The communication process more important than outcomes on PR Conversations
Process is more important than outcome
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
–Point #3 from (internationally renowned designer) Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
Currently I’m transitioning from thinking-mode process to writing for my June Bytes from the PR Sphere column (which covers the intersection of public relations and social media for business) for Windmill Networking. Those musings keep intermingling with this post I committed to writing for PR Conversations. Please know that it doesn’t matter which blog I’m writing for, it’s simply impossible for me to dash something off. And, as I’ve recently finished reading Clay A. Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, for the first time I’m deliberately amalgamating and cross-pollinating my research, thinking and writing process and efforts, with the goal of producing two original and distinct, but complementary, posts.
If the public relations discipline (or occupation, as co-editor Heather Yaxley prefers) ultimately is about reputation, value and relationship building (h/t Terry Flynn), this blog has a responsibility to produce content for consumption that:
- is targeted to and focused on the evolving needs of public relations
- expresses dollops of critical and dashes of original research and thinking (and informed opinions)
- demonstrates when theoretical concepts are effectively translated into practice
- is timely or relatively timeless
- holds innate respect for our return and new readers’ attention and time
Besides readership, hoped-for outcomes include:
- high-ranking search engine results and (primarily organic) SEO
- ready acceptance by mainly senior, respected and/or high-profile individuals to contribute a guest post or be interviewed
- relevant comments that augment and enhance blog post-generated civil discourse/conversations and introduce us to new information “consumers” of PR Conversations; and
- third-party endorsement and shares (more later)
…in that order of importance.
But whether or not we achieve those outcomes, the self-imposed rigorous editorial process of topic and/or subject expert selection won’t change for Heather Yaxley, Markus Pirchner and me. This includes colleagues recruited or accepted to contribute guest posts or to be interviewed.
Ours is a blog where the focus and process is on achieving long-term and -tail quality content, rather than quantitative outputs.
What our editorial process doesn’t focus on
From my perspective, what you don’t find on this blog from regular or guest contributors:
- stereotypes about what PR comprises (except in a contemplative or myth-busting capacity)
- mainly negative, pile-on posts about a company or individual
- self-serving promotional posts for business
- posts introducing the (newest) bright, shiny tools or platforms (particularly related to social media), unless the subject expert believes it is viable and established enough to incorporate into integrated communication efforts
- overtly personal posts (not to be confused with our various areas of special interest—for example, you might have noticed I’m a film aficionado)
- pure marketing-oriented (or IMC) viewpoints
- repeated use of the condensed “numbered lists” format (a notable exception is our all-time-most-popular, joint post, Using Twitter for PR events—which isn’t “billed” as a list)
- short-term “campaigns”
- gratuitous shout outs and links to colleagues
Additionally, there isn’t a single, country-centric point of view permeating PR Conversations—we proudly wear the badge of honour of being the first international, collaborative group blog, boasting an equally diverse readership through search, word of mouth and recommendations/endorsements from:
- traditional and social media publishers (e.g., we’ve been a Bulldog Reporter Daily ‘Dog Blog since 2008 and PR Conversations is frequently chosen as a CommPRO.biz Top Blog in the Daily Headlines and Features) and blogrolls based in different parts of the world (e.g., Australian Craig Pearce’s Resources page)
- vendors (e.g., Cision Top 50 PR & Marketing Blogs and Top 100 Social Media, Internet Marketing & SEO Blogs – 2012)
- public relations and communication management (inter)national associations
- special interest groups (e.g., on The Arthur W Page Society’s blogroll)
- practitioners and colleagues, academics and students, who link to or “share” our content on their own posts or through various social media platforms
The ultimate endorsement
I can’t think of a more gratifying compliment to our group effort than hearing that Richard Bailey opined at a meeting of CIPR tutors/markers at the PR Academy that PR Conversations was the only public relations blog “robust” enough to be accepted for citation by students of the CIPR professional qualifications. Thank you, Richard. You haven’t been commenting here much of late, but it’s wonderful to know that you are still consuming our content and endorsing it as PR-citation worthy and “nutritious.”
Valued, focused content rules
On a 2009 post on his Flack’s Revenge blog, Bob Geller (a past guest contributor on PR Conversations and current Windmill Networking colleague whose column focuses on content marketing and social media) wrote,
“Our time is a zero sum game, and people are increasingly distracted with ever-more content choices.”
Shades of prescience about a need for The Information Diet!
Recently I had an email conversation with Bob about this same subject. He indicated, “In my view, more people are sharing thoughts and content on Twitter and thus less often leaving comments right there under the blog post.”
