Evolve, grow and pitch your social public relations to the right platforms and audiences

One of the advantages of social public relations is how organizational profile can increase beyond self-hosted brand journalism to platforms owned and operated by others as a result of mindful choices by both parties—the information-sharing relationship and opportunity regarding original content is more equal than the gatekeeper role, and independent reporting and financial filtering goals, of traditional media.

I don’t mean simply product or service marketing or promotion, i.e., sales copy masquerading as information. Beyond serving as filler copy to feed the online beast, promotional copy doesn’t really benefit the secondary platform(s) in terms of a reputation for originality or quality. And it’s why the online version of Forbes and the Harvard Business Review blogs, etc., have been rightly criticized (see suggestion #4) for allowing too many “new” book authors and product or service marketers to use these platforms for thinly disguised promotion.

Hands-on experience, novel opinions, how-to articles and best practices that have not appeared anywhere else—at least not with that focus or interpretation—should be the understanding and goal at the onset of increasing profile and enhancing thought leadership, organizationally and personally.

Another advantage is increasing or enhancing the circumference or web of original content and ideas, i.e., body of knowledge or mindshare.

Of course the disadvantage of spreading your original content and critical thinking across social is the increased possibility of plagiarism and scraping, as written about so decisively by Heather Yaxley.

One also has to guard against self-plagiarism, in terms of pitching something to a third-party as “new content,” whereas it’s actually the same advice gussied up with a few fresh words and examples or a reorganization of presentation. Ubiquity of content and stale ideas that haven’t evolved—even when your own—are easy to determine, thanks to online search.

It’s much better and more honest to point to the original article and demonstrate how your ideas and thinking have evolved or changed since first iteration, which might even be documented in a variety of online ports of call, particularly if oriented towards different audiences.

Ensure fidelity to the focal point

As the (social public relations) contributor to secondary platforms, a proviso is that the organization or entity (in this case study, primarily the PR Conversations blog) must remain the centre or primary focal point from which the radial lines emanate.

When I accept (or occasionally pitch) a guest post assignment or interview, I’m always thinking about my entire body of work of original content across the interwebs. As PR Conversations was my first (I was invited by blog founder Toni Muzi Falconi to participate, effective its launch in 2007) and remains my primary (collaborative) property, I want to ensure fidelity to our Redux version of mindful goals, intentions and vision about public relations, even when contributing to another platform or when I’m articulating my own thoughts or ideas that may differ in interests or interpretation from the other current principals.

And providing information of value and use to others, particularly when based on experience and examples, is always a primary goal.

Evolving and growing original ideas for B2B social capital parity and endorsements

May 2013 marks my 21st monthly column on social public relations published on Windmill Networking [update: which is now Maximize Social Business]. I accepted the role—I’m currently the longest-serving contributor—with the understanding that it would be focused on social PR, that I would produce 100 per cent original content and that columns would not be reproduced verbatim anywhere else.

Although I’ve made use of PR Conversations to link to and/or promote my monthly column, what it has meant is that I haven’t spent much time on this blog writing about social public relations. As co-content editor, however, I have sourced and worked with guest contributors on this area and did a two-part “conversational” post with Heather Yaxley around social.

Because at the core I believe social media forms a part of effective integrated communication/public relations for organizations, most of the time I have no regrets about this segmentation in my body of work; however, there have been a few columns that didn’t get much traction on Windmill Networking and where I wondered whether they would have resonated more on PR Conversations or elsewhere.

One such “you could hear the crickets chirping” column was my fifth one (February 2012), where I provided “social capital” suggestions to institutionalize parity in B2B relationships.

I’m still not sure why it failed to resonate.

Maybe the title wasn’t sexy enough. Perhaps, at that time, so many in social media were still focused on B2C social opportunities and challenges, rather than B2B.

Windmill Networking is a highly trafficked blog, but maybe not enough visitors were interested in social public relations relating to in-house B2B (i.e., maybe agency marketers or sales representative comprised the majority of traffic).

Perhaps my ideas were too radical for the time: devoting organizational social capital to other companies, even if those of clients and partners.

Flash forward 16 months where B2B is receiving a lot more attention in social, but companies that provide products or services to public relations practitioners are not following my prescient advice for the most part. In fact, when I reached out privately to some B2B companies (with whom I had a good present or past, client and/or social relationship) to offer constructive criticism about whom they were highlighting in social, not only was I not listened to (per the Melbourne Mandate), but I received some scathing rejoinders and excuses and had my own motivations and reputation questioned.

For the record, responding in that fashion—whether publicly or privately—isn’t endearing; nor does it do much to promote a future relationship of organizational championing or unquestioning social PR.

