Five Places Where Communications Pros Go Off the Tracks

Let me preface this post by saying I generally LOATHE the bash PR (or marketing or social media) meme. It serves little purpose, mostly because the people doing the bashing don’t offer up the criticism constructively, or with any reasonable alternatives to pursue in its place. Even though I’m not a traditional communications pro, I do work for a communications firm, and work closely with our account executives to provide solutions to client issues. I also read plenty of blogs, engage people on Twitter and meet people at conferences and events so I think I have a pretty good sense for what the industry is generally thinking (though, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m misguided here).

What I’ve noticed in my “travels” is that we, as communications pros, often come off the tracks in the same places. This isn’t going to be your typical mud slinging meme because I find that kind of dialogue nauseating. Rather, this is just meant as an outline of my thoughts on where we are as an industry and what we could do better collectively.

  1. You don’t represent you – Lauren Fernandez, who I respect very much as a PR pro, had an excellent post yesterday about conforming to social media or the brand that we work for. It really had me thinking as quite often I think we try to conform to the social media community’s standards and not those of our brands. First and foremost, communications pros represent brands. Whether you work for a corporation, association, non-profit organization or an agency, you represent those brands FIRST. Your primary goal should be conforming to whatever makes your “client” look the best. If that means you are an active participant on Twitter, then so be it, but don’t lose sight of who you are supposed to be representing…It isn’t you!
  2. High Self-Orientation and Low Trust – Every communications pro should read The Trusted Advisor. In addition to being a quality read, you’ll learn quite a bit about how to demonstrate to your client or boss that you are highly credible, have low self-orientation and by consequence have high levels of trust within that organization. In too many cases, we’re focused on what impacts OUR bottom line and not the bottom line of our stakeholders. Focus on them first and you’ll always come out a winner.
  3. Don’t Focus on the Transaction – Getting a hit for your client in their key publications is fantastic, but what does that ultimately mean? Did it contribute it some meaningful way to their business? Did it lead to other hits? Did it portray the key messages you wanted it to portray? Said another way, hits aren’t everything. The relationships you develop with stakeholders will far outweigh that ONE hit you received in the key trade publication.
  4. Offer Business Solutions First – We are often fond of saying that we are business people first and communicators second. I’ll say this much, clients/bosses can recognize right away if you are the other way around. Offer to provide communications solutions that solve business problems and you’ll forever be a winner.
  5. Don’t forget about the ROI! – Just because there are some who argue that ROI for things like social media are elusive, or that we shouldn’t place as much emphasis on ROI in social media at least right now, doesn’t mean your bosses and clients wont. They want to know how doing what you are purposing to do will contribute to the bottom line. How did it increase sales? How did it lower costs? Did it lead to higher retention rates among employees? All things that have meaningful bottom line impact. Just because calculating ROI is hard (it’s not, but if you need a refresher consult Olivier Blanchard), or you don’t think true ROI can be shown for PR/SM (you are wrong by the way), doesn’t mean your boss is going to give you a pass. You need to be able to answer the ROI question before he/she asks you, especially if you want to continue maintaining the budget you’ve been maintaining.

So these are just a few things I think we, as communications pros could do better. What else is there? Is there something in your experience that would refute any of these notions? Can’t wait to hear your views!

Social Media, PR and Marketing with a Dash of Something Unique

If you are reading this post you are probably wondering: Why on earth do we need another blog dedicated to social media, marketing and PR? That’s a perfectly valid question, with a few different answers.

First and foremost, most of the people offering perspectives (I think we’ll see that term used often on this blog) on issues related to social media, PR and marketing come from a more traditional communications backgroun. They’ve either been in an agency or corporate setting for quite some time, or they are trying to enter one of those arenas. While I’ve been at Dix & Eaton for almost five years, I do not come to the table with a traditional communications background (my degrees and work history before joining the firm are in politics in case you were wondering). This diverse background should (I hope) offer me the opportunity to bring fresh perspectives (there it is again) to the communications questions of the day.

Second, just because we have a lot of blogs dedicated to social media, PR and marketing doesn’t mean we cannot have another trying to tackle the larger questions in our industry. The issues we are facing (particularly social media and PR) are so varying and complex that another point of view added to the discussion cannot hurt. What are some of those issues?

  • How do we establish true ROI for social media?
  • How do we (PR pros) obtain a seat at the table when most senior executives see us as “spinners?”
  • How do we work together toward common business goals and objectives?
  • Is there a place for agencies in social media (this might be the subject of a series of posts, by the way)?
  • How do we come up with communications solutions that solve business problems and not just a focus on getting “hits?”

You kind of see my point, right? These are issues that require a lot of dialogue among other professionals to come up with appropriate answers.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is my hope that this blog (with your help, of course) offers up the opinion that helps us escape the “echo chamber.” Better yet, together we come up with solutions that help us demonstrate once and for all that communications can indeed help us solve business-related issues.

These are not easy tasks, to be sure, but I am in it for the long haul. Can I count on you joining the fight with me? Let’s get this party started!