Fix PR: Why PR is losing the social media battle

All last week, the excellent Darika Ahrens at Grapevine Consulting posted a series of pieces on why PR was losing the social media battle. They were an excellent analysis of why PR could be owning the social media space, yet continued to make basic mistakes. Darika also asked me if I'd be able to contribute and, er, well last week didn't happen mainly because I was excessively busy and also because it's so hard to add anything to her excellent pieces.

One thing to briefly say, though, is while social media has moved on, and PR and brands are more willing to engage, general attitudes are still stuck in the past a little. If these attitudes can change, then we could see a real shift in thinking. But it requires organisations and senior people to face up to this and make a conscious effort.

The two biggest social media attitude problems, and they're not mutually exclusive and can frequently be found it the same office, is that social media is an area of specialised PR that only need concern a few digital people, and that it's quick, cheap, and easy. Often the first assumption informs actions on the second.

First off, social media may have been specialised once upon a time, while those of us beavered away understanding niche bloggers and communities, but it's no longer part a different world.

Social media planning should be built into the start of any good campaign. If you insist on separating out digital from regular PR (and I personally think the lines are blurred enough for the distinction to be nearly meaningless) then for heavens sake, include the digital team from the start, rather than realising you'd quite like to do something on Twitter a few weeks beforehand. If nothing else, you'll get a greater sense of what's realistic.

And therein follows the second part. Any campaign that has poor social media planning often seems to throw things together late in the day. I still get "Can we push this out to bloggers" a week before hand, as do, anecdotally, many others, it seems.

Darika says she no longer takes short-term pitching to blogger projects, and you can understand why. These are the ones that are cobbled together at last minute, often with ludicrous targets and expectations, and invariably require so much work around them with so little return that they're more trouble than it's worth.

If you're building a strategy around bloggers - and it's also worth asking 'what is a blogger', given that so many mainstream outlets are just as likely to stick it on their blog as in the paper - then these things take time, money and no small amount of effort. You would throw together a major plan for print media the week beforehand. Why do the same with bloggers?

None of this is rocket science. And none of these need be done at the expense of other media coverage (another traditional mis-assumption). It requires the same thought and discipline as any other campaign.

It's nothing that can't be fixed but, as Darika says, we have a long way to go.