Finding the right pitcher to hold nutritious lemonade (derived from lemon reactions)

It was time to update my social capital parity concept now that it was tested in terms of continued relevance, worthiness and case studies. Because I’m still exploring different Bytes areas on Windmill Networking and based on the reception on the first go-round, my column section didn’t appear to be the right platform to evolve the concept or update my advice.

PR Conversations was the first and logical place to consider, particularly because of how much we value our “champions” (which I explain more about in the Part II article), but what I really wanted to do this time was to flip the premise around from appealing to the source B2B companies to speaking to the client-side stakeholders and suggesting they get proactive. And this evolved to including new advice, resources and company examples of things that delighted me.

I determined a natural fit was CommPRObiz, an online industry publication that under Fay Shapiro (now publisher/editor) has championed PR Conversations since its own launch (and also supports my social PR column and other contributors on Windmill Networking).

An acronym for “Communications Professional Resources Online,” CommPRO.biz is the destination for the answers marketing communications professionals need to be successful, whether they’re in public relations, investor relations, corporate communications, marketingadvertising or social media.

So I pitched the idea, which was immediately, unquestioningly and enthusiastically accepted by Fay Shapiro.

CommPRObiz suggests articles of 700 words, but I had so much to say and so many resources to detail and link to that I couldn’t possibly do it in one article. So it expanded to two articles…both of which ended up exceeding the suggested limit.

Part I was more of an OpEd, to establish the background (including a reference and link to my original column) and context to my argument.

Part II focused on concrete suggestions for in-house communicators, and offered up two resources I endorse and use: Paper.li (which we use for PR Conversations) and GaggleAMP (which I know/use through Windmill Networking).

My three-very-different examples of who is doing things right in a social capital and innovative fashion include the #cxo Twitter Chat (hosted by an IBM company), CPRS crowdsourcing its Conversations2013 program and the Stratford Festival’s spot-on use of play-based Twitter feeds.

Did it work?

“CommPRO’s mission is to be connecting the right content with our audience. It needs to be win-win. CommPRO.biz reaches more than 75,000+ professionals with its “Daily Headlines” [enewsletter] and enjoys more than 30,000+ site visitors per month.”

Wow, did we ever both win, at least from a relevant-readership perspective.

Record-setting home runs in fact.

The typical article on CommPRObiz averages 500 readers.

Making Honest B2B Endorsements through Social PR, Part I saw more than six times the average readership or a 600 per cent increase.

Even more impressive, Making Honest B2B Endorsements through Social PR, Part II resonated with more than 16 times the average readership or a 1,600 per cent increase.

Although my articles weren’t the only reason, CommPRObiz had to upgrade its server because of recent increases in traffic! Editorial director Deborah Radman, APR, was even kind enough to recognize this win-win partnership, by including the articles and me in the Memorial Day….America’s Unofficial Start to Summer roundup.

Although Fay Shapiro and I don’t know the exact reasons why the articles resonated with so many, I think the quality of supplemental information—quickly and generously contributed by my resources and examples companies—helped, as did the effective promotion most did about both articles, in particular, by Paper.li and GaggleAMP.

In conclusion

I hope this post—which is itself more than double the recommended length—provides readers with more context and new value and ideas, beyond the first Windmill Networking iteration in 2012, as well as the more-recent CommPRObiz articles.

My goal in extending this further at my focal property was to influence your thinking…not only about when and where to devote your resources and pitching to secondary platforms, but to think of your organizational (or your own) profile, mindshare and original writing in a more holistic or organic fashion, fanning out or radiating in an ever-widening social PR circle.

Photo fidelity to the evolving concept

Note that I took the two photos that accompany this post at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game in late summer of 2012.

The reason I chose the first photo of the pitcher should be obvious in the context of this post’s theme. But did you notice that the stands appear to be relatively empty of fans? There was actually decent attendance that day, but the Rogers Centre (originally/formerly the SkyDome) is a huge facility and what you see are less desirable seating sections—offside, per se.

This second photo focuses on a team mascot and some of the best or most-desirable seats in the stadium. You can see this section was packed and the conditions for a baseball game ideal.

I remember The Jays also won that day….

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5 Responses to “Evolve, grow and pitch your social public relations to the right platforms and audiences”
  1. Judy – thank you for the post. Three different thoughts came to mind after reading this.

    1. Your argument reflects what the best freelance journalists/writers have always demonstrated. That is, to develop a really compelling story/feature/article and allow that to attract high quality sources for your work. I say ’sources’ as the same idea can, indeed should (has to, if you’re making your money from freleance journalism) be able to be reworked across different outlets.

