PR, Social Networking, and the traditional business/agency

The older the profession, the less likely they are to make great use of social networking. Although <insert inappropriate Tiger Words and prostitute joke here> clearly demonstrates that not everyone has a problem with social networking. :-)

Okay, come on, it’s Saturday morning and I couldn’t resist.

I was excited to chat with Abbie Fink at HMA Public Relations.  Abbie Fink is Vice President and General Manager at HMA, and we discussed her insights on the strugglesbusinesses/agencies face around the use of social strategies.

Q. First, who is HMA?

A. “HMA Public Relations is a full-service marketing communications and public relations firm. We are based in Phoenix and are part of an international network of independently owned and operated firms (www.prgn.com).”

Q. Are your clients aware of social media, do you find people who are not?

A. “Aware yes, but definitely still a bit hesitant to jump on board. We work with our clients to understand the role of social media, how we can incorporate it into our overall communications strategies. It is important to recognize that not everyone wants to be involved in social media, but whether you actively engage or not, your audience is going to bring there anyway. At this point, I believe everyone is aware of social media but certainly do not have a deep understanding of what it is or how it could work for them.”

Too often I hear about the mainstream nature of social networking, of social business strategies, of social CRM…  The reality is that there are major differences from business to business, from agency to agency, from one geography to another.  Abbie sees, as I do, that her B2C clients more easily see the benefit of these new channels and leveraging them for PR just makes sense.

However, as you look to the more old-school, traditional professions, like doctors, lawyers, accountants, as examples, much more education is required.  These businesses are aware of this social networking/media trend but are struggling with how legal restrictions and regulations impact their ability to be social.  Using social as part of your PR strategy is optional, you don’t have to join in.  HOWEVER, the conversations about you are still happening.   With law firms, as an example, the Managing Director may not understand the need.  But, when you explain to them that their paralegals, their attorneys, their clients, are conversing on social networking sites about them, they often understand the need for listening.

Begin with listening.  Engagement will follow.

PR social strategies in Government agencies and non-profits is often even harder.  Abbie noted that she often finds they are blocking social media access with everything flowing through their IT teams who are not interested in opening up the network.  In these cases PR firms must often act as a person in the middle, distributing the agencies message and working through traditional channels (e-mail, phone, in-person) to move the message, and the responses, back and forth between citizens and agencies.

This will change in time.  However, remain skeptical of data that shows anything other than the majority of agencies blocking at least some, if not all, users.  Government changes slowly, be encouraged that there is a desire to change.  We will get there.

Q. On ROI

A. “This is a tough one to answer – ROI in the social space is measured differently. Its not about how many fans you have or how many followers, but rather what are those fans and followers doing with your brand – are they interacting with you, commenting, posting, re-tweeting, etc.”

People are still arguing the ROI of traditional PR, social networking is not any easier to measure.  We must seek to understand both ROI and the cost to not implementing social strategies.  If you look at both of these numbers, it will be clear what you, and your clients, must do.

Good luck out there.

John

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Filed under: Government 2.0, Social Strategies Tagged: Social Business Design, Social Conversation Monitoring, Social Strategies

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