On the surface, it would seem that if you have an active “blog-commenting community” and individuals promoting and talking about your blog on Twitter and Facebook, etc., your “PR” blog is a high-profile and hot commodity, differentiated from the pack (particularly as many early-adopter bloggers are posting less frequently and/or shuttering their properties).
Not so fast.
I point you to a more recent post from Neal Schaffer (April 2012), I Blog for Content, Not for Comments. Surprised? This is one of my all-time favourite posts by Neal, primarily because it resonated with what we attempt to do here.
In this excerpted concluding paragraph from Neal, substitute PR Conversations and “public relations” for Windmill Networking and social media and see if his thoughts apply to this blog:
“I and every other Windmill Networking blogger under my editorial leadership are here to offer you content, content that is as unique as it is insightful, shaped by our professional experiences and sometimes personal passions. Our goal is to educate and hopefully become one of your primary sources for social media for business insightful advice that you won’t find on those “other” sites.“
Windmill Networking is a highly trafficked blog, with daily visitors numbering in the thousands, not just hundreds. But in a recent exchange with Neal about promotion of blog posts, he surprised me with information about how the combined traffic from established sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GooglePlus was actually quite small. According to Google Analytics, the vast majority of readers arrive as a result of indexed and authoritative search rankings on specific topics. Also worth noting, although not quite as large a percentage, 85 per cent of traffic to Windmill Networking comprises new visitors.
When I look at the Google Analytics for PR Conversations—although our traffic numbers are more modest, given that our focus and target audience is smaller in scope—I believe, proportionately, similar statistics hold true. Certainly the numbers of comments and/or shares for the majority of our posts (compared to some “popular” PR/marketing blogs) aren’t reflective of our healthy traffic numbers. And some of our most visited blog posts were written years ago—a standout example is Benita Steyn’s King III Report posts. I suspect for many South African practitioners and students, Benita’s posts are the #1 go-to place for research. We even had one request come through PR Conversations to purchase a copy of the (actual) report!
I’m not fishing for comments, but here are areas in which I think we could still improve:
- the gender balance of guest contributors, subject experts and (role model) profiles being more reflective of the actual demographics of our discipline/occupation.
- increased diversity from a global perspective
Do you agree? Are there other areas that need more focus?
I do wonder how you first found our blog and whether information provided on PR Conversations has actually shaped your practice or played a role in your career or studies.
Finally, I muse over whether people feel intimidated about commenting, perhaps because of the strong personalities and opinions (myself included) that occasionally colour the conversations. Alternatively, the “weightiness” of some of the comments—which sometimes are the length of a more typical blog post!
Of course I’d like to hear from new commenters amongst our thousands of readers from different parts of the world (instead of The Usual Suspects), not only to provide us with suggestions, but to affirm we’re basically on the right process track in regards to your needs and wants, so that “we will know [you] want to be [here]” and along for our PR Conversations adventure and journey.
Comments (or shares) would be a great outcome of this post, but even if you don’t choose to make your “consumer” relationship known and be part of our organizational narrative, rest assured we’ll continue to focus on the process of devising and feeding you a high-quality communication information diet in order to remain a valued and trusted resource.
Our reputation (and Richard Bailey’s continuing endorsement) depends upon it.
Addendum: Given that some are paying a great deal of attention to Buce Mau and his entire 1988 Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, (not just the #3 concept that I quote from and focus on at the beginning of this post), I thought I’d provide some background on how the Manifesto came to my attention, and links to interviews, etc. with Bruce Mau, so you can hear about his philosophy and intents from the “designer’s mouth” rather than by third-party interpretation and (negative) criticism.
I first learned about the 1988 document listening to (award-winning) Mary Hines’ CBC Radio show, Tapestry. Here is that show’s description and a link to an online audio archive:
January 2011, CBC Radio’s Tapestry show: To Err is Human:
Today on Tapestry we’re looking at the upside of getting it wrong. We all know that to err is human, but for some the fear of making a mistake can lead to a diminished experience of life. We’ll talk to celebrated Canadian designer Bruce Mau about the importance of making friends with failure.
On a side note, when I shared the link to this Bruce Mau audio interview on some Twitter chats, the Tapestry account tweeted the following: @ cbctapestry: @jgombita @brucemaudesign Happy to hear it, Judy. Want to tattoo the entire Incomplete Manifesto on me. So full of good stuff….
I have also watched (in its entirety) this Bruce Mau Lecture, from the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. I have yet to watch this Charlie Rose Interview with Bruce Mau (2002), but I have read this Interview Magazine (Sept. 2009) The Cult of Mau interview. Finally, I attended the (University of Toronto) Rotman School of Management’s, The Future of Creativity: Bruce Mau Design’s Paddy Harrington session in March 2012. You can watch an excerpt here on “Why networked teams are the future of innovation.”