Social Media Has A PR Problem

Filed in Interview 3 comments

“Social Media’s PR Problem” was the title of the September 17 blog post by Janis Johnson, whom I met AFTER we both attended a panel discussion featuring four Bay Area social media practitioners in an event sponsored by the North Bay chapter of Women in Consulting (WIC), a San Francisco Bay area organization with more than 400 members.

Janis introduced herself to me online the day after the meeting when she posted a comment on my Performance Social Media Ning site:


“The panel discussion was both informative and provocative. I wrote my own blog entry. Social Media’s PR Problem, after this and a day of other social media online seminars.”

As an award-winning journalist and PR practitioner for many years, Janis recognizes the inevitability of learning about — and accepting — social media, but she sees a huge divide between Those Who Know and Those Who Don’t.

Here are some of Janis’ observations from her article:

  • “Social media has changed the business of PR and marketing, forcing countless communicators to jump on a fast-moving train without knowing where they are headed and lacking solid preparation for the unfamiliar new territory, customs, and language.”
  • “Clearly the biggest hurdle for the plunge into social media is how to get started.  Next is the equally significant challenge of implementation — investing the expertise, time and resources for success over time.”
  • “As in any marketing initiative, a thoughtful analytical process should occur at the outset to determine what behavior a company or nonprofit is trying to drive and to define the desired endpoints of social media initiatives.”
  • “Social media to cultivate, grow and sell is not play, it’s a serious business of communications and relationship-building.”

Janis has always been fascinated by people and their stories

A born writer who wanted to be a journalist from an early age, she started her career on a medium-size metro newspaper. She earned the opportunity to join the staff of the Washington Post and later was a columnist and contributor for several Knight Ridder newspapers and the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau.

After 25 years as an award-winning journalist, she formed her own consulting firm, Johnson Consulting: Strategic Communication to help organizations tell their stories from an insider point of view, rather than as a media reporter.

“Technology has changed so much these days, but communications is still basically telling your story in the simplest way that you can. And there are many ways to do that. Of course, social media is a brand new way,” she said.

One thing has not changed, according to Janis, and that is the focus. “Most effective communication answers the question: ‘What does the audience need and want to know?'”

What does the audience need and want to know?

You cannot base the answer to this question on assumptions. You do need to listen. And that goes for people who teach social media strategies as well as other businesses and groups. The PR problem for social media is the Digital Divide, and this isn’t just a chronological thing. The Divide is about aptitude, interest, and time.

At the event Janis and I attended, the WIC members needed a more bite-sized, step-by-step approach. “This is a process, and a lot of people need everything broken down. You have to help people learn from the point where they are,” Janis said. When educators get hip to that, then social media’s PR problem can be solved.

What these consultants needed was the presentation on social media basics by Patrick Schwerdtfeger

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   23 November 2009
Tags : , , , , ,
Nov 24, 2009
1:28 pm

Fabulous post, Shari! I agree that asking clarifying questions to find out where your audience is and where they want to go/want to know is definitely key!

Christine Hueber

Author Nov 24, 2009
3:38 pm

. . . and when we are helping clients new to social media, we have to remember to guide them slowly through the process. I’m going to do another post on this subject, but I’ll tease you with the 4-word learning process: Confusion; Silence; Focus; and Effort.
More about this later.

Nov 24, 2009
4:45 pm

Hi, Shari, thanks so much for your interest and the great interview. Your smart thinking and good ideas will be helpful to “the reluctant” as they move toward “engagement.” Cheers, Janis

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