    2. Which leads onto my second point – that you need to own the idea, and that’s where originality and quality really come in. It is important to be clearly identified with your work so that others recognise your ideas as well as the style and value in your writing. Of course, we are tailoring our work to the particular audience and outlet to an extent (that’s what allows it to be used in different places), but it still has to have the essence of our brand/personality/insight within it.

    3. My third thought relates to your point about ideas finding their time – zeitgeist, resonance, whatever we wish to call it. I think there is some serendipity in this, but also, refer to points 1 and 2 – that we need to work with the best quality sources we can (partnerships and brand-matching being essential) and own our ideas. One of the criticisms I would make about much PR work is that it is superfluous and reflects a butterfly approach in that practitioners seem often to think that once they’ve obtained some initial coverage, they should move on, come up with the next idea and claim credit that they’ve done their job. But, ideas are about repetition if they are to gain traction.

    And, sometimes, ideas just take a while to ferment and catch up with other people. Kevin Ruck and I have been researching the history of internal communications for a paper for a conference (http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/historyofpr/). Some of the most interesting insight was clearly stated as early as 1942, but ignored until the 1990s.

    So I’ll end with one of my favourite TED videos (only 3 minutes long) by Derek Sivers – How to Start a Movement (http://blog.ted.com/2010/04/01/how_to_start_a/). His key message is that it is the first follower who counts – as Derek says “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader”

    I think your thinking on social public relations should now be considered as leadership (rather than lone nuttiness!).

    • Judy Gombita says:

      Thanks for your thoughts and compliment, Heather.

      You were a part of the post journey as I shared my self-debate on whether to write it for PR Conversations or CommPRObiz. Plus our discussions about seeing fragments of our own critical thinking or distinct phrasing or names for things, etc., turning up in other people’s writing, without attribution. Not to forget your masterful post on plagiarism and scraping was at the back of my mind, leading me to articulate another strategy to keep ownership of ideas, in a holistic way, one that can be date-stamped and searched for proof.

      I think we have an advantage in not writing things lightly or quickly in terms of how we research, think it through or present, even if our interests and styles of thinking/writing differ—plus the stick-to-it-ness and revisiting and evolving. More heft, per se—perhaps we’re a couple of metaphorical PR (water) buffalos, rather than air-borne butterflies.

      Ideas are in the air and moving at a more rapid rate than ever, thanks to social media. Some people come to a similar conclusion or concept with a different iteration, by diverse circumstances or pure chance, rather than lifting other’s ideas.

      I recognize that fact. But what we can do is document things on various platforms and pin down these thoughts and evolve them.

      For example, if not the first, I know I was a very early adopter of “social PR” as a specialty term, but it’s becoming increasingly common for other consultants—mainly marketers—to claim it as a business selling point.

      So what I did was define my version of social PR in a post—relating the inside out—that I will challenge if anyone else claims as his or her own definition, without attribution. And in my Definition Byte, I did attribute your co-authored book from last year, The Public Relations Strategic Toolkit, for both quotes and overall inspiration.

      And that brings me to my final point. Another area where we can differentiate is to take things that are “in the air” and examine them under the umbrella of public relations (or complementary management disciplines) in the purer form as sheltered here on our focused PR Conversations blog, i.e., not just as more arsenal from marketing’s tank of tactical promotions.

      For example, in both this post and my 21st Windmill Networking column I use the word “mindful.” I’m finding this concept cropping up in the common vernacular more and more—on CBC Radio’s issues programs, at a recent Rotman School of Management session with The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, founding director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT—note that it was used by a questioner, not by the presenter, who asked whether ethics in business should be examined in a mindful way based on training and experience—etc.

      So, while I don’t claim to have invented the word mindful—that would be presumptuous—what I will steadfastly assert is that regarding social public relations I am probably the first to articulate mindfulness as a strategy and goal.

      And if I see others suddenly using mindfulness and social PR as if as a new thought, it will be a clear signal to me that what I write is being read and is influencing thinking. Not that it’s ever my intention to influence plagiarists, who tend to cherry-pick ideas that suit their business-building purposes or provide a tossed-off blog post, without the weight of fleshing it out with original thinking….

      On the other hand, just as I welcome your ideas to build on or bifurcate from my own, so I would encourage anyone who acknowledges following me on a new journey, no matter how nutty. And now I shall spend three minutes watching your recommended video.

  2. I also like ‘mindful’ – used it in my Public Relations Review article on Career Experiences of Women in British public relations (1970-1989) although in a different context to your social media + mindful. In my case it was used in relation to my study where I acknowledged my own subjectivity as a researcher. What I find useful in the term is a reminder that we need to be conscious and aware of ourselves and THINK.

    Lots of consideration ofmindfulness here: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

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