No one would accuse me of being a Luddite. My office “set-up” includes two monitors (one for e-mail; one for my “apps”); a CardScan business card scanner; a webcam; and an add-on sub-woofer and satellite speakers. I pack a Blackberry Torch (and far too many mobile apps); use a Flip Cam; own a Sony DSLR camera and drive a tricked out Mercedes convertible. At our home in Chappaqua, visitors (and even my wife) often ask how to turn on and use our integrated video and audio entertainment centers or how to log onto our private Wi-Fi network.
And yes… I tweet, spend far too many hours on Facebook, am a Power Seller on Ebay, actively manage my LinkedIn profile and just bought a great restaurant coupon deal on Open Table.
My PR career has largely centered on supporting the needs of emerging and established technology organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Over the decades, the tools I’ve used to support clients have grown increasingly more sophisticated – from typewritten press releases, Wang mail merges and early use of the fax to video news releases, satellite media tours, SEO, interactive marketing, email blasts, multimedia press releases and mobile apps.
But when it comes to the topic of social media in public relations, I find the hype maddening. Standalone digital firms have moved into the PR market focusing on social media plan development and implementation. Every month, more and more “traditional PR firms” announce the launch of their own social media or digital practice.
The buzz started slowly enough. As teens lost their lock on the early social networks (e.g. MySpace; Facebook) and the mass market moved in, self-declared social media pundits began doing talks and seminars explaining the new world of social media and encouraging PR and marketing practitioners to jump in and get their feet wet. Soon, a cottage industry of book authors, speech presenters, conference organizations and trade press beat the drum for social media. “If you don’t create a practice, you run the risk of becoming entirely irrelevant and ceding market share to your competitors.”
In our own young firm, born during the rise of the social media era, we all agree that the impact of social media on the PR and marketing mix is profound. But, with all due respect to the late sociologist, scholar and media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the social medium is NOT the message – at least when it comes to the development and implementation of strategic public relations programs.
We believe that too many marketers are focusing on the coolest and most buzzworthy tactics for novelty sake and not due to an underlying marketing strategy. Our firm builds social media elements into client programs as strategically appropriate rather than supporting the P&L of a social media practice that requires the continuous sale of separate projects or expensive add-ons. We look at social media elements as additional channels for reaching targeted audiences not as the desired end product our clients should be invested in.
So today, dear friends, we are proud to announce that we are NOT building a social media practice. We will continue to offer our clients a variety of creative and strategic tools to support their business objectives – including smart blogging, setting up LinkedIn groups and Facebook fan pages, custom developed mobile apps and location-based marketing services – in addition to the old fashioned use of the telephone, word-of-mouth and integrated marketing. Business objectives are the message; wise counsel to our clients and prospects is the deliverable.