals, students and educators across the country and worldwide.  It began with a simple question, “Is PR Right for Me?” asked by Angela Hernandez, then President of PRSSA at Central Michigan University (CMU). A follow-up blog post with me inspired a series of direct messages on Twitter between myself, and fellow PR industry pro, Valerie Simon.

This was an important question and one that we thought should be explored beyond one student or one blog post. Valerie and I decided to help students across the country, and even the globe, learn from the experience and perspective of industry professionals. As a result, #PRStudChat grew into a community where everyone can learn and grow together. 

Our community has evolved over the past 2+ years.  We’ve had some very dynamic chat sessions with thought leaders including, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, the former CMO of Kodak, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and other well-known personalities. The community on Twitter has grown to over 3,000 followers and our monthly Twitter discussion have turned to daily hashtag discussions.  We’ve also enjoyed physical Tweetups where community members have met in person for #PRStudChat events.

C.B.: How has #PRStudChat affected how you see PR evolving?

#PRStudChat shows the natural evolution of different types of communication for learning and PR education; in this case it’s in 140 characters or less. 

PR evolves successfully when industry peers can share stories, advice, articles and great information.  In addition, having the #PRStudChat community is a wonderful example of the power of mentoring and giving back to the profession.  I see professionals helping peers and students, and vice versa, as students teach professionals a few things about technology, and what PR means to them in the 21st century. 

#PRStudChat is a great way to learn and to take our natural passion for PR and mentoring into a collaborative platform, so we can grow together as an industry.

C.B.: Thank you, Deirdre!

For more information, visit #PRStudChat. Here is the link to the LinkedIn Group for #PRStudChat.

What do you think about Public Relations and Social Media? Do you consider them inextricably linked? How are you transforming the two?

Topics: B2B Social Media

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